These cheese tarts are made with thin, white pastry that is free-formed into a round, flower-like shape. In some parts of Sardinia, they’re called Pardulas, and throughout Italy they’re known as Formagelle.
This recipe makes quite a few and can easily be halved, but they’ll keep for a week covered and refrigerated, just warm them through in a 100°C oven for 10 minutes or so before serving.
350g well-drained ricotta
150g young Pecorino Sardo, freshly grated
60g fine semolina, sifted
Pinch fine sea salt
¼ tsp saffron threads
3 eggs, lightly beaten
100g caster sugar
1 orange, zest finely grated
1 lemon, zest finely rated
Tipo 00 flour, for dusting
400g tipo 00 flour
Pinch fine sea salt
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
1 cup water, more or less
25g butter, melted
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Cover sultanas with warm water and set aside for about 30 minutes to reconstitute them. Drain and pat dry.
Sift flour and salt into the bowl. If possible, mix using the dough hook attachment on your electric mixer. Pour in the egg whites and 150ml of the water, and mix until absorbed. Mix in butter, then start adding remaining water, a little at a time, to form a firm dough. (You may not need it all; towards the end it doesn’t take much extra water for the dough to become too soft.) Tip dough onto a clean, lightly floured work bench and knead with the heels of your hands for about 5 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Wrap in plastic wrap and set aside for about 1 hour.
Meanwhile, push ricotta through a fine sieve into a mixing bowl. Stir in Pecorino, semolina, sultanas, salt, and saffron. Add eggs, one-third at a time, beating each lot in before the next is added. Stir in sugar, lemon and orange zest and mix well.
Cut the dough in half and, using a rolling pin on a clean, lightly floured work bench, flatten slightly. Cover one piece of dough with a clean tea towel to prevent it drying out. Pass the other piece through a pasta machine on the widest setting, then fold in half and pass again, then fold in half and pass a third time. Reduce the setting by one notch and pass the dough through the machine 3 more times, reducing the setting by one notch each time, dusting lightly with a little flour if it starts to stick. It should end up about 3mm-thick. Whenever the dough gets too long to handle, cut it in half and continue with each half separately, keeping any dough that isn’t being rolled under the tea towel. Repeat with remaining dough.
Preheat oven to 150°C.
Lay a sheet of pastry out on a clean, lightly floured work bench. Cut out discs with a 9cm round cutter. Place discs on a clean tea towel and cover with another clean tea towel. Cover leftover pastry with a clean tea towel as well. Repeat with remaining pastry, then reroll off-cuts to make more discs.
Place a heaped teaspoon of filling in the centre of a disc and gently press it down to flatten a little. Fold the sides of the disc up, pinching them to form a cup around the filing. Using an egg lift carefully place the filled tart on a baking paper-lined baking tray. Cover with a clean tea towel and repeat with remaining discs and filling.
Place trays in oven and cook for 20 minutes, then swap the positions of the trays and cook for a further 20 minutes or so, until the filling is well browned. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. Serve just warm.