If you are a Los Angeles native, then you've heard of Mozza. Since it's opening in 2006, the Italian restaurant has become a celebrity hot-spot and Los Angeles institution. Whenever I have a relative or friend visiting, one of the first places I recommend eating at is Mozza.
Mozza is a general term that actually represents two restaurants, a store/ to go service and a cooking school: Mozza Pizzeria,Osteria Mozza, Mozza 2 Go and Scuola Mozza di Pizza. They are all situated on the same corner on Melrose Avenue and Highland Avenue in Hollywood. The Mozza restaurant group was opened by Celebrity Chef Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich, and master baker Nancy Silverton of La Brea Bakery. With these three superstar restauranteurs behind a place, there was no doubt Mozza would be a success.
Pizzeria Mozza just celebrated their five year anniversary and with that came the much anticipated cookbook, The Mozza Cookbook: Recipes From Los Angeles's Favorite Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria by Nancy Silverton with Matt Molina and Carolynn Carreño. The book is arranged in the same way as a traditional Italian meal (aperitivi and stuzzichini, antipasti, pizza, primi, secondi, contorni, dolci) with a handful of staple recipes like basic tomato sauce presented in the beginning of the book.
Silverton shares recipes for Mozza classics like fennel sausage, panna, and scallion pizza, fresh ricotta and egg ravioli with brown butter
grilled quail wrapped in pancetta with sage and honey, and butterscotch budino with caramel sauce and Maldon sea salt. (However, I will admit that I was disappointed not to see a recipe for oxtail ragu, one of my favorites). Many of the recipes are lengthy and involved but Silverton assures the reader that it's only for their benefit by saying "I don't want to let you [the reader] fail...the recipes are long but think of them as roadmaps of the Italian countryside-detailed,long, and sometimes winding-but they will get you where you want to go."
In addition to the recipes, the reader will find tips on how to make homemade ricotta, a tutorial on Italian cured meats and cheese, and a lesson on the perfect pizza dough. Silverton's encouraging tone makes you want to dive right in and cook your own piece of the Italian countryside.
Torta della nonna
Torta della Nonna, or “grandmother’s tart,” is traditionally a two-crusted tart filled with pastry cream that is seen in almost every trattoria in Italy. Dahlia and I knew we wanted to include a version, but luckily, the name gave us a lot of room to be creative. As long as it was reminiscent of something a grandmother would make— meaning homey, simple, and comforting, like this cheesecake version that Dahlia created—I felt we could call it Torta della Nonna.
Honey is an obvious pairing with cheese in Italy, so we serve this dessert with three different types of honey on the side: a sweet, delicate, floral honey, such as wildflower honey; a bitter honey (also referred to as savory honey), such as buckwheat or chestnut honey; and honey in the comb. The crust that we use for this torta, Pasta Frolla, is a typical Italian pastry dough used in many classic Italian desserts. In keeping with the Italian spirit, I make it with Italian leavening.You will need an 11- inch flan ring (a straight- sided, bottomless tart ring) for the tart and one that is slightly smaller (we use an 8- inch ring) to cut a circle for the top crust.
SERVES 8 TO 10
for the crust:
11⁄2 cups unbleached pastry flour or unbleached allpurpose flour, plus more for dusting
3⁄4 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for dusting
1⁄2 cup (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1⁄4 teaspoon Italian leavening, such as Bench Mate, Pane Angel, or Rebecchi, or
1⁄8 teaspoon baking soda and 1⁄8 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of kosher salt
4 extra- large egg yolks
1⁄4 teaspoon vanilla extract (if not using Italian leavening)
All-purpose flour, for dusting
Unsalted butter, for the pan
1 extra- large egg white
1⁄3 cup toasted pine nuts
for the filling:
10 ounces Philadelphiastyle cream cheese
1 cup mild- flavored fresh goat cheese, such as Coach Farms goat cheese
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1⁄4 cup mascarpone cheese
1⁄4 cup plus 1 tablespoon unbleached pastry flour or unbleached all- purpose
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 extra- large eggs
1 cup sugar
11⁄4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
For serving the tart:
Two types of single- flower honeys, such as chestnut honey and wildflower honey
To make the crust, combine the flour, confectioners’ sugar, butter, leavening, and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, and mix on low speed until the butter and dry ingredients form a coarse cornmeal consistency, about 2 minutes. Add the egg yolks and vanilla, if you are using it, and mix on medium speed until the dough is smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Dust
a flat work surface with flour and turn the dough out onto it. Knead the dough for a few minutes until it comes together into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 1 hour and up to three days; or freeze it for up to two months. (Defrost the dough overnight in the refrigerator.)
Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Dust a flat work surface with flour, cut the dough into chunks, and knead the dough on the countertop to soften it, until it is the texture of Play- Doh. Cut off a 1⁄3 cup portion (about 3.2 ounces) of dough, wrap it in plastic wrap and return it to the refrigerator.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, butter the inside of an 11- inch flan ring, and place the ring on the baking sheet. Remove the remaining dough from the refrigerator. Dust your work surface and rolling pin with flour and roll the dough out to 2 inches larger than the ring, and to a thickness of 1⁄8 to 1⁄4 inch. Gently fold the dough in quarters and place it on top of the flan ring, placing the point in the center and gently unfolding the dough so the ends are flopped over the ring. Gently push the dough down to fit inside the ring, pressing into the crease around the inside circumference so the dough fits snugly against the corners and sides. (Don’t stretch the dough to fit or it will shrink during baking.) Dip the knuckle of your index finger in flour and use it to press the dough into the crease to create a straight edge, not sloping sides. Roll the rolling pin over the top of the flan ring to cut the dough. Pull off the trimmed dough and discard. Place the tart shell in the refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes and up to one day.
Remove the 1⁄3 cup of dough from the refrigerator and place it between two sheets of parchment paper. Roll it into an 8-inch circle about 1⁄16 inch thick. Place the dough sandwiched between the parchment paper on a baking sheet and put it in the freezer to chill until it is firm but not frozen, about 30 minutes.
Adjust the oven rack so it is in the lowest position and preheat the oven to 350ºF and line another separate baking sheet with parchment paper.
Remove the sheet of dough that you rolled very thinly from the freezer, lay it on a flat work surface, remove the top sheet of parchment paper, and use the 8-inch ring to cut a circle out of the dough, working quickly so that it stays cold. Pull away and discard the scraps of dough around the circle and cut the circle into eight or ten equal wedges as you would a pie— however many servings you want the tart to make. Still working quickly, use a metal spatula to carefully lift the
wedges one at a time and place them on the prepared baking sheet, leaving about 2 inches between each. Brush the wedges with the egg white. Scatter 2 tablespoons of the pine nuts over the wedges, dividing them evenly, and gently press the nuts into the wedges to make sure they adhere; reserve the remaining pine nuts for serving with the tart.
Bake the wedges until they’re golden brown, about 8 minutes, rotating the pan in the middle of the baking time so the cookies brown evenly. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and place it on a wire cooling rack until the wedges cool, and dust them lightly with powdered sugar.
To make the filling, combine the cream cheese, goat cheese, butter, and mascarpone in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until the ingredients are combined and the mixture is smooth and creamy, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula occasionally, about 2 minutes. Add the flour and salt, mix on low speed to incorporate, and transfer to a large mixing bowl.
Combine the eggs and sugar in the bowl you mixed the cheeses in. (There’s no need to wash the bowl.) Exchange the paddle attachment for the whisk attachment on your mixer and beat the eggs and sugar together until the eggs are thick and fluffy and the sugar is dissolved, about 5 minutes. Add the vanilla and beat just to incorporate. Gently fold one- third of the egg mixture into the cheese, using the flat side of a spatula to smash the cheese and break up the density of the cheese with the egg. Add another third of the egg mixture, folding it in with a light hand so the eggs stay light and fluffy. Fold in the remaining egg
mixture, mixing until the ingredients are combined but there are still visible lumps of cheese in the mix. (The filling can be made up to four days in advance. Transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate until you are ready to bake the tart.)
Remove the tart shell from the refrigerator and pour the filling into the shell to fill it 1⁄8 inch from the top. (You may not use all of it but you don’t want to overfill the ring; discard the excess.) Place the baking sheet with the tart on it in the oven to bake for about 40 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through the baking time for even browning, until the filling is set and the top is golden brown. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and set it aside to cool slightly. Cut the
tart into the same number of wedges that you cut cookie wedges. You can serve the tart warm, or set it aside to cool to room temperature. (To rewarm the tart, place the whole tart or individual slices on a baking sheet and put it in a 350ºF oven until it is warmed through; about 5 minutes for slices, about 15 minutes for a whole tart.)
Just before serving, place the cookie wedges on the tart with the outside edges of the cookies about 1 inch from the edge of the tart. Lift the flan ring off the tart. Use a large knife to cut between the cookies, creating even slices using the cookies as a guide. Use a metal spatula to carefully transfer each wedge to a dessert plate. Spoon 1 teaspoon of honeycomb on one side of each wedge. Spoon 1 teaspoon of each of the two honeys into circles about the size of silver dollars on either side of each wedge. Scatter a few of the reserved pine nuts in the center of each pool of honey, but not the honeycomb, and serve.
Excerpted from THE MOZZA COOKBOOK by Nancy Silverton with Matt Molina and Carolynn Carreno. Copyright © 2011 by Nancy Silverton. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.