Italian Custard Pie Recipe: Torta Della Nonna and a review of two new google rich snippets recipe plugins

by Lael Hazan on March 16, 2011

Photo by Dana Gallagher

There has been a lot of discussion in the twitterverse about the new google mandates that will help make recipes more searchable. However, just trying to understand what is a “rich snippet”, and to figure out which google recipe plugin we should use, made me realize that we will all need something sweet to pick us up.  Since our girls are very much into baking, I thought it would be good for them to make one of the Sorelle Simili, the Simili sisters, fabulous treats, their Torta Della Nonna, or Grandmother’s cake.  Also, we had to honor Pi day.  Pi day, at our daughter’s school is a big deal.  This year, the winner of Pi day memorized 1266 digits!  Although Gabriella didn’t memorize anything like that, she made a valiant effort and definitely deserved to eat Pi.  Long ago the sisters Simili had given their recipe of this homey and comforting custard pie to Giuliano.  I thought it was a perfect chance for the girls to learn how to make custard and to roll out pie dough.  It also worked well for this plugin test, as the recipe is in two parts and I could compare the ease of use for the two WordPress plugins that I found.  If you aren’t on WordPress, there is still hope, as there are other suggested plugins in the articles we’ve linked to below.

Margherita and Valeria Simili are twin sisters and good friends of our family.  They grew up baking in their father’s award wining bakery in Bologna and learned the art of  traditional Bolognese specialties.  In 1972 they met Marcella and Victor and assisted in their cooking school.  The sisters’ teaching fame spread and they have become authors, television darlings, and made guest chef appearances from New Zealand to America.  We still make a point of seeing them when we are in Italy at our own cooking school.  Having no children of their own, they dote on Gabriella and Michela and love spoiling them with sweets.

It is said that Torta della Nonna, or Grandmother’s cake, was invented by chef Guido Samorini in Florence for his patrons who wanted something “different”.  However, that has been hard to verify. Most people seem to believe it came to popularity in the 18th century when  “confectionary custard” became popular.  Some authors think that it was originally filled with ricotta rather than cream, like the Sicilian  Cassata al Forno; however, there isn’t much information available.  Whatever the history, it is a wonderful rustic pie that one could easily imagine a loving grandmother making.


Review of the Plugins:
We are trying to comply with Google’s new mandates.  We are NOT code experts and are trying various plugins.  As some of you who follow on twitter and facebook know, I actually broke the blog this past weekend, and we are still recovering.  We’d greatly appreciate your comments as to how you think the two recipes look.  If you aren’t aware, google has announced a new “recipe view” that will hopefully make recipes more searchable. However, they are also requiring the recipes to have certain code compliance.  There have been some helpful articles published if you wish more information. Here is a round up of what we found: The Food Blog Forum, Food Blog Alliance, Will Write For Food, Meathead Goldwyn on the Huffington Post & Amazing Ribs, and Cafe Liz. The articles were great at explaining what google requires and we are truly appreciative of everyone who spent so much time creating the posts.  Also, if you have any ideas for how to go back and make our previous posts HRecipe compliant, we would love to hear from you.   Thanks.
For the first recipe we used the HRecipe plugin.  It was easy to install and use, but a bit cumbersome to use as it has many tabs.  Fortunately it allows you to edit in the WordPress backend.  It asks a lot of questions, and  I guess I now need to put in items, like this recipe is vegetarian and Italian, that I would have simply tagged previously. I mean, it’s asking me, is this recipe is Kosher, is it Buddhist?  Do I need to fill that section in?  If I don’t give it a rating, will I have difficulties later on? When I first previewed the recipe it didn’t look right; however, it was easy to fix in the edit mode.  Unfortunately, it keeps going to back to the odd look.  A glitch is that once you’ve inserted your recipe, you can’t go back to the plugin to edit.  For instance, if I want to add another category later I can only get to the wordpress edit page.
For the second part of the recipe we used  Sushi Day’s recipe SEO plugin.  This was MUCH simpler to use and the categories made sense.  I was fortunate to meet the plugin’s designer, Allison of Sushi Day at BlogHer food. She was lovely and I enjoyed meeting her.  Kudos to her on this TERRIFIC accomplishment.  Unfortunately, at the time that I publish this you can only edit within the plugin itself, and not in the WordPress editor.  Also, it is too easy to delete, I like being asked “do you really want to delete this”? I learned the hard way that going too fast at pushing buttons only equals re-entering the entire recipe. However, Allison says she is working on the WordPress edit as I write and I’m sure she will have a new update in no time.  She was also AMAZINGLY responsive.  She personally answered my questions and tried to make things clear so that even I, who was able to break my own blog, could understand.
My suggestion is to wait a couple of weeks and use the Sushi Day SEO recipe plugin.  In the long run, I believe it will have all the bells and whistles we need.  If you really want to start using a plugin RIGHT NOW and edit in WordPress, this week use the HRecipe and next week use Allison’s plugin.
Another awkward realization was that neither plugin has the ability to let you combine the two recipes into an overarching format.  I wonder how this recipe is going to look to google?  Also, if I add pictures into the recipe, how will this affect the google spider?
Please let us know what you think and if you have any suggestions.
Lastly, this weekend I’ve again been overwhelmed by the generosity and caring of the online community. Since I was in the backend of the blog I thought I’d add some interesting plugin’s that I’d heard about.  Yes, I know better, but I still did it.  I truly appreciate  Brooke of Learn to Preserve,  Joyce of Friends Drift Inn,  Susan of Sticky Gooey Creamy Chewy, Deborah of Old Shoes New Trip & Pomodori e Vino, Marlene of  The Jewish Hostess , Kalyn from Kalyn’s Kitchen, and  Jean from The Art of Gluten Free Baking who all empathized on facebook and offered suggestions for fixing.  On Twitter, Tatiana @gourmetrambler gave me some other people to ask for assistance; and Joan from Foodalogue & Sukaina from Lick my Spoon were most supportive. Even @Giannii from Disqus chimed in.  Of course, Allison of Sushi Day who commented first on facebook and then had a long messaging session with me was immensely helpful.
Yes, I feel like I’m giving an academy award acceptance speech; however, before I stop I want to give a special shout out to Jun Belen of Jun-Blog and his partner Dennis Allio. They took the time to walk me back from the precipice and hold my hand until everything was better.  It is in their honor that I bake this pie.

Grandmother’s Custard Pie

Torta della Nonna

Copyright, Giuliano Hazan HOW TO COOK ITALIAN

Preparation Time: 45 minutes
Total Time from start to finish: 6 1/2 hours
Calories:  I have the belief that if you eat it from your partner’s plate it will have none.  Of course, I may be proved wrong
Serves: 8
Our 7 year old Michela, helped me create the crust.  She was very excited and got out the rolling pin.  There was no need for it to make the first part.  To make the crust dough one only needs to combine the ingredients, roll it into a ball and put it into the refrigerator.  She did have fun separating the egg.  Giuliano and I have different methodology for this.  He likes to crack the egg into his hand, spread his fingers and let the goo run out.  I prefer to try and crack the egg into two equal shell parts and then work them back and forth so that the egg whites drip out while the yolk stays intact in the shell.  Do you have a preference?  Michela ended up creating a combination of both, one side of the shell and the other of her hand.  It worked for her. The second part of the recipe was a little more difficult for little people.  Rolling out the dough can be a bit of a challenge, the ball starts out very hard and then softens almost magically.

Recipe: Pastry Crust

Summary: An easy to make and delicious pastry crust


  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling the crust
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
  • Pinch salt


1. Cut the butter into 12 pieces and put it in a food processor with the 2 cups flour, sugar, egg, egg yolk, and salt. Run the machine until the dough comes together and is homogeneous. Remove the dough and place it on a counter. Briefly knead it with your hands to form a smooth ball. Wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

2. Preheat the oven to 350° on the regular bake setting

3. Cut the dough into two pieces, one slightly larger than the other. Wrap the smaller piece with plastic and set it aside. Remove the bottom of a 91/2-inch tart pan and put it in the center of your work counter. Sprinkle a little flour on the counter around the edge of the pan and place the larger piece of dough in the middle of the pan bottom. Flatten the dough a bit with your hands, then use a rolling pin to roll it out 1/8 inch thick. Loosen the edges that extend past the pan bottom with a pastry scraper, then use the scraper to lift the pan bottom and the dough. Carefully lower into the ring of the tart pan. Patch any tears or holes, making sure the dough comes all the way up the sides. Cut off any excess dough at the top. Put the pan on a baking sheet and bake until very lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Cooking time (duration): 2 1/2 hours

Diet type: Vegetarian

Dietary restriction: Kosher

Number of servings (yield): 8

Meal type: dessert

Culinary tradition: Italian

The custard thickens all at once and that frightened Michela, she thought she had done something wrong.  One should also keep the pie dough topping in the refrigerator until ready to use, as it gets soft very quickly.  Since I was making this with the kids, who aren’t dough experts, we didn’t do so well at creating the topping.  In fact, we punted and opted for a tart rather than pie.  The extra dough was perfect for cookies, and the pie received raves from all who ate it.




Comments on this entry are closed.

Liz April 6, 2011 at 7:11 am

I hear ya! We also had some nerve-wracking moments when the blog went offline in our attempts to recode. But ultimately the whole process is supposed to make things better, no? We can only hope. Glad you got things working again.

arthi March 21, 2011 at 6:02 am

Wow Lael….love yr torta & yr 7yr old Michela is absolutely gorgeous ;-)

Meeta March 21, 2011 at 4:47 am

Those plugins and codes are driving me crazy! But I think I’ll need to bake this cake first then tackle the code :o) Looks delicious!

Jun Belen March 18, 2011 at 8:12 pm

We’re so glad that it worked out well for you, Lael and that we were able to help you out. It’s what I love about this welcoming food community. At the end of the day it’s all about helping each other out and about sharing recipes like this mouthwatering Torta Della Nonna. Thank you for sharing, Lael. I know it’s what everyone says but I’d say it nonetheless. It looks delicious!

My Carolina Kitchen March 18, 2011 at 12:06 pm

In my house I don’t believe that this delicious pie would last one or two days in the refrigerator. In fact it might never make it that far because it would be gone before you know it.

Susan @ SGCC March 16, 2011 at 3:49 pm

Well done, Lael! I’m glad you got things working again. It looks great. And, the Torta looks pretty amazing too!

Brook Hurst Stephens March 16, 2011 at 3:31 pm

PS The Grandmothers’ Cake looks and sounds divine <3

Brook Hurst Stephens March 16, 2011 at 3:31 pm

Lael – you are incredibly sweet to thank me, but after reading your blog post I should be thanking YOU for all the wonderful information you posted. You have been a very BUSY girl :)

Lael Hazan March 20, 2011 at 9:43 am

Thank you for the support. I’m glad it was helpful. Yes, I’m a bit too busy, I’m working to find balance.

Anonymous March 16, 2011 at 3:06 pm

Thank you for the post Lael… I now realise the hop,skip and jump I’ve been ding between Seo recipe plugin and hrecipe…and neither seem to show up in the google rich snippet check! Sigh…not sure what I’m doing wrong, or right {lol}, but I can see you’ve got the hang of things. Will return to hrecipe again, and wait for a fix on Allisons.
The Italian torta, on the other hand, is a winner…this I can handle beautifully! It’s pure comfort & straight from the heart! xo

Jamie March 16, 2011 at 3:04 pm

And guess who is going to help me understand this whole plugin business! Yup! You!

I have to say that this recipe was the first bookmarked when I recieved Giuliano’s book. Husband has been asking me to make one of these tarts for ages! We love it! I am so making this very soon!

And Margherita and Valeria sound absolutely wonderful! How lucky for your girls to be surrounded by such wonderful, caring and talented people! xo

Lael Sara Caplan Hazan March 16, 2011 at 12:25 pm

Grazie. I also wish to thank Brook Hurst Stephens, @joyce pinson Kalyn Denny @Deborah Johnson Horn Marlene Mamiye @Jeanne Sauvage Susan Penge Filson Jun Belen @Dennis Allio, Allison Day and everyone else who helped me FIX my blog so I could publish this! THANK YOU

Sylvie March 16, 2011 at 12:25 pm

One of my very favorite Italian desserts! It’s wonderful to see how supportive the food community on Facebook and Twitter is, there is always someone willing to lend hand when you need it most. I’m glad you were able to get everything fixed. And thank you for taking the time to walk through the different recipe formatting options, that was really a big help.

Linda Harrell March 16, 2011 at 12:17 pm

mmm…torta della nonna, one of my faves :)

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