Caprese Tart with a Flaky Parmesan Crust
It’s April, so it’s basically summer, right? When it comes to warm-weather foods, I absolutely love Caprese: fresh mozzarella, sweet tomatoes, spicy basil and beautiful balsamic come together to create, well, magic. Even though I am not Italian, Italian cuisine is one of my favorites. I’m also part French, which means I I love a good tart. Soooo that being said, this dish is a fusion between the two cuisines that I adore and that quite literally make up who I am (I’m always full of some kind of French of Italian food lol.) With this dish, I wanted to combine the richness of a French tart with one of my favorite, simple Italian dishes.
This recipe was born like a lot of my other recipes: because I had the ingredients lying around and I wanted to make something fun with them. What’s great about this tart is that it’s its “own thing,” meaning it’s *similar* but different enough than pizza, and it’s *similar* but way more decadent than a simple Caprese salad. It’s crusty, buttery, cheesy, hearty, refreshing, herby, next-level and oh, so special.
What is Caprese?
If you aren’t familiar with Caprese and you’r reading this like “wtf?” let me give you the rundown on my favorite salad made of cheese. Caprese stems from Insalata Caprese which means Capri salad in Italian. It’s a traditional summer salad said to come from the island of Capri. Italians enjoy it as a simple side dish made with fresh tomatoes, sweet basil, and mozzarella, drizzled with balsamic vinegar. It features the colors of the Italian flag and can also be made as a pizza, pasta, or a sandwich. The fact the Italians categorize Caprese as a salad is extremely important to me because it debunks the myth that salads have to have lettuce, or that salads can’t have cheese. I love you, Italy. I really do. Thanks for being you.
Let’s talk about this Parmesan Crust…
The parmesan crust that I make in this recipe is a traditional pie crust infused with shredded aged parmesan. I recommend grating your own cheese because you get a finer consistency and much better quality taste and aroma. I do want to note that it’s important to use a food processor for this step for it to easily turn out perfect. If you don’t have one, you can also make a perfect crust, but it will require the pinching method, where you meticulously pinch the butter into the layers of flour as if you were making a pie crust. This is also called “cutting the butter into the flour.”
Sounds amazing, but an I use pre-made pie crust?
If making the crust isn’t sounding fun to you…do not fret. You can use regular old store-bought pie crust. A pre-made pie crust isn’t going to have as many flaky layers, but using one doesn’t hurt if you want to save time. You can also top it with Parmesan before the first baking stage to achieve a similar Parmesan-infused quality that the homemade crust will give you.
Why do I have to bake the tart crust before adding the filling?
This probably wasn’t a question you were wondering, but I wanted to throw it in here because this step is important!!! The reason we bake the crust before filling it is because it can get very soggy when adding the tomatoes (which have a ton of water.) Something else that’s important during this step is to weigh down the center of the crust so that it doesn’t rise. Lots of people use pie weights for a purpose like this, but I just used dried chickpeas. You can use weights or really any dried legume on top of parchment paper. If you do use dried legumes, you can store or reuse them as pie weights later on…but don’t try and eat them because they will probably taste weird.
Can I make this tart with other toppings?
YESSSS. If you don’t vibe with Caprese, here’s another favorite of mine. Add tomatoes with balsamic, gruyère and caramelized onions. You can make this 100% French or make the Italian spin that I did. Another option is prosciutto with figs and salted honey….brie…. oh jeez…literally anything that goes with Parmesan, honestly.
I don’t have a tart pan, can I use something else?
I didn’t have one either! I used a sheet pan and made a rustic-style flat crust with larger edges. I just rolled it out and shaped it into this giant rectangle toaster streudel looking thing. But you can make it any shape that your heart desires so long as you bake it before you put the filling in. No one likes soggy tarts.
|Parmesan Tart Crust|
|2cups all purpose flour|
|1tsp kosher salt|
|1cup grated Parmesan|
|1cup cold butter, cut into cubes (freeze for 10 minutes before making the crust)|
|1/3cup cold water|
|For the tart:|
|Parmesan tart dough (or store bought pie dough)|
|2cups Ciliegne mozzarella, thinly sliced (or 2 large balls of fresh mozzarella cut into cubes)|
|2cups cherry tomatoes, thinly sliced|
|Olive oil, to taste|
|Salt, to taste|
|Fresh cracked black pepper, to taste|
|Balsamic reduction, for topping, to taste|
|1bunch fresh basil, chiffonade, to taste|
For the crust
Freeze the butter cubes for 10 minutes before making the pie crust.
Compile all of the ingredients in a food processor.
Pulse to cut the butter and cheese into the dry ingredients until the butter is pea-sized.
Add the cold water, 1 tbsp at a time, while pulsing to combine. Stop adding water once the consistency is dough-like.
Remove the dough from the food processor. Place it onto a work surface and consolidate it with your hands to make one cohesive ball. If saving for later, wrap the dough in cling wrap and freeze until 1 hour before you're ready to use it. NOTE: Don’t overwork it because the temp in your hands will inadvertently warm up the dough and we want it to stay cool.
For the tart
If you use beans as pie weights it's not recommended to eat them at a later time. But you can reuse them as pie weights.