`Dating back to Renaissance times, torte - vegetables, fish, or meat enclosed in a bottom crust - form one of the oldest categories of antipasti,' writes Giuliano Bugialli, `and were probably precursors to the French quiche.' (Tomato tart is seen on facing page, upper left.)
FOR THE CRUST
1 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
8 tablespoons cold, sweet butter
Pinch of salt
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
5 tablespoons cold water
1 medium-sized celery stalk
1 carrot, scraped
1 medium-sized red onion, cleaned
1 small clove garlic, peeled
10 sprigs Italian parsley, leaves only
5 large basil leaves
1 1/2 lbs. very ripe,
fresh tomatoes (or 1 1/2 lbs.
drained, canned tomatoes)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons sweet butter
Salt and black pepper
3 extra-large eggs
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano cheese
1 large, very ripe fresh tomato (optional)
Fresh basil leaves
Sift flour onto a board in a mound. Cut butter into pieces on mound. Use metal dough scraper to incorporate butter into flour, adding water, one tablespoon at a time, and seasoning with salt and nutmeg. When water is used up, a ball of dough should be formed. Place ball in damp cotton cloth and refrigerate at least two hours or overnight.
Coarsely chop celery, carrot, onion, garlic, parsley, and basil together on a board. If using fresh tomatoes, cut in large pieces. Place tomatoes in non-reactive casserole, then add vegetables. Pour olive oil on top. Cover, set over medium heat, and cook at least one hour, without stirring, but shaking to keep tomatoes from sticking.
Pass casserole contents through smallest holes of a food mill into a second casserole. Add butter, and season with salt and pepper. Place over medium heat and let sauce reduce 15 minutes more, or until sauce thickens. Transfer to a glass or crockery bowl and cool completely.
Butter a 9 1/2-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Unwrap pastry on a floured pastry board and knead about 30 seconds, then roll dough into a 14-inch disk. Roll disk onto rolling pin and unroll over buttered pan. Gently press dough into bottom of pan. Cut off dough around rim. Make punctures with a fork in pastry to keep it from puffing up. Fit aluminum foil loosely over pastry, then put pie weights or dried beans on foil. Refrigerate 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bake tart 35 minutes. Remove from oven, lift out foil and weights, return pan to oven and bake until crust is golden, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, add eggs and Parmigiano to cooled tomato sauce. Taste for salt and pepper; mix well with wooden spoon.
Remove tart pastry from oven, leaving oven on. Let crust cool at least 15 minutes, then pour in prepared filling. If desired, very thinly slice the tomato, remove all seeds, and arrange slices over filling in the crust.
Bake tart 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 15 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish and slice like a pie. Serve with fresh basil leaves. Serves 6 to 8.