Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Italy Part II ~ The Vatican Museum and a Private Tour of the Sistine Chapel~ Tomato-Ricotta Tart with Almond Pepper Crust

 One of the Mosaic floors in the Vatican Museum

Our last excursion in Rome was an after hours tour of the Vatican museum and Sistine Chapel. Disney did it again!  By arranging an after hours tour, we were able to experience these incredible sites with no crowds. Our Rome guide Christina, shared her exceptional expertise and knowledge, leaving me wishing I had taken an art history class long ago, longing to learn more. The Raphael rooms were exquisite. Much more interesting than I could have imagined! Christina managed to bring their history to life, relating stories of how Raphael created his paintings and, his artistic rivalry with Michelangelo. I was left awed and speechless. When we entered the Sistine Chapel, you could hear an audible gasp followed by silence, as everyone absorbed the magnificent sight of Michelangelo’s most significant work of art!

Laocoon in the Octagon Court
River God
One of the magnificent paintings by Raphael 
Ceiling in the Hall of Maps
 This way to the Sistine Chapel….no photos allowed
Following our evening tour, we were free for dinner.  After a full day of site seeing, we decided to eat in the hotel dining room. My friend Anna, who is from Italy, recommended we try "Bucatini all’Amatriciana” while in Rome. Since she said it’s a "must try” several of us ordered it! It did not disappoint! The Bucatini all’Amatriciana appears on many menus throughout Rome.  It gets its name from the town of Amatrice, about an hour east of Rome. Bucatini is fat spaghetti, with a hollow center. However, it’s the sauce that makes this dish special. The classic sauce gets its punch from the red chili pepper flakes, and black pepper. It consists of just a handful of ingredients, and has a wonderfully spicy flavor. In Italy it is made with thinly sliced guanciale (an Italian cured meat prepared from pork jowl). However, pancetta can be substituted. Delicious! If you’d like to give it a try, you can find a recipe for it at Bon Appetit.

Next up Tuscany!

                                                                              Bucatini all’Amatriciana                                photo by Bon Appetit                

I came home to a garden overflowing with tomatoes! I’ve made a few batches of sauce, frozen several bags of pureed tomatoes, and lastly, but not at all least, I made this wonderful Tomato-Ricotta Tart with Almond and Pepper Crust!

Tomato-Ricotta Tart with Almond & Pepper Crust…ready for the oven
Fresh tomatoes and basil makes this tart delectable
A great way to use up some of those tomatoes
Buon Appetito

Tomato-Ricotta Tart with Almond & Pepper Crust
the crust is adapted from Sweet Paul magazine

Makes one 9 inch tart

Almond and Pepper Crust:
1 cup all­purpose flour
1/4 cup almond flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper (I like my coarse)
1 stick cold butter, in pieces
ice cold water

1½ cups fresh ricotta
1 egg
¼ cup basil leaves, chopped

1½ teaspoons of chopped fresh rosemary
salt and pepper
sliced tomatoes

olive oil for drizzling over the tomatoes, and extra basil

For the crust, place regular flour, almond flour, salt, pepper and butter in the bowl of the food processor and pulse till mixture is crumbly and grainy, the consistency of cornmeal. It should be crumbly and grainy,
Add ice water, a little at a time and pulse until the dough holds together.
Wrap the dough in plastic and let rest in the fridge for 1 hour. (You can make it a few days ahead of time, if you want)
Roll it out between two sheets of parchment paper and place in a well greased tart pan.
Prick the bottom with a fork and freeze for 15 minutes.
Bake at 400F for about 10 minutes, until firm and slightly browned.
Cool on a wire rack.
For the filling: In a medium bowl, mix the ricotta, egg, and basil. Season with salt and pepper and spread onto the tart crust.
Place tomatoes on the top of the cheese filling, drizzle with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with some chopped basil leaves. Place into the oven and bake about 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese mixture seems cooked through. Cool and serve at room temperature.


  1. That tart looks scrumptious, and so summery fresh. Jim and I visited the Sistine Chapel years ago,
    I thought it the most spectacular place. A private tour is special, when we were there, you could barely move with the crowds. I am so happy you enjoyed your time in Italy.

  2. Kathy, I love your photos from Italy! The Raphael is exquisite, and seeing your photos of the Hall of Maps took me back there in a flash. And you were so lucky to have an Italian friend helping you choose what to eat!

  3. wow, tangy savoury and cheesy licking good tomato tart!!!

  4. Love the photos and hearing of your wonderful adventures in Italy. So amazing . And that tart is just gorgeous - truly picture perfect.

  5. Gorgeous photos of Italy, Kathy. That ceiling is just amazing.
    The tart looks beautiful with fresh homegrown tomatoes.

  6. Hi Kathy,
    Once again you have managed to let us virtually tag along on your visit to Italy. Thank you:) I can't even imagine how overwhelmingly beautiful it is to be in the presence of such beauty. Thank you so much for sharing those images. I'm sure they are etched in your mind forever:)

    Your tart looks lovely. I am finished with my tomatoes for this year but the stand down the block is still selling some heirloom big boys. I may get me a couple to try this tart. It looks so refreshing and may just be the perfect way to bid farewell to Summer.

    Thank you so much for sharing, Kathy...

  7. Sounds and looks like you had a fabulous tour, Kathy! My daughter and I were in awe, so I know exactly how you felt. Never enough time to spend looking, is there?
    Love your tomato tart! Bright and yummy!

  8. Part !! looks as wonderful as Part 1 except there are no pictures of you all. What I remember most about the Sistine Chapel is how much my neck hurt after we left that room. Thank you for the Italian foodie lesson. What I also remember about our short trip to Italy years ago is that I never had a bad meal. Michael, being the Iowa boy, ordered Bifsteak every night. As I've often said, he was not a foodie. Now that I've successfully rolled out tart dough over and over again, I'm ready to move on to savory recipes and the appropriate savory tart dough. Yours sounds delicious and looks gorgeous although I will have to buy my tomatoes now at Whole Foods. I already have a big bag of Almond Flour so I am ready to "roll".

  9. Your photos are gorgeous Kathy. Italy is so rich in history and culture, it is really amazing. Your Tomato Tart sounds wonderful - I bet the flavors transport you right back to Rome!

  10. We battled crowds both times we went to the Vatican...Bill wants to go back in a few years, so maybe we'll luck out and arrange an after hours tour. Lucky you! And your tart looks amazing...wishing I still had some summer tomatoes :)

  11. Dear Kathy, What a wonderful experience to visit Italy, Rome the Vatican and see all of this beauty. I bet there really are no words to express this experience. The pictures are beautiful. To imagine the in one life time a man can create such magnificent works of art.
    Thank you for sharing these memories.
    The Bucatini and the tart also look delicious!!
    Blessings dear. Catherine xo

  12. What stunning photos! And your tart is just lovely.

  13. What a magical moment that must have been in the Sistine Chapel with no crowds. It was really hard to appreciate the enormity of this contribution to art and religious history with all the tourists and the constant shushing of the guards. More points for Disney. (I am a big fan already. :)

    Now, to the food. I had my first bucatini all'Amatriciana for my 30th birthday and it was the antithesis of the authentic version. The simplicity of those few ingredients is what makes it so special. I absolutely love it. Didn't you find the food in Rome to be exquisite? Especially in its simplicity? I can't wait to go back.

    Your tart also looks amazing, and I especially love the crust. I can't wait to try it. I hope to get fresh ricotta at the market tomorrow, as well as the tomatoes! xo, David

  14. Sounds like a great trip! And your tart is beautiful. Now I want to have a fancy brunch.

  15. Wow, I'm wanderlusting. Italy may possibly be my favorite place - and your posts keep reminding me how much I want to go back.

    Killer tomato tart - can't wait for my tomatoes this fall.

  16. Kathy, thank you for sharing all the beautiful and memorable photos from the Sistine Chapel! Your fabulous fresh tomato tart is quite a huge treat, and soooo beautiful with your homegrown tomatoes...super amazing, and droolworthy delicious! xo