Thanksgiving Recipes: A Pear Tart With An Unexpected, Luscious Ingredient

We all look forward to the apple desserts that symbolize fall, with their irresistible scent of cinnamon and spice. But there is something sophisticated about desserts made with that other orchard fruit, the pear. They make an especially beautiful addition to your repertoire of Thanksgiving recipes.

This pear tart recipe from Tina Fanelli Moraccini of Piccolo Chef uses the creamy, sweet cheese, mascarpone (the indespensable ingredient for authentic tiramisu) to turn it into something your guests will be talking about for weeks.

“This creamy twist on the classic Italian pie, crostata, is the perfect way to please all palates at the holiday table,” says Tina. “The delicate flavor and subtle tanginess of the Anjou pears is just a delight when combined with the mascarpone. I like mine with a glass of red wine, while the kids prefer theirs with milk.”

Pear and Mascarpone Crostata with Hazelnut Crust

1 cup hazelnuts (4 1/2 ounces)
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
1 large egg, separated
1/4 cup ice water
½ teaspoon lemon zest

4 oz Mascarpone cheese
6 firm, ripe pears, such as Bartlett or Anjou–peeled, halved, cored and cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch wedges
2 tablespoons apple jelly, melted

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the hazelnuts on a baking sheet. Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until lightly toasted. Transfer to a kitchen towel and let cool completely, then rub the nuts together vigorously to remove the skins. Set aside.

In a food processor, pulse half of the hazelnuts until finely chopped. Add 2 cups of the flour, 3 tablespoons of the sugar and the salt and process until the nuts are finely ground. Add all but 2 tablespoons of the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Whisk the egg yolk into the ice water, add to the processor and pulse until the pastry comes together. Turn the pastry out onto a lightly floured surface and pat it into a 1-inch-thick disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

In a food processor, combine the remaining half of the hazelnuts with the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour and 1/4 cup of sugar and process until finely ground. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, mascarpone cheese, lemon zest, and the egg white and process until the filling is smooth and creamy.

On a work surface, slightly overlap two 18-inch-long sheets of wax paper. Lightly flour the pastry disk and set it in the center of the wax paper. Roll out the pastry to a 16-inch round. Gently flip the pastry onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and peel off the wax paper.

Spread the hazelnut filling over the pastry to within 2 inches of the edge. Arrange the pears over the filling in concentric circles, overlapping them slightly. Fold the edge of the pastry up and over the pears, crimping decoratively. Refrigerate the crostata for 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375°. Bake the crostata in the center of the oven for 45 minutes, or until the pears are tender and the crust is golden. Slide the crostata with the parchment paper onto a rack to cool. Brush the pears and crust with the melted apple jelly and let cool to room temperature. Cut into wedges and serve.

Makes 8 servings