Tunisian-Italian recipes from an Israeli chef

I managed to convince a few bakers to give me their secret recipes for these special dishes that demonstrate the awesome connection Italy and Tunisia share.

(photo credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)
I recently took a trip to the Italian Riviera, and one of my favorite days was our visit to Genoa. Genoa is an ancient port city that is home to a colorful outdoor food market that is simply a foodies’ paradise. We spent hours there wandering around taking in the sounds, aromas, vibrant colors and fascinating assortment of foods and products.
In the caruggi, or narrow streets, of Genoa’s old town, we came across many family- run restaurants that served Italian dishes of fish and pasta, which were prepared with local produce. At the eatery where we ate, we were served hot, crispy focaccia with a unique pesto spread like nothing I’ve ever tasted. In addition, we tasted bread that I’d never come across before: farinata, which is made from chickpea flour. Afterwards, as we continued on with our stroll, all of a sudden, as we turned a corner, there appeared a small bakery with gorgeous pastries and delicacies on view behind the display window.
I saw a cake that looked so similar to something my mother used to bake for us on Rosh Hashanah. I quickly entered the bakery to investigate at close quarters. Yes – it had raisins and other dried fruits inside just like I remembered from my childhood. And it smelled similar, too. I remembered it being called Bolo, but here it was referred to as Pandolce Genovese, and apparently, it was a popular Christmas treat. At that moment, I realized that a number of my favorite dishes I remembered from my childhood were actually Italian.
During my stay in Italy, I continued to find more dishes that I recognized from home, such as a lemon-almond tart, pizza with sardines and black olives, and galleta, which are thin salty crackers my mother used to serve for kiddush on Shabbat morning. It was not easy, but I managed to convince a few bakers to give me their secret recipes for these special dishes that demonstrate the awesome connection Italy and Tunisia share. Below you can view the secret recipes I succeeded in uncovering.
Pandolce Genovese (sweet bread)
Some sources say that Pandolce Genovese was first concocted during a competition in which bakers were tasked with the challenge of coming up with a new recipe for a cake that would last for many days and so could be taken on long sea voyages.
Makes 3 medium loaves.
180 gr. butter, at room temperature, or oil
150 gr. sugar
2 packets vanilla sugar
1 egg
100 ml. water, marsala wine or whole milk
1-2 drops yellow food coloring (to mix with liquids)
½ tsp. citrus concentrate
550 gr. flour, sifted
1 packet baking powder
¼ tsp. ground coriander
½ tsp. fennel seeds
Zest of ½ a lemon
Zest from 1 orange
50 gr. pine nuts
300 gr. raisins, soaked in sweet wine for 30 minutes and then
150 gr. sugared fruits and orange peels
Place the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Gradually add the sugar and the vanilla sugar.
Mix until smooth and creamy.
Add the egg and mix on medium speed until well mixed.
In a pot, heat the milk or other liquid with yellow food coloring and citrus concentrate. The liquid should be warm – about 40°. If it’s too hot when you add it to the batter, the dough will come out too soft. If the liquid is too cold, the batter will be too hard.
Add the warmed liquid to the batter and mix. Keep mixing while you add the flour, baking powder, coriander, fennel seeds, lemon and orange zest. Mix for three minutes and then add the pine nuts, raisins, and candied fruits. Mix for another two to three minutes until smooth. Generously flour a work surface and then knead dough well.
Form a long roll and cut it into three equal sections. Roll each section into round rolls. Alternatively, you could make one large loaf. Make sure none of the raisins or fruit pieces is sticking out of the dough too much, since they will burn.
Line a pan with baking paper and place the pandolce on the tray with at least five cm between each one. Flatten them a little with your hands and take a knife and make indentations on top (triangle, X, lines, or a square).
Bake in an oven that has been preheated to 200-210° for 35- 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out dry.
Let cool completely before serving. This cake is even tastier after a day or two.
Almond Lemon Tart
My mother’s version of this tart called for oil instead of butter, probably so we could eat it after meat meals. It can also be baked in a Wonder Pot or a tall, round 22-24 cm pan.
6 large eggs, separated
1½ cups sugar
2 packets sugar vanilla
1 Tbsp. lemon zest
1 cup flour, sifted
½ cup almond flour (or cornflour)
50 gr. melted butter or oil
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
½ cup almond slivers or powdered sugar
Add the egg whites to the bowl of an electric mixer and whip on high speed. Gradually add the sugar and vanilla sugar while mixing and mix until stiff peaks form. Gradually add the egg yolks. Mix until color is uniform. Gently fold in the lemon zest and gradually fold in the flour, almond flour, butter or oil, and lemon juice. Mix well. Pour batter into a pan that has been greased well. Sprinkle with almond slivers and bake in an oven that has been preheated to 180° for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out dry. Remove from the oven and let cool. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.
Genova Galleta
Makes 25-30 crackers.
4½ cups flour, sifted
1 Tbsp. fresh yeast
2 Tbsp. oil
1½ cups water at room temperature
A little salt
3 Tbsp. kosher salt
Pour the flour into a large bowl. Sprinkle with a little salt and then form a well in the center. Add the yeast and then gradually add the water while kneading. Continue kneading until mixed well. Cover and let rise for 30 minutes.
Flour your work surface and then roll out the dough to a thickness of 1 cm. Cut out circles using a glass. Pick up the round piece of dough and then stretch it out a little so that it’s oblong. Place on a greased baking tray. Continue making more circles and fill up tray. Take a fork and poke holes in the circles and then sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake in an oven that has been set to medium heat and bake for 20 minutes until the crackers are golden brown. Let cool and serve with dips and salads.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.
For more recipes go to www.pascalpr.co.il