Prosciutto and Tomato Tarts
The most popular and requested dish I've ever served to guests.
- Servings: 8 small or one large tart, big enough to serve about 10.
Adapted from The Art of The Tart, a superb cookbook by Tamasin Day-Lewis that was first published in 2000, this recipe has long been a favorite of mine (as is the entire book, now very dog-eared). Using store-bought puff pastry, these savory tarts are topped with a prosciutto and garlic mixture and crowned with halved cherry tomatoes and fresh basil.
I like to make individual four-inch tarts and serve them, still warm, with a handful of a simple mesclun salad that I've lightly dressed with vinaigrette or just a drizzle of good olive oil and a pinch of salt. It's a wow for dinner guests or as a light lunch, maybe served with more than a handful of the salad. The recipe and baking method can be adapted into one large tart; just roll it into a 12-inch square or circle and assemble and cook it the same way and then serve it cut into wedges.
This recipe is also great for the cook because the tarts can be assembled completely in advance and popped into the oven 15 minutes before it's time to sit down at the table.
For the prosciutto, try to use either the San Daniele or Black Label brands because these are less salty than prosciutto de Parma. If you don't need 8 tarts, simply cut the recipe in half and only make four. You can also make large tarts by rolling the pastry dough into a large square or circle and assemble and bake in the same way as you do the small ones.
You can use either Dufour or Pepperidge Farm frozen puff pastry. Dufour uses all butter and thus has a more refined taste but is also more costly than the Pepperidge Farm. I've made this recipe with both brands and find that because the finished tart has so much flavor, you really can't tell the difference, despite the price. Note that the Dufour is sold as a single sheet; if you don't use it all, you can re-freeze any leftover dough. The Pepperidge Farm has two sheets, each of which will make four little tarts.
- 1 sheet of packaged puff pastry (Dufour or Pepperidge Farm), defrosted (about 14 oz.)
- 8 slices prosciutto, San Daniele or Black Label
- 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic
- Freshly ground black pepper
- About 25 cherry tomatoes or 35 grape tomatoes
- 2 to 3 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves removed from stems and finely minced
- A handful of fresh basil leaves, with any stems removed
- Preheat the oven to 375° F.
- Defrost the frozen puff pastry and roll out a sheet of the dough large enough to cut eight 4-inch circles of dough. You can use an upside-down little bowl, a large glass, or the bottom of a small tart pan -- anything that is 4-inches in diameter -- to be the pattern for cutting out a circle of dough with a sharp paring knife. Place the circles on a piece of parchment paper or a silicone mat and refrigerate until you're ready to assemble the tarts.
- Using a food processor, add the garlic cloves and pulse until finely minced. Scrape down the sides of the processor.
- Tear the pieces of prosciutto into thirds or fourths and add to the food processor along with 1/3 cup of the oil and about 6 or 8 grinds of black pepper. Pulse until the ingredients come together in a coarse purée.
- Slice the tomatoes in half.
- Remove the rosemary leaves from their stems and finely mince.
- Line a rimmed sheet pan with a fresh piece of parchment paper. (Don't use a cookie sheet as the tarts may leak and you'll have a mess in the oven.)
- Transfer the chilled circles of puff pastry dough to the lined pan, about 1 or 2 inches apart.
- Assemble the tarts by placing 1/8 of the prosciutto-garlic mixture into the center of each disc of dough, carefully spreading the mixture but leaving a clear 3/4-inch edge of the dough; when baked, this naked edge will rise above the filling, making a pretty and appetizing golden rim of pastry.
- Place two or three tomato halves -- more if you're using the smaller grape tomatoes -- on top of the prosciutto mixture, cut size up, and carefully brush with some of the remaining olive oil, leaving the rim of exposed dough clean, without oil. Sprinkle a generous pinch of the minced rosemary on top of the tomatoes.
- Bake for about 15 minutes, until the dough is puffed up and cooked through to a golden brown, and the tomatoes have cooked. Remove from the oven and also immediately from the pan, especially if any liquid from the tarts has collected in the pan to prevent the tarts from getting soggy.
- While the tarts are baking, tear the basil leaves into large pieces and place them in the remaining olive oil. When the tarts are finished baking, place them on a rack to cool a bit and brush them with the basil and oil mixture.
- Serve warm with a side of mesclun or other small salad greens, drizzled with a small amount of good olive oil and a tiny pinch of your best sea salt.
If you do not have parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet, you can very lightly grease the baking sheet.
Be prepared for how when puff pastry bakes, it can become oily. To protect your oven, bake the tarts on a rimmed sheet pan and not a flat cookie sheet.
Do not put the basil leaves into the olive oil too far in advance of using them because the basil leaves will bruise and turn dark. About 20 minutes is the limit.
While The Art of The Tart is no longer in print, you can still find well-priced used copies. For anyone who is interested in savory pastry (plus sweet), the book is superb and highly recommended because more than a third of its 100 or so tarts are savory ones, with the remainder being sweet, in both traditional as well as unexpected ways. (A little trivia: author Tamasin Day-Lewis is actor Daniel Day-Lewis's sister, famed and respected in her own right.)