Cooking Italy: Rustic Pear Cake

For this recipe, Hazan recommends winter varieties such as the Bosc or the Anjou—which I think these are, I photographed a bunch of produce during out latest orchard visit. Per Hazan, you must avoid Bartletts that are not “half so appealing”, so I heeded the warning.

Be still my heart. I have finally made it to my second post for the Cooking Italy Club, the foodie haven devoted to the cuisine of the great Marcella Hazan. In my defense, I have been redoing my website, learning how to point and shoot with the new Canon Rebel (playing with the ISO button is so for later…). It’s been a learning curve.

So, for this second rustic Italian endeavour, our gentle leader AKA Angela of Spinach Tiger chose Hazan’s Farm Wife’s Fresh Pear Tart, a recipe “so simple that only an active campaign of sabotage could ruin it” according to Hazan’s intro. Admittedly, desserts are not a strength of her Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking bible, nor of Italian cuisine as a rule—although I do love my cannolis.

What I liked about this recipe was its downhome simplicity. Putting it plainly, she had me at seven ingredients. And fresh fruit. And, oh, not much sugar. It was a jiffy to put together, cooked under an hour and the house smelled heavenly.

Would I make this again? Sure, but I’d love to tweak it. Maybe soak the pears in a little Poire William, add chopped walnuts, sprinkle some Demerara sugar on top. I found that it tastes better if you let it cool and serve it at room temperature. Right out of the oven, I was disappointed and feared the worst. That said, picky hubby loved it — which is music to my ears — and I may not be “allowed” to play around with the original recipe…

Overall, I like the down-to-basics technique and taste of this pie. If your family lets you, this could be the perfect canvas for your next stroke of pastry genius.

Excerpted from:



  • 1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  • 2. Beat eggs and milk in a bowl, add sugar and a small pinch of salt while beating. Add in flour, mix until smooth.
  • 3. Peel pears, cut in half, scoop out core and cut into 1-in slices. Mix into batter gently until evenly distributed.
  • 4. Butter 9-inch round cake pan generously, sprinkle with breadcrumbs, then turn over and tap pan to loosen excess crumbs. Pour in batter, level with spatula. With fingertips, make small holes in batter and drop little bits of butter into hollows. Stud with cloves well apart, if desired.
  • 5. Bake 50 minutes in oven, on top rack, until top is lightly coloured. Remove from pan while lukewarm. Serve warm or at room temperature.