The longest fortification system in the world after the Great Wall of China, the oldest salt works in Europe, and perhaps in the world are some of the trademarks of Ston. Ston is a small town located on the Peljesac Peninsula. Hailing from this walled town is a recipe that is sure to delight, if not confuse and intrigue – a cake made with pasta.
A culture of life, its essence and its most subtle part certainly belongs to food. Cuisine of Dubrovnik area has long been one of the finest in Croatia and gained popularity all over the world. Tourists pour into this town not only to walk the famous wall and Game of Thrones filming locations, but also to enjoy culinary specialties. With its unusual appearance, this cake has long been a tourist attraction both in Ston and Dubrovnik and has been prepared for centuries. Stonska torta (Ston cake) has sweet and savoury elements that you either like or are challenged to try. This cake was made for festivities and celebrations (Christmas, Easter, weddings), as otherwise cakes were considered a luxury. People used pasta for the filling to economize on ingredients. Usually every household has its own traditional recipe. We are talking about a thin, unsweetened pastry that envelops a net of long macaroni (typically zitone or penne pasta), locally called makaruli, firmly compressed and mixed with nuts (most often almonds and walnuts), lemon zest, sugar, sometimes chocolate and butter, all bound with beaten eggs. The pastry can be made with lard, butter or olive oil. Sometimes grated or powdered chocolate is added to the filling, but you can omit it. The recipe is actually quite uncomplicated and you can easily try to make it at home.
For the filling:
500 g zitone or penne pasta
zest from 1 lemon
2 tbsp rum
200 g ground walnuts
150 g ground almonds
100 g dark chocolate, finely grated
250 g sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
50 g sugar
250 g cold unsalted butter, thinly sliced
For the pastry:
400 g plain flour
¼ tsp salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vinegar
100 ml water (approx)
2 tbsp olive oil
Combine the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl, then mix in the eggs, vinegar and water. Don’t add all the water at once as you may not need it all. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes until soft. Cover and set aside as you make the filling.
Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Cook the pasta for 7-8 minutes. Drain very well. Mix the ground walnuts, almonds, grated chocolate, sugar and cinnamon together. Set aside. Beat the eggs with 50 grams of sugar until foamy. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease a 26cm springform cake tin and dust with flour. Roll the pastry into a circle big enough to fit into the base of the prepared tin, up the sides and enough overhang to go down the sides. Carefully lift the rolled pastry into the prepared tin. Sprinkle the nut filling into the base of the pastry-lined tin. Top with several slices of butter. Place a single layer of cooked pasta over the top, then sprinkle over more of the nut mixture. Dot with slices of butter. Be generous with the nut mixture as you use it. Repeat this process with the remaining pasta, nut mixture and butter, gently pressing down as you go. When you get to the top, evenly pour the beaten eggs over the filling. Gather the overhanging pastry over the filling. Press the pastry down and try to press out any air pockets you may hear squishing in there.
Rub a little butter over the pastry, place the tin into the oven and bake for about 1 hour, or until golden. Allow to cool in the tin before taking it out. Sprinkle with icing sugar, let cool completely and serve.
Photo+Story by Tamara Novakovic