My inspiration for this tart came about at the beginning of the asparagus season paired with a frequent use of speck in the region of Veneto. Speck is a catalyst of flavour, it gives a subtle salty smoky note to the tart and creates a perfect harmony with the asparagus, which is cooked through but still retains some crunch.
With this tart you can be so creative, especially when certain ingredients are hard to get.
Stracchino or Squaquerone soft cheese* can be replaced with Philadelphia cream cheese, ricotta, mascarpone (perhaps with a few drops of lemon juice) or feta (be careful with salt when seasoning as speck and feta are already a pretty salty combination).
Instead of speck** on the other hand you can use cooked ham, pancetta or bacon. But speck however, still remains my favourite one to use.
For the pastry:
For the filling:
Start with preparing the dough by rubbing in with your fingers all the ingredients (add the egg at the last) and kneading the pastry until well combined. Form a bowl, cover it in cling film and leave in the fridge to rest for a minimum of 30 minutes.
Grease a round baking tray of 23 cm in diameter and 3-4 cm in hight with butter.
Take the pastry from the fridge and roll it out. Place it in the tin and gently press the dough onto the bottom and inside of the baking dish. Trim the edges by rolling a rolling pin over the tart tin. Prick the bottom with a fork, line the dish with baking parchment and fill with dry beans or ceramic balls (this process will prevent the pastry from rising).
Place the baking tin in a preheated oven to 175 C (non fan) and bake blind for 10-15 minutes.
Take it out and leave to cool.
In the meantime prepare the asparagus:
Trim the hard ends by about 1 cm, don’t be tempted to cut off too much.
Now shave the hard layer off (at the bottom of the asparagus leaving the spears untouched) using a potato peeler.
Bring a small pot of salted water to the boil. Blanch the prepared asparagus for 2 minutes. Drain and run immediately under cold water for a few seconds, a step allowing to retain a vibrant green colour.
Once the asparagus spears have cooled down a little cut them equally into 10-11cm long pieces. The left over parts cut into thin rings.
In a bowl whisk the eggs, add the soft cheese and whisk until it is well combined and there are almost no lumps. Now add the chopped speck, chopped asparagus and grated parmesan. Season with a good pinch of salt (not too much) and a few pinches of black pepper. Stir thoroughly.
Pour the cheese mixture into your tart case. Even out the surface and lay in a decorative way the asparagus spears (preferably brushed with some olive oil) on top pressing them gently.
Bake in the preheated static oven to 175 C (165 C if fan assisted oven) for about 25-30 minutes, until the pastry and the tart start to turn golden.
Take it out from the oven and leave to cool down to room temperature, allowing the filling to set.
Garnish with freshly chopped chives.