Scarpaccia Dolce (Sweet Italian Zucchini Tart) Recipe

Scarpaccia dolce is a sweet Italian zucchini tart whose name (scarpaccia) means... wait for it... an old, worn-out shoe sole. There are two forms of this dish — a savory one from Camaiore and a sweet one (dolce meaning sweet in Italian) from Viareggio, both in the province of Lucca in Tuscany. While the thin, savory version, crispy and browned from the oven, more resembles an old shoe, the name has stuck for the sweet version too. Luckily, it tastes much better than an old shoe. Recipe developer Michelle Bottalico brings us a sweet version of this delicious Italian dish.

Sweet baked goods made with vegetables aren't that common in Italy, but the scarpaccia dolce is an exception. You may want to compare it to American zucchini bread, but it's not the same. It's a low, dense, moist cake that's not overly sweetened. While the recipe calls for some sugar, the sliced zucchini add a subtle sweetness that enhances the flavor and adds moisture. And the fresh basil leaves in the batter and the extra virgin olive oil drizzled on top remind you that this is indeed an Italian recipe. Serve this scrumptious zucchini tart for a unique dessert.

Gather the scarpaccia dolce ingredients

First, you will need zucchini. This dish has humble farming origins and is traditionally made with the first small, flowering zucchini that comes into season in May and June in Italy. These are ideal because they contain less water than larger and later zucchini varieties and have a lovely, more noticeably sweet flavor. They may be hard to find in other areas, so you can use other kinds of green zucchini, but choose the smallest ones you can. You'll use some salt to drain the zucchini before using them. You will also need eggs, sugar, vanilla, butter, milk, baking powder, and flour to make the cake. Lastly, you'll use fresh basil leaves to flavor the batter and extra virgin olive oil for drizzling.

Prepare the zucchini and let it sit ahead of time

Unless you have those tiny, early summer Italian zucchini, which are less watery, it's important to drain the liquid out first so the tart doesn't get soggy. You can do this by thinly slicing the washed zucchini with a mandoline slicer or chef's knife. Add salt and mix well, and let the covered bowl sit for at least 2 hours. You'll see that the salt will start drawing out the vegetable liquid. Two hours is the minimum resting time, but you can leave it overnight if that works better with your schedule.

Drain and dry the zucchini

When you're ready to make the batter, first preheat the oven to 400 F. Then take the bowl and carefully drain out most of the liquid that has pooled at the bottom. To get the rest of it, transfer the zucchini to a colander and press them to drain out the excess liquid. You can use your hands, a spoon, or a small bowl for the pressing. Quickly dry the slices with a paper towel before the next step.

Make the cake batter

The cake batter is going to be made in stages. The first step is to thoroughly mix the eggs and sugar together. You'll do this by hand with a whisk; there's no need to use an electric mixer. Even a fork will do if you don't have a whisk. After that, add the vanilla, butter, and milk to the bowl and whisk it again. The next step is to add the baking powder, salt, and flour to the bowl. Add the flour a little at a time for the best results, and keep whisking continuously until the batter looks evenly mixed. Stop there to avoid overmixing the flour.

Mix the zucchini and basil into the batter

Now is the time to add the drained zucchini slices to the batter. Then add the basil, which has already been carefully washed and dried to protect the delicate leaves. Tear the basil into small pieces by hand before dropping them in. Unlike chopping with a knife, this method won't cleanly slice the lymphatic veins of the basil in two, allowing more flavor to infuse the batter. Mix the batter with a spoon until it looks even. It's supposed to be dense. It won't be as solid as bread dough, but it shouldn't be runny.

Prepare the batter for baking

Before you pour the batter in, first grease a 9-inch round baking pan with butter and dust it with flour. This will prevent the cake from sticking to the pan. Then add the batter and use a spatula to flatten the top until it's level. Before you pop it in the oven, drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil on top. This doesn't only add a little extra flavor to the dish, but it also helps to keep the top surface moist when baking.

Bake and serve the zucchini tart

You'll bake the scarpaccia dolce in two stages. Place the pan in the oven and first let it bake for 15 minutes at 400 F. Then lower the temperature to 350 F and let it bake for 45 minutes more. Depending on your oven, it may take a little more time. It will be done when the surface is nicely browned and it passes the toothpick test, that is, a toothpick comes out clean after you insert it into the center of the cake. Make sure to let it cool completely before serving. This will allow the inside to finish cooking completely and achieve the right consistency.

Scarpaccia Dolce (Sweet Italian Zucchini Tart) Recipe
5 from 48 ratings
You may want to compare this Italian tart to American zucchini bread, but it's not the same. It's more of a low, dense, moist cake that's not overly sweetened.
Prep Time
Cook Time
zucchini tart slice on napkin
Total time: 3 hours, 20 minutes
  • 1 pound small to medium zucchini
  • ½ teaspoon salt +1 pinch salt, divided
  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ cup +1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled to room temperature, plus more for greasing
  • ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons milk
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 ¼ cups 00 flour, plus more for dusting
  • 4 leaves of basil, gently washed and dried
  • Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  1. Wash the zucchini and cut off the ends. Unless the zucchini are very small, slice them in half lengthwise and then thinly slice them using a mandoline slicer or a chef's knife.
  2. Place the zucchini slices in a medium bowl, add ½ teaspoon of salt, and mix well. Cover the bowl and let it sit for at least 2 hours to overnight for the zucchini to release their liquid.
  3. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  4. Carefully pour out the majority of the liquid, and then place the zucchini in a colander and press them to drain out any excess liquid. Pat them dry with a paper towel.
  5. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together until well mixed. Add the vanilla, butter, and milk, and whisk again.
  6. Add the baking powder and 1 pinch of salt, and then add the flour a little at a time while whisking continuously until the batter just comes together evenly.
  7. Add the zucchini, and then tear the basil leaves into small pieces and add them to the batter. Mix with a spoon until evenly incorporated. The batter will be dense.
  8. Butter and flour a 9-inch round baking pan. Pour in the batter and press with a spatula until level. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil on top.
  9. Bake at 400 F for 15 minutes, and then lower the temperature to 350 F and bake for another 45-55 minutes until the surface is browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  10. Let cool completely before serving.
Calories per Serving 250
Total Fat 9.3 g
Saturated Fat 4.5 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 56.4 mg
Total Carbohydrates 37.7 g
Dietary Fiber 1.1 g
Total Sugars 22.4 g
Sodium 194.3 mg
Protein 4.5 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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