Some people simplify and call it quiche or savory strudel. But in Italy torta rustica is both a seasonal staple and an art form. Versatile torta rustica can in fact act as an appetizer, as a side dish, or be the main entree. With boundless recipes and fillings, these savory rustic piese were initially intended as thrifty fridge-cleaners, adding bits of leftover vegetables to a mix of cheese, cured meats and an egg to bind it all together in a flaky shell. Torta rustica is an furthermore effective way to serve vegetables to children.
If you’re looking for savory pie baking inspiration, here’s a failsafe recipe for quick and easy vegetarian torta rustica filled with spinach and punchy gorgonzola cheese. Perfect for this crips fall weather. The crust of choice can be puff pastry, but I’ve found that to be too soggy for a leafy green filling like this one. My preferred crust is pasta brisé. I have always been scared of baking crusts; fortunately I have been taught by the delightful Alice Adams – who holds copyright for the crust portion of this recipe – and it has changed my life.
For the brisé pastry crust:
250 g (1 cup) all purpose flour
125 g (4 oz) butter, chilled
A pinch of salt
90 ml (3 fl oz) cold water
1 garlic clove, minced
Extra virgin olive oil
2 eggs, beaten
1 egg yolk, beaten
Salt and pepper
Pre-heat static oven at 200°C (390°F).
Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl, dice the butter and add it to the flour. Rub the cold butter into the flour by using your fingertips. You’re aiming to obtain the texture of greasy bread crumbs. Add the cold water and knead well until the pastry comes together, using spoonfuls of water if the mixture is still too crumbly. Work the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic film and store in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
In the meantime, prep the filling.
Heat 5 tbsp EVO in a large pan with the minced garlic – don’t let the garlic burn nor the oil smoke. Add the rinsed (but not completely drained) spinach to the pan and sauté until wilted. Allow to cool completely before assembling the rest of the pie.
Line a 9-inch pie tin with oven paper. Roll out the pastry to obtain 2 discs of 20 cm/8″ each (or 1 disc with more overhang and the rest for lattice strips). Place one pastry disc in the lined pie tin and brush the overhang with egg yolk.
In a large mixing bowl add the beaten whole eggs, wilted spinach, diced cheese, bread crumbs, and season with a pinch of salt and a turn of the pepper mill. Mix well and pour in the prepared pie crust.
Blanket the second disc of rolled out pastry on top (or lay/intertwine the strisp) and seal by crimping the overhang and edges.
Brush the entire surface with egg wash, cut small slits and sprinkle with very little salt.
Bake in the hot oven for approximately 25-30 minutes, or until golden.
Allow the torta rustica to cool before slicing and serving with a glass of chilled, sweet wine.
Interested in learning how to make torta rustica? We offer fun and educational workshops in Rome. Email us to learn more!
Photo credits: nonsprecare.it and Giorgia Nofrini for rusticaretro.wordpress.com
Eleonora Baldwin is a TV host, freelance food and travel writer, and culinary connoisseur based in Rome, Italy. Her writing appears in several food and travel publications. Her shows “ABCheese” and “Uazz’america” are broadcast on Italian food network Gambero Rosso Channel. Her podcast “iCheese” is recorded live on the Radio Food Live network.
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