Torta Rustica With Ricotta and Spinach
Torta rustica (also called pizza rustica) is a rich, ricotta-stuffed pie that’s traditionally baked for Easter in Southern Italy. This version includes greens (either spinach or chard) for color and freshness. The ham is optional; feel free to leave it out, or substitute chopped olives or sundried tomatoes if you’re looking for a similar savory bite. The crust, adapted from Nancy Harmon Jenkins’s 2007 cookbook, “Cucina del Sole,” is sturdy and slightly sweet, which makes a nice contrast to the salty filling. (For more on producing a lattice-style crust, see our How to Make Pie Crust guide.)
- Serves: 10 persons
- 2 ½cups/310 grams all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
- 2tablespoons granulated sugar
- ¼teaspoon fine sea or table salt
- ¾cup/170 grams cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 1large egg
- 1large egg white (save the yolk for the egg wash)
- Zest from 1 lemon
- 3to 4 tablespoons iced dry white wine or ice water spiked with 1/2 teaspoon cider or white wine vinegar
- 3cups/24 ounces whole-milk ricotta
- 1tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- About 5 cups/5 ounces baby spinach or chard, coarsely chopped
- 2garlic cloves, finely grated or minced
- ½teaspoon fine sea or table salt, plus more as needed
- 2large eggs
- 2cups/8 ounces shredded fresh mozzarella
- 1cup/4 ounces grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan (pecorino is stronger, Parmesan is milder, or use a combination)
- ½cup/4 ounces ham, diced (optional)
- ½cup chopped parsley
- 1 ½teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- ⅛teaspoon red-pepper flakes, plus more as needed
- ⅛teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- Egg wash (1 egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon water)
Step 1Make the dough: In a food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar and salt. Add butter and pulse until the mixture forms lima bean-size pieces. Alternatively, mix together flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl, then add butter, working the pieces into the flour with your hands, squeezing and pinching them until the mixture looks like oatmeal.
Step 2Add egg, egg white and lemon zest, and pulse after each addition. If working by hand, whisk together egg, egg white and lemon zest in a separate bowl, then mix into the butter mixture. Slowly add iced wine, 1 tablespoon at a time, and pulse or mix by hand until the dough just comes together. You may not need all the liquid. The dough should be moist, but not wet.
Step 3Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and gather and press it into a ball. Divide into 2 portions, one slightly larger than the other, and shape into disks. Wrap the disks tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 5 days.
Step 4When ready to bake, heat oven to 375 degrees.
Step 5Make the filling: If your ricotta seems watery, put it in a sieve and let it drain while you cook the spinach.
Step 6In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add spinach and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes. Stir in garlic and a large pinch of salt, and continue to cook until spinach is very dry, about 2 minutes longer. Transfer to a large bowl to cool. If any liquid accumulates as the spinach sits, pour it out of the bowl (you don’t want it to water down the ricotta).
Step 7In a food processor, purée drained ricotta and eggs until just combined and smooth. Add to the bowl with the spinach and fold in mozzarella, pecorino, ham (if using), parsley, black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon salt, red-pepper flakes and nutmeg. Set aside when rolling out dough (or chill for up to 4 hours).
Step 8On a lightly floured surface, roll out the larger pastry dough disk to a 14-inch circle, about 1/8-inch thick. Fit dough into a 9-inch springform pan, pressing the dough up the sides of the pan. Scrape filling into crust and spread evenly. Roll out second pastry disk to a 12-inch circle, about 1/8-inch thick. Cut 1/2-inch-wide strips and weave into a lattice on top of the filling. Seal, trim and crimp the edges. Brush the top of the torta with the egg wash.
Step 9Place torta on sheet pan and bake until crust is crisp and brown, and filling is firm, 50 to 60 minutes. Cool on a rack for at least 45 minutes before serving.