One of the things I want to strike off my bucket list is being a part of a big Italian family lunch in Italy, probably Sicily . I can imagine being hosted to a lengthy (literally) display of a rustic feast, of ciabattas and olive oil, grilled artichoke hearts and aubergines, mortadella and pancetta, with inordinate quantities of Prosecco doing the rounds of course; I can almost smell the perfume emanating from the olive trees. Now I don’t know of any Italian families, so if anybody from Italy is reading this….hi!
I always look for authorities when it comes to trying out a recipe from a certain cuisine. I believe they know best and I don’t think I’ve ever failed their recipes. If I am looking to make Italian bread or biscotti, I always turn to Nick Malgieri; I discovered him in an episode on Baking with Julia and then there was no looking back.
I love old fashioned pies, of golden brown crusts and pretty lattice tops. Pizza Rustica is one such interesting pie; I say interesting because the dough aka pasta frolla is sweet, while the filling is savoury containing, eggs, ricotta, pecorino, mozzarella and prosciutto. I left out prosciutto, but you are welcome to go ahead and use it if you want to. The Italians make this pie on Easter or on Ash Wednesday – I can picture large hearted Italians sitting around a table filled with an obscene amount of food. I know, I should really stop watching food shows on TLC.
This pie is heavy enough to be had as main course, but when I made it, we had it for breakfast, lunch and dinner and it still didn’t get boring.
For Pasta Frolla (sweet dough)
- 260 g (2 cups) all-purpose flour
- 113 (1/2 cup) grams unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- 2 eggs, beaten
For the filling
- 450 g ricotta
- 3 eggs
- 25 g pecorino romano, grated
- 113 g mozzarella, grated
- 100 g prosciutto, thinly sliced (if using)
- 2 tbsp flat leaf fresh parsley, finely chopped
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
Note: If you are not using prosciutto, then add a pinch of salt to the filling.
- Preheat the oven to 180 C. Set aside a 12 inch pie dish.
- For the sweet dough, combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in a bowl. Pour the flour mixture along with the diced, cold butter to a food processor. Pulse the mixture 20-25 times, until a sandy texture is obtained. Now add eggs, a little at a time and pulse further until a ball of dough is formed. Remember not to over mix.
- Once the ingredients are combined, plop them over on a floured work surface. Knead the dough on to itself a few times. Divide the dough into 2 pieces, one piece twice as big as the other. Wrap in cling film and chill before using.
- For the filling, combine ricotta, pecorino, mozzarella and eggs. Season with ground pepper and salt (if not using prosciutto) and then add chopped parsley. Set aside.
- Place the prepared dough on a floured work surface. Roll out a 12 inch circle, dusting with flour all the way. Fold the rolled dough in quarters, and place it on the pie dish. Unfold the dough and then gently press it against the bottom and the sides of the pie dish. If the pie rips at this point, it is okay, patch the rip with excess pastry scraps. Cut of the excess pastry on the side of the pie dish using a knife.
- Fill the pie crust with the prepared ricotta filling. Pat the filling down tightly using a spatula so it becomes flat.
- To make the lattice top, roll out the other piece of dough on a floured work surface into a 9 inch square. Using a ruffled-edge pastry cutter, cut 12 even strips out of the rolled pastry square.
- Place 6 strips across the pie leaving a gap of 1 ¼ inch in between. Then crisscross the strips by placing the leftover strips diagonally over the first. Trim the ends of the strips on the side of the pie dish using a knife and pinch to seal.
- Bake the pie for 40 minutes until the crust is golden and the filling is firm and slightly risen.
- Allow the pie to completely cool down before serving.
Recipe courtesy: Nick Malgieri for Baking with Julia