a last minute pizza rustica

April 3, 2012 § 29 Comments

I kept waffling about whether or not to participate in this TWD round with Nick Malgieri’s pizza rustica from Baking with Julia. Pro’s were I like Nick’s books and have several of them; his recipes work well and they give a good balance of sweet, savory, salt and richness in the results. Also, I like making pies or pie-type dishes, and am always interested in trying new crust recipes. Con’s were, I had just used up a batch of pasta frolla I had frozen to make an apple pie LAST week. And almost a month of very-warm-for-this-time-of-year weather wasn’t making me feel much like making a rich savory cheese pie for a meal! But today was cloudy and cold all day, which quickly got me into a pizza rustica mood in time for dinner. Picked up the ricotta and a small package of pre-sliced prosciutto and pinch hit with some cheeses I already had (cream cheese for the mozzarella, a parmesan for the pecorino and a few ounces of feta to bump up flavor and salt). I also added a splash of sauvignon blanc for some acidity and a generous grating of nutmeg; I think the sweet spice pairs well with dairy flavors. The already blooming and greening spring garden contributed some overwintered parsley. Making the rustica took just over an hour since blind baking wasn’t required. It baked in 45 minutes while I cleaned up the kitchen. I made a green salad with lemon and olive oil while I let it cool and settle. And we enjoyed a simple but rich dinner with the rest of the sauvignon blanc!

My 35 year old 4.5 quart KitchenAid mixer still does a great job on small batches of doughs or batters! Use the flat beater to cut in cold cut up butter until the dry mixture looks like coarse cornmeal. I used whole emmer flour for half of the all-purpose.

Stream in the beaten eggs on low speed and mix just until the dough roughly comes together (I added a little water to help). I portioned and wrapped the dough before chilling it briefly in the freezer while I made the filling.

Some of the filling ingredients, clockwise from top left: whole ricotta, prosciutto, farm eggs, garden-fresh parsley, grated grana padano.

I beat the cream cheese first, added the spices and a chunk of feta and beat again. Then the eggs, one at a time, followed by the other cheeses, white wine and “garnishes”.

The chilled dough had firmed enough that it was no longer sticky, but it wasn’t too hard and rolled out easily. It was still very tender and almost crumbly, so I rolled it loosely around the pin and brushed off the excess flour to move it to the pie dish. Then I rolled the smaller portion into a circle large enough to cover the top of the pie dish, and cut a dozen strips with a rolling cutter.

Use the strips from half of the circle, starting with the longest one in the center of the pie, and alternate on either side of that one while using strips from longer to shorter ones.

Rotate the pie slightly and place the remaining strips in a similar manner across the first layer. I like the look of a 45° angle, or you can place them at 90° if you like. Bake until both the bottom and top crusts are firm and both have browned somewhat. The filling should be set so that a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Try not to overcook the custard filling (it should still jiggle a little in the center) or it can “break” (the solids become grainy and the liquid starts to separate out). I bake all pies on the baking stone to help the bottom crust cook through. This one was a little underdone for me, but we didn’t blind bake the crust first as the pie had a top.

I’d like a little more color on both top and bottom crusts, but an overcooked custard would have been a worst crime! There was plenty of salt and flavor from the feta, nutmeg and black pepper. The leftovers will make a fine breakfast or lunch later this week! Buon appetito!


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