Torta Rustica – A Savory Italian Pastry

BY HELEN S. FLETCHER, ON
COPYRIGHT, HELEN S. FLETCHER, 2017. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
ALL PHOTOS BY PASTRIES LIKE A PRO UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED.

Torta RusticaThis Torta Rustica is a savory Italian pastry which I am assuming means Rustic Tart.  Its memorable crust holds a filling of spinach with cheese, eggs, onions and bread crumbs to bind it.  It is layered with red peppers, artichokes and provolone.  It is hard to go wrong with these ingredients.  The one caveat here is to thaw the spinach completely and squeeze all the water from it.  It is important it is dry when combined with the other ingredients.

We would squeeze 30 pounds of spinach to make 12 Torta Rustica at a time.  No matter how long we thawed the spinach it would be freezing cold when we squeezed it.  We would keep a bowl of warm water next to us to dip our hands into to  warm them as we prepared the spinach.

The Pasta Frolla  pastry is the Italian version of a butter crust.  It browns beautifully and bakes to a perfect crispness.  But it is also sturdy enough to hold this substantial filling without buckling or becoming soggy.  It even survives heating in the microwave without damage.  The crackled top adds to the beauty of the finished Torta Rustica.

The Torta Rustica is very accommodating as it  freezes well, although it takes days in the refrigerator to thaw for reheating.  It can be eaten hot, warm, or room temperature.  The filling can be made the day ahead making the final assembly easier.

While there are many versions, this Torta Rustica is the one we sold at the bakery. One of our wholesale clients would go through many of these each week although I never could figure out why they served them with fritos.  One of their customers requested the recipe recently.  I had it in the schedule but moved it up to satisfy her craving.

We also had a devoted following who bought the whole Tortas to take  home.

Spinach Filling
1 small onion
1 tablespoon oil
2 1/2 pounds frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
3 eggs
2/3 cup grated asiago or parmesan cheese (65 grams or 2 ounces)
1/2 cup bread crumbs (40 grams or 1 1/2 ounces)
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon coarse ground pepper

Squeeze all the water from the spinach. Squeezing the spinach for the Torta RusticaFinely dice the onion and sauté in the oil until golden. Onions browning for the Torta RusticaCombine all of the ingredients and set aside.Filling ingredients for the Torta RusticaSpinach filling for the Torta Rustica

Pasta FrollaPasta Frolla ingredients for the Torta Rustica2 3/4 cups flour (400 grams or 14 ounces)
1 teaspoon salt
5 ounces unsalted butter cut in small pieces (1 stick + 2 tablespoons or 145 grams)
2 eggs
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon milk

Line the bottom of a 9×2 inch round cake pan with parchment. Spray the bottom and sides of the pan. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Place the flour and salt in a processor bowl. Flour and salt in processor for the Torta RusticaProcess briefly to mix. Place the butter pieces in a circle over the flour. Butter in processor for Torta RusticaProcess until mealy. Butter cut in for the Torta RusticaAdd the eggs and milk. Eggs and milk added to crust for the Torta RusticaProcess until a ball forms. Pasta Frolla balled up for the Torta RusticaRemove it from the bowl andPasta Frolla on table for the Torta Rustica knead it briefly to bring it completely together.Kneading pasta frolla for the Torta RusticaRemove 1 pound (455 grams) of pastry, shape into a ball and flatten into a circle. Repeat with the remainder of the pastry.Pasta Frolla divided for the Torta Rustica

AssemblyPasta Frolla with filling ingredients for the Torta RusticaSpinach filling, above
Pasta Frolla, above
1 – 28 ounce can red peppers, drained and patted dry*
1 15 oz. can artichoke quarters, drained well
1/2 pound provolone, cut into 10 slices
1 egg, well beaten
*2 – 15 ounce cans can be substituted

Roll the larger amount of pastry into a 14 inch round. This is very rudimentary and does not have to be perfect as you can see.
Bottom crust rolled out for the Torta RusticaPlace in the prepared pan leaving an equal amount of overhang around the edges. Bottom crust draped in pan for the Torta RusticaCarefully seat the crust into the pan making sure the edges are at a 90° angle. Pressing dough into edges of pan for the Torta RusticaPasta Frolla in pan for the Torta Rustica Layer the filling as follows:
1/2 spinach fillingSpinach on bottom of the Torta Rustica1/2 red peppersFirst layer of red peppers for the Torta Rustic5 slices provoloneFirst layer of provolone for the Torta RusticaAll the artichokes being sure to flatten them by pressing between  your fingersArtichokes on for the Torta RusticaArtichokes flattened for the Torta Rustica5 slices provoloneSecond layer of provolone for the Torta Rustica1/2 red peppersSecond layer of red peppers for the Torta Rustica1/2 spinach fillingTop layer of Spinach filling for the Torta Rustica

Fold the overhanging pastry to partially cover the filling by pulling it towards the center tightly against the filling.  It will be higher in the center and that is how it should be.  Pulling the edge of the dough into the center for the Torta RusticaReady for the top layer of Pasta Frolla for the Torta RusticaThe crust should be pulled away from the edge of the pan. Edge of dough pulled in from the pan for the Torta RusticaRoll the remaining dough into a 10 inch circle. Top crust rolled out for the Torta RusticaBrush the pastry enclosing the filling with egg wash. Egg washing dough for top crust for the Torta RusticaCover with the top circle of pastry and tuck the edges firmly around the sides of the torta. Tucking pastry around sides of the Torta RusticaFlatten the Torta Rustica to fill the pan.  Pastry flattened in pan for the Torta RusticaBrush with egg wash and Egg washing top of Torta Rusticamake a small steam hole in the center with a toothpick or a cake tester.Toothpick to make vent for the Torta Rustica

Place on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Unbaked torta on tray for the Torta RusticaBake for 60 to 75 minutes until the crust is deeply browned.   Cool 15 to 20 minutes before cutting.Baked Torta Rustica

Serves 6 to 8.

Note: This is good hot or room temperature. This also freezes well. However, move it from the freezer to the refrigerator 2 days ahead of heating and serving. To reheat; wrap the torta in foil, leaving an opening in the center. Heat at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.

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15 thoughts on “Torta Rustica – A Savory Italian Pastry

  1. Paule-Marie

    This torta looks wonderful. My Italian grandmother (Noni) made torta for us several times a year. She used a curly cabbage that I haven’t seen in years and that was drier than most cabbage, parmesan, eggs, salt and pepper, and peas. Her crust was interesting – water, flour, and salt. Very tough but you could eat it. I may have to try this crust with Noni’s filling.

  2. Charlene Prather

    I remember enjoying this at Truffes! It is one of my favorites from the shop. Can’t wait to make it. Thanks Helen.

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi Charlene – So very happy to hear from you. I hope you and your family are well and happy. Glad you are going to make it.

      All best,

      Helen

  3. Nikki

    I LOVE spanakopita and this would satisfy my taste for that and seems a bit easier. And it could be considered “healthier” since it has more veggies…right?
    Thanks for another great post. Your explanations are wonderful. Your words and the photos make following the recipe foolproof.

  4. Marisa @ All Our Way

    Thank you for posting this! I’ve been wanting to make a Torta Rustica (it does mean Rustic Tart) for a long time and I’ve collected several recipes. I wanted to feature it on my blog but I’ve been hesitating because of the crust. I wanted it to be just like you describe. I didn’t want to go through dozens of failures before hitting it right. I am looking forward to making it, although it will have to wait a few months until we get home. Grazie, Helen.

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi Marisa – send me a link when you get yours up. I would love to see it. The crust is really easy and forgiving. It is so good, I used it to make tiny tartlet shells for petit fours.

  5. Manisha

    This looks wonderful Helen! After so much of sweet stuff in holidays savoury torta rustica is a welcome change. It reminded me of my favorite sapanakopita :)

    Love

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi Manisa – It is like an Italian version of the spanakopita – both are so very good. And you can change out the cheese or even the veggies if there are others you prefer. Just make sure they are on the drier side so the torta doesn’t become soggy.

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