This 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.
1 small onion
1 tablespoon oil
2 ½ pounds frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
⅔ cup grated asiago or parmesan cheese (65 grams or 2 ounces)
½ cup bread crumbs (40 grams or 1 ½ ounces)
1 teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon coarse ground pepper
Squeeze all the water from the spinach. Finely dice the onion and sauté in the oil until golden. Combine all of the ingredients and set aside.
Pasta Frolla2 ¾ 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)
¼ cup + 1 tablespoon milk
Line the bottom of a 9x2 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. Process briefly to mix. Place the butter pieces in a circle over the flour. Process until mealy. Add the eggs and milk. Process until a ball forms. Remove it from the bowl and knead it briefly to bring it completely together.Remove 1 pound (455 grams) of pastry, shape into a ball and flatten into a circle. Repeat with the remainder of the pastry.
AssemblySpinach filling, above
Pasta Frolla, above
1 – 28 ounce can red peppers, drained and patted dry*
1 15 oz. can artichoke quarters, drained well
½ 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.
Place in the prepared pan leaving an equal amount of overhang around the edges. Carefully seat the crust into the pan making sure the edges are at a 90° angle. Layer the filling as follows:
½ spinach filling½ red peppers5 slices provoloneAll the artichokes being sure to flatten them by pressing between your fingers5 slices provolone½ red peppers½ spinach filling
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. The crust should be pulled away from the edge of the pan. Roll the remaining dough into a 10 inch circle. Brush the pastry enclosing the filling with egg wash. Cover with the top circle of pastry and tuck the edges firmly around the sides of the torta. Flatten the Torta Rustica to fill the pan. Brush with egg wash and make a small steam hole in the center with a toothpick or a cake tester.
Place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 60 to 75 minutes until the crust is deeply browned. Cool 15 to 20 minutes before cutting.
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.