The Goal: Flaky, crisp pastry surrounding a rich, hearty, flavorful filling.
The Source: Pizza Rustica
Greetings, people who enjoy food that is good! I’ve been on a bit of a baking extravaganza lately, and I have found myself experimenting, trying my hand at a few things I’ve never attempted before – homemade pizza rolls, sticky cinnamon buns, pizza rustica, and baklava. I think the baklava was incredibly delicious, so I may try to make it again, this time for you guys! However the most successful was the Pizza Rustica, an idea from my mom. This Italian savory pie is traditionally known as an Easter pie, as it was always made on Good Friday, and eaten to break the long fast on Easter morning. Though I’m not religious anymore, I had an amazing time baking this delicious treat with my mother to celebrate Easter – or Pascha, as it is known in the Orthodox Christian church.
One of the most wonderful things about baking with two people is the ability to multitask much more efficiently. While she began cooking Italian sausage, I made the pastry.
The pastry is a fairly standard one, with butter, a little shortening, salt, and flour, all mixed until breadcrumb consistency.
Then, in with the eggs, and a little ice water, just enough to bring it into a dough. As with most pastry, there’s no need to knead or work the gluten, just bring it together enough that it holds, wrap it in plastic, and chill it for at least thirty minutes. We separated it into two pieces, a smaller one for the top and larger one for the bottom.
While it was chilling, we went to work on the filling. It can be pretty much any mixture of egg, cheese, flavors, and meats that you want. Our choices were sausage, mozzarella, ricotta, spinach (pre-cooked and drained), Parmesan, prosciutto, and of course, eggs. We mixed it all up in a bowl, not bothering to season it as there is plenty of salt coming from the cheese, and plenty of flavor from the Italian sausage.
At this point, take out your chilled pastry dough. First roll out the larger ball of dough into a circle, big enough to easily fill your spring form pan, and thin enough that it will cook through and attain a crisp texture. We used an 8-inch spring form pan, though the recipe calls for a 9-inch one, and we actually filled it right to the top and didn’t have any additional filling, so perhaps a smaller pan might behoove you as well. I did find the transfer of pastry into the pan difficult, and we ended up having to patch up some of the sides with extra pastry, but better to be safe than sorry and end up with filling bursting out all over the place!
The next step is of course, rolling out the lid. This was easier, just lay the smaller circle of dough on top of the pan, press down to bond it with the lower edges of the pastry, and cut off the extra pastry. Then I used my fingers to pinch the dough, forming a decorative crimp around the edges. There is no need to vent the top of this pastry! Just a brush of egg over the top, a sprinkle of parmesan, and any decorative cut-outs you like.
We left it in the oven for approximately one hour, until golden brown. Towards the end of baking we did put a little tent of tinfoil over the top as a precaution, to stop the cheese from burning, however it may not have even been necessary. After baking, we let it sit in the pan for a few minutes, then cautiously removed the spring form pan to reveal a perfect, crisp and golden brown pastry! I was not expecting the excitement I felt at seeing it unveiled. I think this is an extremely rewarding recipe to concoct, and with a deep pie full of such rich and savory flavors, it’s enough to feed a multitude. I hope, Easter or not, you give this one a try, as it’s seriously worth the effort.