Sunday, November 9, 2008

Another Pizza

Isn’t there enough already? Thin crust, deep dish and stuffed. Believe it or not, there’s actually a pizza (to the best of my knowledge) you cannot get in Madison unless you make it yourself. It’s not something new, either, but has a long history in both this country and Italy. Pizza Rustic. Be forewarned. I’ve seen “pizza rustica” listed on many pizzeria menus but it was menuese for the toppings applied to a regular pizza.

So what is it? It a sort of deep dish, stuffed pizza to the extreme. A 3-inch or higher short pastry (no yeast) shell is filled with a combination of sausage, cured meats, cheese, eggs and sometimes spinach, then topped and sealed with more pastry. It’s the Italian cousin to the French pate en croute or English standing meat pie. It’s served at room temperature, cut into wedges.

Native to the Abruzzo region of Italy (just of east of Rome on the Adriatic), pizza rustica is especially popular at Easter. My first encounter came on Mulberry Street in New York’s Little Italy in the 1960s. I ordered it up sight unseen, thinking it was … pizza. Did I ever get a surprise but delicious one none the less. The most elaborate version I’ve ever seen was at a bakery in Bergamo, Italy—it had to be at least a foot high and beautifully layered with sliced meats and cheese.

Enough chatter. It’s off to the store to buy the ingredients.

Pizza Rustica

3 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces hot Italian sausage, casings removed
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 (12-ounce) bunches fresh spinach, stemmed, coarsely chopped (about 12 cups
1 tablespoons finely minced shallots
6 ounces brown mushrooms, cleaned, stems trimmed and sliced
4 large egg yolks, beaten to blend
1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta
12 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
1 large red bell pepper, roasted, peeled, seed and chopped
4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, coarsely chopped

Pastry Dough (recipe follows)
1 large egg, beaten to blend

Position the rack on the bottom of the oven, and preheat the oven to 375 degrees

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a heavy large frying pan over medium heat. Add the sausages and sauté until golden brown, breaking the sausage into pieces, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer the mixture to a small bowl and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in the same frying pan over medium heat. Add the spinach and cook until the spinach wilts and the juices evaporate, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool to room temperature. Squeeze the spinach to drain as much liquid as possible.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in the same frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the minced scallions and stir for a minute or so. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring, until brown. Set aside and cool to room temperature.

Into a large bowl, add egg yolks and beat lightly. Stir in the ricotta, mozzarella, and 1/3 cup of Parmesan cheese. Add the sausage, the spinach, mushrooms, roasted red pepper and prosciutto to the mixture and stir to combine.

Roll out larger piece of dough on a lightly floured work surface to a 17-inch round. Transfer the dough to a 9-inch spring form pan. Trim the dough overhang to 1 inch. Spoon the ricotta mixture into the dough-lined pan. Roll out the remaining piece of dough into a 12-inch round. Place the dough over the filling. Pinch the edges of the dough together to seal, and then crimp the dough edges decoratively. Brush the beaten 1 large egg over the entire pastry top. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan over the top. Bake on the bottom shelf until the crust is golden brown, about 1 hour.

Let stand 15 minutes. Release the pan sides and transfer the pizza to a platter. Cut into wedges and serve at room temperature.

Serves 8.

Pastry Dough:
3½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup (1½ sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
¼ cup solid vegetable shortening, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, beaten to blend
2 to 4 tablespoons ice water

Blend the flour, the butter, the shortening and salt in a food processor until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Blend in the eggs. With the machine running, add the water 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough forms. Gather the dough into a ball. Divide the dough into 2 pieces, with 1 piece twice as large as the second piece. Flatten the dough pieces into disks. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until the dough is firm enough to roll out, about 30 minutes.

1 comment:

booboo said...

Yum. This looks so good. Dan, you are such a wealth of information. This is my first time to your blog, and I just love it.