Pizza Rustica

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Pizza Rustica

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Published prior to 2008

Pizza rustica is a savory, deep-dish pie, native to Italy, which bears little resemblance to the flat pizzas we're used to in this country. The traditional pizza rustica incorporates ham, cheese, eggs and a white sauce in a rich pastry shell. However, there are as many variations on this dish as there are Italian bakers! This version, featuring a buttery crust and vegetable-cheese filling, has been a take-along favorite of ours for some years now. Bake it, enjoy some warm from the oven (not hot; let it cool a bit so the cheeses settle), then refrigerate the remainder to pack on a picnic.

Crust
2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose OR Round Table Unbleached Pastry Flour, OR a combination
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) cold butter
1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar
2 to 3 tablespoons cold water

Filling
5 eggs
1 pound ricotta cheese
1 small onion, chopped
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon chopped parsley, dried or fresh
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt (more or less, to taste)
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 large cloves garlic
1 can (16 ounces) tomato sauce
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
2/3 cup sliced black olives
1/2 pound mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 large green bell pepper

For Crust: In a mixing bowl, combine the flour and salt. Cut in the butter (with a fork, pastry blender, your fingers or a mixer) until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle vinegar and water, a bit at a time, over flour mixture, stirring until mixture just holds together. Pat and squeeze into a flat disk and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

For Filling: Beat the eggs, and stir in the ricotta cheese, onion, Parmesan, parsley, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a frying pan. Crush or dice the garlic, and add it to the hot oil, frying until golden. Stir in the tomato sauce, sugar, oregano and basil*. Simmer for 5 minutes.

Core and seed the green pepper, and slice into thin matchsticks.

To Assemble: Divide the crust in two pieces, making one piece just slightly larger than the other. Roll out the smaller piece and fit into a 10-inch pie pan**. Sprinkle a little milk (about 1 teaspoon) into the crust, and spread it around with your fingers; this helps seal the crust and keeps it from becoming soggy.

Spread half of the ricotta-Parmesan mixture into the crust. Sprinkle on half the mozzarella, then spread with half the sauce, and top with half the olives and half the green pepper slices. Repeat layers.

Roll out the top crust, and place it over the bottom crust and filling, pinching all around to seal securely. Use a sharp knife to make three parallel slashes in the top crust.

Bake in a preheated 425°F oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until crust is golden and filling is bubbling. Remove from oven and let stand at least 30 minutes before serving (if you don't wait, your filling ingredients will flow like lava as soon as you slice the pie). Store in the refrigerator; serve warm, at room temperature or cold.

*If you wish to skip all this, simply substitute a 16-ounce jar of spaghetti or pizza sauce for the oil, garlic, tomato sauce, sugar and spices.

**You can also use a 10-inch springform pan.

Note: Sliced pepperoni is a nice addition to the filling.

Nutrition information per serving (1/8 of recipe, 292 g): 607 cal, 42 g fat, 25 g protein, 30 g complex carbohydrates, 2 g sugar, 4 g dietary fiber, 272 mg cholesterol, 1327 mg sodium, 450 mg potassium, 23 mg vitamin C, 5 mg iron, 519 mg calcium, 394 mg phosphorus. Note: using part-skim mozzarella cheese and part-skim ricotta cheese will lower fat to 36 g.

This recipe reprinted from The Baking Sheet Newsletter, Vol. III, No. 5, May-June 1992 issue.