Monday, April 2, 2012

Pizza Rustica -- TWD BWJ

just like the photo in the book!
Time for another Tuesdays with Dorie Baking with Julia project. This week was something called Pizza Rustica. I get the “Rustica” part. But pizza? Come on. You’re talking to the girl who spent several years in the cities most noted for their pizza: first Chicago, then New York, now New Haven. I’ve even tasted pizza in Naples and Rome. Who are we kidding here? I’ll be the first to admit that pizza can come in many forms, but this one I’m not buying. Not to say the recipe didn’t have its merits, once you let go of the obvious misnomer. But I couldn't let it go. It was just so wrong.

And so I came into this project kicking and screaming. First, I procrastinated as long as I possibly could. I had lots of good reasons to put it off:
  1. Just two weeks ago, I had barely survived the onslaught of 9,000 pies at our Pie Day party
  2. I was still recovering from the latest family plague, um, I mean flu.
  3. My food processor is on its very last legs, and I did not want to be the one to nudge it further toward it’s final appliance resting place (read: Goodwill).
  4. I don’t like ricotta. Or at least, I didn’t. People can change. People can grow. People can. People do. This people did.
All I have to say is God bless Liuzzi Angeloni cheese shop in Hamden, CT. There but for the grace of cheese go I. If you are Italian anywhere within the greater New Haven area, you are familiar with the products of Liuzzi starting in the womb. The store is a New Haven Italian’s one-stop shopping mecca. I am not lucky enough to claim an Italian heritage, but I do talk about food with everyone and anyone who will listen, and eventually I spoke to the right people. People who knew people. They hooked me up. Liuzzi is a gem of a store, where they stretch, roll and shred their own mozzarella and marinate goat cheese with olive oil, herbs and sun dried tomatoes, among other things. They also make a rich, creamy ricotta from Vermont milk, and import Parmigiana Reggiano (the good stuff), cured meats, olives and wildly shaped pastas by the metric ton. I could opine for hours about their impact on our family’s cheese consumption. But like it or not, the focus of the day is the “Pizza Rustica.” I just had to give a shout out to the folks at this beloved store because without their cheese, the recipe could have bombed.

Prosciutto pie goes vegetarian with spinach, olives and tomatoes

Aside from my aversion to ricotta, I also had issues with the prosciutto called for by the recipe and the sweet dough paired with a savory filling. The original recipe didn’t stand a chance. I tinkered with it a bit, and lo and behold, the end result was not so bad. I credit the cheese. Is it my favorite meal ever? No, but it’s got potential.

First, I cut the sugar in the dough by half, which still made for a sweet pastry, but not cloyingly so. (I used two Tablespoons, rather than 1/3 cup.) I also added an extra half an egg to the dough to help it hold together better (apparently “large eggs” means different things to different hen handlers). I refrigerated the dough for an hour or so before rolling it out, and it behaved for me, even with my lousy overpriced new rolling pin (mental note: stick with marble). Then it was on to the filling: I replaced the prosciutto with kalamata olives and chopped fresh baby spinach, then layered the top of the pie with bread crumbs (to absorb moisture) and some firm plum tomatoes before topping it off with the lattice. It felt relatively authentic, what with all those Italian cheeses and the colorful European flavors. And eating ricotta wasn’t so bad, really. 

the filled pie, before breadcrumbs and tomatoes

tomato layer peeking through
Still, as I know from experience, ricotta always tastes better with a little sugar mixed in. With a high quality cheese and the right amount of sugar, you can almost pretend it's whipped cream, or custard, or pastry cream. Or anything other than that gloppy, gas-inducing gut buster of a plastic cheese product they hock at the grocery store.

Now that I’ve got all this leftover "good" ricotta, I’m going to usurp the sweet crust to make a fun pastry-ish dessert.

Below is my nectarine shortcake idea, which is a work in progress. As far as I'm concerned, this is a much better use of my baking energies, and it continues to evolve. 

For the original Pizza Rustica recipe (including the sweet dough), visit Emily of Capital Region Dining and Raelynn of The Place They Call Home or buy the book.

Using another batch of the sweet dough (which, by the way, was just as simple to make with a pastry blender – I never did pull out that aging Cuisinart):
  • Preheat the oven to 350 and butter about 8 3½-inch ramekins. PLace the ramekins on a jelly roll pan.
  • Roll out the Pizza Rustica dough to about 1/2 inch thick. Using the ramekin as a stencil, cut out 8 circles in the dough and place one piece in the bottom of each cup. (Or, by rolling out the dough a little thinner, you could double-layer the shortcake, using two rounds per cake, but you'll have to bake them free form and hope they fit.)
  • Bake for about 20 minutes, or until dough is lightly browned.
  • Meanwhile, using the whisk attachment on the stand mixer, whip about half a pound of the ricotta until lightened in texture.
  • Add ¼ to ½ cup heavy cream, and sweeten with a few Tablespoons of powdered sugar (to taste).
  • You could also add ½ teaspoon vanilla to the mixture.
  • Whip together until large peaks form.
  • When the dough has cooled, place a dollop of the whipped ricotta mixture in each ramekin. Spread to cover the entire base of dough.
  • Top each shortcake with a layer of peeled, sliced nectarines or whatever fruit you've got handy (I also used some dried prunes, which would have been perfect pre-soaked in a nice rich wine).
  • Drizzle some good honey on top and enjoy cold or at room temperature. Preferably with a nice glass of Muscat or port.
Now that’s the way ricotta should be done. See? A girl can change. A girl can learn to enjoy a creamy rich cheese like ricotta, when its made right. Now, about that royalty from Liuzzi…


  1. Love the look of the tomatoes peaking through the crust- very pretty and appetizing- great work!

  2. Looks wonderful and I love seeing the tomatoes too!

  3. 9000 pi's? like your idea of layering the veggies. how did those tomatoes do? I'm wondering if they gave up much water during baking. here's to pie (and bean)!

    1. Okay, it was probably closer to 314 pies (approximately). The tomatoes did great because I put down a layer of breadcrumbs underneath and the tomatoes were pretty firm to begin with. not too watery.

  4. LOL, I never really tried ricotta before but I really like it and I have this recipe to thank for that - I'm totally going to tackle making a lasagne with it now! Your pizza rustica looked great and I'm totally jealous of that fancy Italian shop you have access to!

    Alice @

  5. Love your comments, very funny!! Your pizza (or what ever) looks great!

  6. Very nice job on the lattice
    Agreed - this is not a pizza, it's a ricotta pie :-)

  7. Small world indeed! I am a U Albany Alum too :-) Started there my junior year in 1994...

  8. I hope your feeling better from the flu..;( Your pie looks amazing! I love your crust:)

    1. Thanks for the well wishes. One plague down, ten to go (or at least talk about -- tomorrow we start Passover.)

  9. I'm certainly not anywhere near CT, but you speak so highly of Liuzzi, I almost want to take a road trip to visit it! ;) I'm a sucker for a good cheese shop!

    1. Stephanie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship...


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