From The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century
By Amanda Hesser
Torta di Spinaci
This is a great Sunday dinner dish. Elegant it’s not, but not everything needs to be. There is one detail that will make or break the recipe: you must squeeze every last drop of liquid from the cooked spinach before chopping it, or you’ll end up with a soggy torta. So, just when you think you’ve extracted the last molecule of water, squeeze it some more.
Serves 8 to 10
For the Pastry
3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 large egg yolk
Approximately 3 tablespoons water
For the Filling
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions, finely chopped
1 3/4 pounds fresh spinach, trimmed and washed well, or two 10-ounce packages frozen chopped spinach
Three 1-inch-thick smoked pork chops or pork loin (about 1 pound), any fat and bones removed and meat diced, or 1/2 pound bacon, diced
1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 5 ounces)
1 cup (8 ounces) ricotta cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
Make the pastry
1. Place the flour, salt, and butter in a bowl. With a pastry blender, 2 knives, or your fingertips, work the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse oatmeal.
2. Mix the egg yolk with 3 tablespoons water and sprinkle over the mixture. Stir with a fork, adding only enough extra water to make a dough that just clings together. Divide the dough in half and form into 2 disks. Wrap each one in wax paper and chill briefly.
Prepare the filling
1. Heat the oil in a large skillet and sauté the onions until tender but not browned. Set aside.
2. If using fresh spinach, place the washed spinach leaves, with just the water that clings, in a large saucepan, cover tightly, and cook until the leaves wilt. Drain well and let cool enough to touch. In batches, gather the leaves in your palm and press out all the liquid by squeezing as firmly as possible. Chop the spinach. Or, if using frozen spinach, cook according to the package directions; drain well, cool, and squeeze dry.
3. Combine the chopped spinach and onions in a bowl and let cool completely, then add the diced smoked pork, Parmesan cheese, ricotta, salt and pepper to taste, and lightly beaten eggs.
Assemble the torta
1. Heat the oven to 425°F. Roll out half the pastry on a lightly floured work surface into 12-inch circle and line a 10-inch pie plate with it. Brush the bottom and sides of the shell with the lightly beaten egg white. Pour in the filling.
2. Roll out the remaining pastry and cover the filling. Trim, seal, and crimp the edges. Make a steam hole and if you’re up for it place leaves, cut from the pastry scraps, around the hole (not over it).
3. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the pastry is golden and done. Let stand for 10 to 15 minutes before cutting.
The torta can be baked early in the day and reheated in a 375°F oven. Cover loosely with foil to prevent overbrowning.
After the torta has cooled, if you wrap it well in aluminum foil, it will keep in the freezer for up to 2 months. Allow to thaw at room temperature for 3 hours and then let it finish thawing and reheat in a 375°F oven for about 1 hour.
March 19, 1972: “AN ELEGANT EASTER PIE,” by Jean Hewitt
Recipe © The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century by Amanda Hesser