I'm sorry I didn't have this recipe for you sooner because this beautiful torta would have been perfect on your Easter table. I say this from firsthand knowledge because it was on our Easter table, thanks to my son Michael, who's a terrific cook and who whipped this up in his kitchen as an appetizer before our Easter dinner.
It was the perfect accompaniment to a glass of prosecco before the main event. But just because you missed out on eating this during Easter, doesn't mean you can't make it another time of year. It's not only impressive in its presentation, but tastes pretty terrific too.
It's loaded with pancetta, ricotta and broccoli rape (ok, for those of you thinking I misspelled this, please note that it's not incorrect to say broccoli rape, since that's the Italian spelling, or call it rapini, or broccoli rabe - they're all correct.)
One of these tortas serves a lot of people, but the downside of having too many people share it is that you won't have leftovers to eat for lunch the next day. So before it all disappears, tuck away a slice or two just for yourself.
Ricotta Broccoli Rape Torta
adapted from a recipe by Julia Della Croce
For the crust:
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
18 tablespoons unsalted butter, well chilled or frozen
6 tablespoons solid vegetable shortening, well chilled or frozen
1 large egg
1 tablespoon lemon juice or unflavored vinegar
5 to 7 tablespoons ice water, just as needed
For the filling:
2 bunches rapini (“broccoli rape”)
2 lbs. part skim ricotta cheese, drained
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1/2 pound pancetta, cut into small pieces
1 large onion, chopped
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
3 large eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon fine dried bread crumbs
½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
½ teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the egg glaze:
1 egg yolk, beaten well with pinch of salt
Preheat an oven to 350 F.
Directions for the pie pastry
1. Combine the flour and salt and pulse a few times in a food processor to blend.
2. Add the cold butter and vegetable shortening and pulse only until the fat is cut into bits the size of peas.
3. Through the processor’s feed tube, add the egg and lemon juice or vinegar, pulse once or twice, then add the ice water one tablespoon at a time, pulsing once or twice between additions, only until dough begins to show some clumps. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the inside walls of the vessel. Do not form a dough ball on the blade.
4. Turn dough out onto a piece of wax paper (if it looks sandy and dry, sprinkle on a tiny bit more water) and use your hands to bring it together into a ball. It should hold the form of your fingers when squeezed. Wrap the dough well in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or for up to 5 days until you are ready to make the filling.
Note: If butter and vegetable shortening were frozen, dough can be rolled without prior chilling.
Directions for the filling
1. Wash the rapini in cold water, drain.
2. Detach and separate the stems from the tops of the vegetable. Set the tops and the leaves aside. Using a small, sharp knife, peel any especially tough skin from the thicker lower stalks, much like you would peel the tough skin from the bottom of asparagus stalks.
3. Fill a large pot with plenty of water to cover all the greens and bring to a rolling boil. Add the kosher salt and the peeled stems, cover partially, and boil over high heat for 7 minutes. Now add the florets and leaves and cook them together with the stems for 3 minutes more. Drain the greens and allow them to cool. With your hands, squeeze out as much water as you can. Chop them finely and set aside.
4. Warm a large, heavy skillet over medium heat and render most of the fat from pancetta. Remove the pancetta and add the onion to the pan. Adjust the heat to medium-low and sauté until the onion is transparent, another 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and continue to sauté gently for about another 3 minutes until it softens and the onions are lightly colored, but do not brown the mixture. Stir in the rapini, along with the pancetta. Set aside to cool.
5. In a large bowl, beat the eggs lightly and mix in the bread crumbs, ricotta, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the cooled rapini mixture, blending well.
6. Select a springform pan. Butter it lightly. Divide the chilled dough into two portions, one slightly larger than the other. To use, roll out the larger ball of dough on a lightly floured, wide sheet of parchment or waxed paper using a floured rolling pin. Form an 11-inch round. Drape it around the pin and transfer it to the pan. Press it gently onto the bottom and sides.
7. Spoon in the filling.
8. Roll out the second ball of dough in the same manner into a slightly smaller circle. Lay it over the filling. Crimp the edges together to seal and trim off any excess to form an even edge. Cut several slashes in the top to allow steam to escape and decorate with extra pieces of dough, pressing them gently onto the crust.
9. Brush the crust with the beaten egg and bake in the preheated oven until golden, about 1 hour, 10 minutes, or until golden. Remove from the oven and transfer it to a rack to cool for about 10 minutes. Serve hot or warm, cut into wedges.
Note: This pie keeps well in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Reheat it in an oven preheated to 350 F until warm throughout, 20 to 30 minutes.