Photo by Sophia Szeto
Crostata is a rustic vegetable mixture of cooked greens and cheese that uses eggs to bind the ingredients. The mixture goes into an olive-oil crust and is baked like a pie. It can be served in small pieces as an appetizer or in large wedges with a salad as a spring lunch or light dinner.
While usually a vegetable dish, crostata ingredients may include diced ham, pancetta or bacon. Cheese options also vary; ricotta is necessary as a base because of its texture and moisture content.
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus extra
for kneading dough
1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 cup water, or as needed
1 pound frozen spinach
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1⁄4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 clove garlic, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1⁄8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1⁄2 cup ricotta
1⁄2 half cup feta, crumbled
1⁄2 half cup Parmesan, grated
1⁄4 cup heavy cream
2 large eggs
1 large egg for egg wash for the crust
Preheat the oven to 375˚ Fahrenheit.
Make the crostata dough by placing the flour, oil and salt together in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Blend until smooth, scraping down the sides of the work bowl once or twice. With the motor running, pour in enough water to make a smooth, very soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead, adding more flour if the dough begins to stick to your hands, until the dough is very smooth and the olive oil is completely incorporated, about 1 minute. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest at least 30 minutes at room temperature. You can also keep it in the refrigerator up to 24 hours. If you do keep it in the refrigerator, always allow it to come to room temperature for 30 minutes before continuing.
Prepare the spinach according to package directions and drain. Cook the chopped onion in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil until the onion is transparent; add the pepper flakes and chopped garlic. Cook for 1 minute, add spinach mixture, salt, pepper and grated nutmeg. (Go easy with the salt because the feta and Parmesan cheeses are salty.) Cook for an additional 2 minutes, remove from heat and drain well.
Combine the ricotta, feta and Parmesan with the cream. When the spinach mixture is cool, stir it into the cheese mixture. Beat in the two eggs and set aside.
Butter a 9-inch pie pan. (I like to use a Pyrex dish, but any pan will work.) Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a 13-inch circle. Fold the dough over into quarters and center the dough in the pan. Unfold the dough in the pan and drape the dough over the pan edges, allowing for a 2-inch overhang on all sides.
Pour the spinach mixture into the dough-lined pan and smooth into an even layer. Fold the overhanging dough over the filling to form a 2-inch border all around. Brush the dough with an egg wash made of 1 large egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water. Bake until the filling is firm in the center and the crust is a deep golden brown, about 45 minutes. Cool for about 30 minutes and then cut in triangles and serve warm.
Chef and author Roy Creekmore is a graduate of Tante Marie’s culinary school. He is a former member of the teaching staff there. Creekmore has cooked at Postino in Lafayette and has a long career in the food industry as a caterer, chef and cooking instructor.
This article appears in the May-June 2005 issue of Alameda Magazine