Torta Rustica (or “the big sandwich thing we make at Christmas”)

I’m  not sure, but I think that “torta rustica” means something like “country pie” in Italian.  So let’s all put on our Bob Dylan hats and hum a few bars: “Oh, me, oh my — love that country pie.” He may have been thinking more about apple or cherry, but this is a great “big sandwich thing” to make for a picnic.  I actually think it is as good cold as it is warm. We made it for Christmas one year when I just wanted to make something different.  I always thought, for some reason, that the Italians really knew how to celebrate Christmas.  Trouble was, I had forgotten to get artichoke hearts.  My dear patient husband drove all over Kansas City til we found a little mom and pop store that sold artichoke hearts. Dinner was saved! Don’t be dismayed; this is not nearly as hard to make as it looks. And you can put as much or as little of anything you want into it.  (Just remember to put a lot of love in it.) (awwww….)

TORTA RUSTICA

  • 1 tablespn. chopped oregano (if using dry, you might need only 1 teaspn.)
  • 1 recipe pizza dough (following) (OR, if you must, 1 2# pkg. frozen pizza dough)
  • 1 can or jar (8.5 oz.) artichoke hearts
  • 1 tablespn. olive oil
  • 2 teaspns red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspn. salt
  • 1/8 teaspn black pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespns bread crumbs
  • 1 10-oz. pkg frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 4 oz. sliced hard salami
  • 6 oz. provolone, sliced
  • 6 oz shredded mozzerella
  • 2 jars roasted red peppers, drained (pimentoes) (I usually get some peppers, green and/or red, and roast them myself.) (I’ll tell you how at the end of this recipe)

If you are making your own pizza dough, you’d better start  that first, and give it about an hour to raise. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Grease your springform pan and sprinkle the bottom with cornmeal.  (You can often find a springform pan at the thrift store.  They are great for cheesecake, etc.)

Roll your dough out to a 14 ” circle and fit it into the bottom of a 9 or 10″ springform pan. Mix oregano,  oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, garlic and egg.  Sprinkle half of the spinach into the pan.  Top with half of the salami. Mix the cheeses, sprinkle one-third over the salami. Top with 1 jar of peppers, and half of the artichokes.  Top with half of the crumb mixture.  Repeat all these layers.  Then, use whatever dough you have left over to roll out into a circle to put on top.  Crimp the edges like a pie.  Brush with a mixture of egg and water (it makes it look shiny and nice.) Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the crust is brown.  Let it cool, then take off the sides.  It will probably serve 10 people.  Makes a good picnic.

HOW TO ROAST PEPPERS:

Just put them under the broiler.  Watch them and turn them when the skin gets brown or black.  When they are brown (or black) all over, put then in a paper bag (paper lunch bags are handy to have around) and cool them off.  Then just pull the skins off.  Roasted peppers are great to add to pasta, pizza, sandwiches or salads.

PIZZA DOUGH (props to Jeff Smith the Frugal Gourmet)

  • 1 1/4 cups warm water
  • 1 tablespn yeast
  • 1/2 teaspn salt
  • 1 tablespn olive oil
  • 3 1/2 cups flour (of course, I use part whole wheat)
  • 1/4 cup corn meal

Dissolve the yeast and salt in the warm water. Add the oil and about a cup of the flour, and the cornmeal. Beat hard and then knead in the rest of the flour.  Knead about 8 minutes or more.  (If you are foruanate enough to have a Kitchenaid, let it do the work.  Or use your bread machine.) Let it rise for about an hour.  If you are baking pizza, sprinkle cornmeal on your  baking stone.  And do get a baking stone.

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