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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Ricotta Torta Rustica

Torta Rustica is a traditional savory Ricotta pie, in a bread or cornmeal crust.  I like to make it, because it goes together quickly, and uses ingredients that I usually have around.  One thing I definitely have around is Ricotta, because it's a byproduct of cheesemaking, and I just made a 9-gallon Gruyere.

That leaves you with about 9 gallons of whey, which can produce several pounds of Ricotta.  This time, it generated a large bowl full of light, ethereal Ricotta, about 5 to 6 pounds:

When making this pie, it's important to keep in mind the name:  Rustica.  That means that the pie should be a reflection of your village, your common life.  In other words, use whatever you have in the fridge if you don't have all the ingredients!  In addition, there are many recipes that show careful and beautiful layering of ingredients.  My recipe emphasizes the Ricotta rather than the garnishes, but feel free to put in a thick layer of something else, like spinach, and even a top crust if you like.

Having said that, if you happen to have Ricotta and a Molinari Sopressata salame in your possession, you are well-positioned to make the Torta.  Go for it!

Torta Rustica

In Preparation:
Heat oven to 400F
Spray cooking spray on the bottom of a tall, 9" Springform pan, and halfway up the sides.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup water
2 tsp instant yeast
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 heaping cup thick sourdough starter (or pizza dough)

2 lb. Ricotta, (either purchased, made from milk, or made from whey)
3 large eggs
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup fresh dill leaves, large stems removed
1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/3 cup good quality salami, coarsely chopped (like Molinari Sopressata)
1 cup leftover polenta or cornbread, in 1" cubes
1/2 cup Vermont ham, 1/2" cubes  (or any other solid, lean ham)
1/3 cup Chinese Garlic Chives
1 red bell pepper, sliced and lightly roasted
1 cooked sausage, sliced, for top garnish


1. In mixer, combine flour, water, yeast and salt.  Mix for 3 minutes or until gluten develops visibly.
2. Add the olive oil and Slowly combine into the dough.  This will take a few minutes.
3. Put the dough on a floured counter.  Add the sourdough starter and fold in.
4. Adjust firmess with a bit more flour folded in if necessary, and place on a floured plate while making the filling.

1. In food processor, combine the Ricotta, eggs, and cream.   Blend well.
2. Add dill, salt, and pepper.   Pulse to just blend, leaving dill leaves mostly whole.
3. Optionally, add a pinch of nutmeg.

Assembling the Torta:
1. On a floured counter, roll out the dough to a circle large enough to cover the bottom of the pan, and go all the way up the sides (about 15"). Sprinkle the top with flour.
2. Fold the dough into quarters, then quickly transfer to the pan.  Lift the sides up over the edge of the pan, letting the dough drape down and fill the form.  Press lightly around the top of the pan to  help it adhere and stay up.  Keep at it until the dough is in place.
3. Fill the pie:

  • Arrange the salame around the bottom of the crust.
  • Then distribute the pieces of polenta around the bottom
  • Put in half the Ricotta mixture, and spread lightly.
  • Put in the garlic chives, ham cubes, and half of the roasted red peppers.  Put on a grind of salt and pepper.
  • Put on the other half of Ricotta mixture.
  • Top with the rest of the roasted red peppers.  (save the sliced sausages for a little later; they will be overcooked if put on at this point).

Cook for a total of 80 minutes, or until done through (test with a wooden skewer).  After the first 45 minutes, turn the heat down to 375F and put the sausage slices on top.  Then place back in the oven to finish cooking.

Cool for 15 minutes before serving with salad and white wine.



  1. Hi Sue!

    That is one beautiful Torta! Can I ask the hydration of your starter? I keep my starter at 100% and you had mentioned in the recipe as a thick starter... Thanks! Can't wait to try this - ricotta already in the fridge!

    Happy baking!
    LeeYong rolfmester@yahoo.com

  2. Wow, that is really really beautiful and delicious looking. I want to hop onto a plane to Vermont just to try that!

  3. Great pictures- so hard to make ricotta look sexy!

  4. Hi LeeYong, I keep my starter right around 100%, except when I go a bit thicker for some of these recipes. I plan to put up a separate Sourdough page soon....


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