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July 5, 2010 / Kate

Torta Rustica

Week Six: Even My Sister Will Eat This Pie

My sister doesn’t like sweets. At all. She’s clearly defective. As a child, I tried to get my parents to return her, but they short-sightedly kept her and now I’m stuck with someone who won’t ever eat my delicious desserts. Rach, if you think you’re getting out the Summer of Pie you are soooo wrong. Hah! Now get out of my side of the room.

This is my take on Torta Rustica and is by no means traditional — other than possibly using the colors of the Italian flag, which is, in my opinion, actually far more challenging to try not do in Italian cooking. I found many different recipes for Torta Rustica utilizing various meats, cheeses and veg in all manner of combinations. But all (well, most) were encased in pie-type dough and are therefore pie ’cause I say so. So there. Shut it Rachel.


(adapted partly from

Cornmeal Crust

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup butter, diced in 1/2” cubes
2 eggs
4 tbsp cold water

*Note: I find pie dough is best mixed in a food processor, as it allows you to quickly incorporate the cold butter, which makes for a flakier crust.

Mix flour, cornmeal, and salt. Pulse in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs (this should take 5-10 pulses at most). Beat 2 eggs with 3 tablespoons cold water; add to flour mixture and pulse just until dough holds together. It will look crumbly, but will clump together if you take a bit and squeeze it into a ball. Add another tablespoon water if needed. Shape 2/3 of the dough into flattened round; repeat with remaining 1/3. Wrap tightly. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight.

Meat Sauce

Olive oil
1 lbs ground Italian sausage meat (mild or spicy as you prefer)
1 medium yellow onion, medium/fine dice
4 cloves of garlic, fine dice
1/2 cup parsley
2 tbsp basil
1 tsp oregano
1/2 cup dry white wine
6 oz tomato paste
28 oz canned diced tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste

Add olive oil and sausage to a hot sauté pan and cook over medium-high heat until just lightly browned. Remove meat from the pan and set aside. Drain any excess fat from the pan and return to the heat. Add onion and garlic, more olive oil if necessary, and cook until onions are translucent. Add parsley, basil, and oregano. Stir. Add sausage back in. Stir. Add white wine and cook until the liquids have been mostly absorbed. Add tomato paste and diced tomatoes with all juices. Now reduce the heck outta it on medium heat until all excess liquids have evaporated (20 minutes). Salt and pepper to taste. This sauce will taste over “spiced” by itself, but it needs to be in order to flavor the whole pie. You will want to go very light on the salt as the sausage and Parmesan cheese will add a great deal of saltiness to the dish.

Ricotta Cheese Filling

1 15 oz package of ricotta cheese
1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated

In a bowl, combine ricotta cheese, Parmesan, and egg. Chill until assembly.


2 lbs spinach
approx 8 oz Provolone cheese (about 10 large round slices)
8 oz fresh Mozzarella cheese, cut into slices
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated
1 egg
Everything you’ve prepared so far

1 9” quiche or spring form pan, preferably at least 2-3” deep

Preheat oven to 375°.

Wilt the spinach in the microwave or in a sauté pan on the stovetop. Place wilted spinach in a towel and squeeze out all excess liquids. It will look fairly pathetic after you do this, but it will taste just fine. Set aside in a bowl until needed.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the larger portion of dough into a 15” circle. Carefully place in ungreased pan (find it easiest to “roll up” the dough around the pin and then unroll it over the pan); ease the dough carefully down the sides and bottom of the pan pressing it lightly into the bottom edge. Leave overhanging dough for now.

Line the bottom of the dough with 5 large rounds of Provolone cheese. Next, spread the Ricotta cheese mixture evenly over the cheese and top that with the remaining slices of Provolone. Cover the cheese with all of the wilted spinach, then add the meat sauce. Place rounds of Mozzarella cheese on top of the sauce and cover with the Parmesan cheese.

Roll out remaining dough to 9” circle. Place over filling to cover, trimming to fit just inside the pan edges if necessary. Moisten edges, and seal crusts together by bringing the bottom crust up and over the top (you may have to trim the bottom crust some if you find there is excessive overhang). Crimp or flute edges if you want. I just roughly fold it over as I’m usually tired of cooking at this point and, hey, it’s “rustic” right? Beat remaining egg, and brush over the crust. Cut small vents in top crust for steam to escape.

Place pan onto jellyroll pan (cookie sheet with sides) to capture any leaks and bake for an hour or until crust is deep golden brown and pulls away from sides. Cool in pan on wire rack 45 minutes. Remove pan sides. Cut into wedges and force your sister to eat it.



Leave a Comment
  1. 43north89west / Jul 5 2010 12:09 am


    As you are well aware, I’m with Rach. This looks awesome, Kate!

    • Kate / Jul 5 2010 12:33 am

      Though you are both defective, I must admit this is my favorite pie so far. And thanks! :-)

  2. Kimberly / Jul 5 2010 2:18 pm

    Kate–This looks amazing! I’m going to try to get the recipe to my folks. My Dad is an awesome chef.

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