Saturday, August 16, 2008

Spinach and Ricotta Tart

Another yearning-for-Italy dish...

Spinach is one of many foods I never realized I liked until I lived in Italy. And little wonder! As with many perfectly yummy vegetables, American culture gives spinach an unjustly bad rap, following the logic that anything that's "good for you" can't possibly be enjoyable. Perhaps this logic stems from our Puritan heritage, or perhaps people just didn't know how to cook spinach well, but in any case, Italian attitudes toward food tend to be about as anti-Puritan as you can get! The prevailing attitude there is that delicious food should be celebrated and enjoyed with no guilt or worrying involved (how can you enjoy something if you're busy worrying about its caloric content?), and spinach has been rightly recognized as a delicious food.

In fact, spinach dishes are just about everywhere in Italy, and they almost always involve a pairing with that wonderful spinach partner, ricotta. Spinach and ricotta on pizza, spinach and ricotta pastries, spinach and ricotta piadine, and on and on. In honor of that tradition, I'm posting here the recipe for a lovely spinach and ricotta tart that I made the other day. Enjoy!

Spinach and Ricotta Tart
For the pastry you will need:
200 g pastry flour (as always, I used whole wheat)
50 g sweet butter
1 egg
A pinch of salt
Cold water, as much as necessary

For the filling:
500 g spinach
200 g ricotta
1-2 shallots
A pat of butter

Begin by making the pastry a couple of hours before you want to eat the tart. In a bowl, sift the flour and salt together and then add in the butter, mixing well. In a separate bowl, lightly beat the egg, and then add it to the flour-butter mixture. Stir well, adding cold water as necessary to get a nice sticky little ball of pastry dough. Wrap the ball in plastic wrap and let sit in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to an hour.

Shortly before you take the dough out of the refrigerator, prepare the filling. First, wash and dry all your spinach leaves and set aside. Chop up the shallot(s) and then heat the butter in a pan until it starts to sizzle. When the butter starts to sizzle, add the shallot and let cook until tender. Add the spinach leaves, in stages if necessary, and then sprinkle everything with salt, pepper, and nutmeg, and let cook for about 10 minutes.

Once the spinach is cooked, take the pan off the heat and let cool. Preheat the oven to about 355º F/180º C and take the dough out of the refrigerator. Transfer the dough to a well-floured surface and roll it out to a thin but uniform thickness. Place the dough into a buttered tart pan (or non-buttered if it's non-stick), adding and cutting off dough where necessary to cover the pan with an even amount of dough. If there's any extra dough, wrap it up in plastic and put it in the freezer to use for a future tart!

Poke holes in the bottom and sides of the dough with a fork and then heat in the oven for 10 minutes. While the crust is heating, combine the cooked spinach with the ricotta and stir well. After 10 minutes, take the crust out of the oven, fill it with the filling, and place back in the oven for another 15 minutes or so.

Remove from oven and let cool a bit, then eat up!!

1 comment:

Sab said...

This looks yummy! Gotta try it!