Saturday, October 25, 2008

Spinach Erbazzone

Erbazzone is a savory pastry typical of the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. I first discovered it while I was living in Milan (even though Milan is in Lombardy and not Emilia-Romagna). It was on display at my favorite bakery, and after the first time I tried it, I came back for more pretty much every week!

When I decided to finally try to make my own, I started looking up recipes online trying to find the right way to do it, but the recipes varied quite a bit. So, after reading through to get a general idea, I decided to just sort of make my own version, and it worked out wonderfully - almost as good as the one from my favorite Milanese bakery, though I don't think I could ever beat theirs!

I'll write below what I did, along with some of the ideas I gathered from other recipes, so that you can experiment and come up with your own special type of erbazzone.

For the pastry:
100 g pastry flour
A small spoonful of salt
A couple largish spoonfuls of extra-virgin olive oil
Water (room temperature), as much as necessary

For the filling:
250 g spinach - the traditional version is actually made with swiss chard, but I only had spinach on hand, and some recipes now use only spinach or a combination of spinach and chard
1 egg
A few cloves of garlic
1 large shallot or 3-4 small ones (many recipes don't use garlic and use onions or onions and shallots or even leeks - take your pick!)
A couple slices of sausage (again, traditional recipes call for pancetta which is similar to bacon, but I had sausage and no pancetta)
Parmesan (or alternatively grana padano)
Hard pecorino (my addition - didn't see this in any recipes)
Fresh parsley
Olive oil
Butter (for the pan)

To make the pastry, mix together the flour, salt, olive oil, and water until you get a smooth ball of dough. Place the dough in some sort of covered bowl and let it sit in a warm, undrafty place while you prepare the filling.

Wash the spinach (or chard) thoroughly and tear the leaves up, discarding any hard stems and squeezing out the excess water. Crush the garlic and chop up the shallots and sausage.

Heat some olive oil in a large pan and when the oil is hot, add the garlic. After a short time (maybe 20 seconds), add the shallots or onions or whatever you chose to use. After a couple more minutes, add the spinach, in parts if necessary, so that you only add as much as can cover the surface of the pan at any one time. Once the spinach has all been added, throw in the sausage and let everything cook for about 10 minutes, stirring often.

When everything has cooked, turn the stove off and let it cool for a bit. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to about 180º C / 355º F. Butter a tart pan on the bottom and sides. Roll out the dough on a floured surface until it is fairly thin and then place the dough into the pan, poking holes in the bottom and sides with a fork. There should be a good amount of excess dough, which you should use for the top crust. Most recipes I saw actually have you cover the filling entirely with a second circle of dough and they also have you place the pancetta/sausage in strips on the top instead of mixing it in with the filling, but I liked the pretty lattice pattern I got doing it this way!

Beat the egg and then add in the spinach mixture. Grate generous amounts of parmesan and pecorino over the mixture and then add salt and pepper. Finally, wash the parsley, tear or chop it up, and add that in too. Stir everything together until it's well-mixed and then spoon it over the bottom crust.

Roll out the remaining dough into thin strips and lay these over the top. Place in the oven and let bake for about 30 minutes. Let cool and then eat up!

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