Makes 15 or more appetizer sliced, or several dozen hors d’oeuvres
The dough for this crostata, or savory tart, is easy to roll out and the filling is inexpensive and easy to make as well. At my house we make it whenever we expect guests, or just the family, to come over, and we never have leftovers. People just keep walking by the plate, picking up a piece or two, and popping it into their mouths. This is my daughter Tanya’s favorite when she is expecting guests, because it can be made in advance and kept warm in the oven, ready for passing as an hors d’oeuvre with a glass of prosecco. There’s one important step to note here: since squash is a watery vegetable, and rice is dry and starchy, they need to steep together. Steeping allows the rice to extract most of the vegetal water from the zucchini, softening the grain enough to cook during the baking time, and the result is a moist, creamy, and flavorful filling. For the change of seasons, the zucchini in this recipe can be easily replaced with winter squash, making it a festive fall-winter recipe.
- FOR THE DOUGH
- 2 CUPS ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR, PLUS MORE FOR ROLLING OUT THE DOUGH
- 1 TEASPOON KOSHER SALT
- ½ CUP EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
- 1/3 CUP COLD WATER, PLUS MORE AS NEEDED
- FOR THE FILLING
- 1 POUND SMALL ZUCCHINI
- ½ CUP ITALIAN SHORT-GRAIN RICE (SUCH AS ARBORIO, CARNAROLI, OR VIALONE NANO)
- 2 CUPS RICOTTA, DRAINED OVERNIGHT
- 1 CUP GRATED GRANA PADANO CHEESE
- 2 BUNCHES SCALLIONS, FINELY CHOPPED (ABOUT 2 CUPS)
- 3 LARGE EGGS, LIGHTLY BEATEN
- 2 CUPS MILK
- 2 TEASPOONS KOSHER SALT
- BUTTER FOR THE BAKING PAN
To make the dough: Pour the flour and salt into a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse a few seconds to aerate the dough. Mix the oil and water together and, with the processor running, pour the liquid through the feed tube and mix for about 30 seconds, until a soft dough forms and gathers on the blade. If it doesn’t form, the dough is probably too dry, so add more water in small amounts until you have a smooth, very soft dough.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface,and knead by hand for a minute. Pat into a rectangle, and wrap loosely in plastic wrap. Let rest at room temperature for ½ hour.
To make the filling: Shred the zucchini on the coarse holes of a box grater into a large bowl. Toss the rice and shredded zucchini together, and let sit for 30 minutes to an hour, until the grains have absorbed the vegetable liquid. Fold in the ricotta (breaking up any lumps), then the grated cheese, scallions, beaten eggs, milk, and salt, stirring thoroughly until mixed.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spread the butter on the bottom and sides of a 12- by- 18- inch rimmed baking sheet (a half-sheet pan). Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface to a rectangle that’s at least 4 inches longer and wider than the baking sheet. Transfer the dough to the pan, either by folding it in quarters and lifting it onto the sheet, or by rolling it up around a floured rolling pin and then unfurling it over the baking sheet. When the dough is centered over the pan, then gently press its center flat against the bottom and rim of the pan, leaving even flaps of overhanging dough on all sides.(If the dough tears as you are moving it, patch it with a bit of dough from the edges.)
Scrape the filling into the dough- lined pan, and spread it to fill the crust in an even layer. Fold the dough flaps over the top of the filling, pleating the corners, to form a top crust border that looks like a picture frame, with the filling exposed in the middle.
Set the pan in the oven, and bake until the crust is deep golden brown and the filling is set, about 50 minutes. About halfway through the baking time, turn the pan in the oven, back to front, for even color and cooking.
Cool the torta on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes to set the filling before slicing. The torta can be served warm or at room temperature, cut into pieces in any shape you like— squares, rectangles, triangles, or diamonds.