BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND RICOTTA CHEESE TART / TORTA DI RICOTTA E ZUCCHINE DI BUTTERNUT
In Italy savoury rustic pies make a perfect main dish or appetizer and they are a common dish served throughout Italy. Whenever there is a family get together you can be sure there will be some type of Torta Rustica being served. “….in Liguria pumpkin is used to cook the savoury pumpkin pie, a great autumn classic.” Enrica Monzani
- Ingredients: 6 to 8 servings
- Note: you will need a non-stick fluted flan ring with a loose-bottomed base, 23cm / 9inches in diameter and about 3 – 4 cm deep.
- For the pastry:
- 250 g plain or ‘00’ fine grade flour
- A pinch of salt
- 140 g chilled unsalted hard butter, cut into cubes –25 g of egg yolks. Save the egg whites to brush over the base of the pastry at Step 9 before returning it to the oven.
- 25 ml fridge chilled water
- For the filling: –1 small butternut squash (or half a large one)
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste –2 eggs –2 egg yolks –2 tbsp vegetarian ricotta cheese –2 tbsp plain thick yoghurt –50g hard vegetarian cheese, finely grated
- Handful flat leaf parsley leaves (about 5g) chopped
- Pre-heat the oven to 190°C / fan 170°C / gas 5. 2. Cut off both ends of the butternut squash, slice in half lengthways, remove the seeds and peel with a potato peeler. Cut each half into slices 2cm thick and chop them into bite size chunks. Transfer the chunks into a large bowl. Drizzle over the olive oil with a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir to mix well and leave to marinate for 10 minutes then spread the chunks into a shallow baking dish with any oil from the bottom of the bowl. Place in the preheated oven and bake for about 30 minutes. 3. Meanwhile, mix the egg yolks and water together in a small bowl with a fork until evenly combined.
- Take the tray out of the oven and stir the chunks carefully with a spatula. Return the baking dish to the oven and continue cooking for another 10 to 15 minutes or until fork tender. Turn off the oven and set aside in a dish to cool slightly. Using a potato ricer or a masher, mash the butternut chunks until a smooth puree.
- Make the pastry. Sift the flour into a large bowl and add a pinch of salt. Put the flour and salt into the bowl of a food processor and pulse twice to mix. Add the diced butter into the food processor bowl and use the pulse button 2 or 3 times to mix but make sure that you don’t overmix it. Add the egg and water mix to the crumb and blitz a couple of times to combine and create flakes of pastry until the butter’s broken down and the mixture has become a uniform fine, pale yellow colour crumb with no visible lumps of butter. Do not blend too much in the food processor.
- Remove the dough from the processor and transfer to a flat work surface. With your fingertips gently bring it all together and knead for 10 seconds until it comes together in a ball. Try to do this quickly, to avoid over working the pastry. Squash the dough into a flat disc about 15cm (4 inches) diameter and 1.5 cm thick, wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge to rest and cool for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the filling. In a large bowl lightly beat together the whole eggs, yolks, ricotta cheese, yoghurt, 25 g of the grated cheese and the pureed butternut squash. Season well then add the chopped parsley, stirring well to combine. Cover the bowl and set aside.
- Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Unwrap the dough and transfer it to a lightly floured flat surface. Lightly flour the rolling pin but avoid sprinkling flour over the pastry. Then roll it out into a circle shape to a thickness of about 2mm (roughly the thickness of a pound coin) and a diameter of 30 cm.
- Use the 24cm flan ring as a guide to cut a disc of pastry. Using the flan ring, place it on the dough and use it as a guide to cut a disk of pastry so that it is 3 cm wider than the flan ring diameter to make allowances for the height of the ring.
- Loosely roll the pastry up and around the rolling pin and unroll it carefully over the loose-bottomed flan ring. With your fingertips gently push and ease the dough disc well into the corners, but do not stretch the pastry dough. Trim off any excess using a pastry cutter or knife. Use some excess pastry dough to patch any holes. Use a small piece of excess pastry to push the pastry dough well into the fluted ridges. Very carefully release the pastry from the edge of the flan ring using your thumbnail. Then, pierce the base several times with a fork. Cover the pastry closely with clingfilm and leave to rest for about 5 hours in a cool place to firm the butter so that the pastry will hold its shape.
- Pre-heat the oven to 170°C / fan 150°C / gas 3.
- The pastry is now ready to be baked blind. To do this, cut out a circle of greaseproof paper 30cm in diameter. Crunch the greaseproof paper into a ball shape then open out and fit inside the pastry case. Make sure it fits into the corners and over the top of the pastry. Fill the pastry case with ceramic baking beans, (alternatively use uncooked rice) transfer to the upper third of the preheated oven and bake for 10 minutes, after which time the pastry should be cooked, firm and biscuit-like but not browned. Remove from the oven and take out the greaseproof paper and baking beans.
- Using a pastry brush, spread the egg white over the base and sides of the pastry to seal the surface. Return to a lower shelf of the oven for another 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a trivet before adding the filling.
- Place the flan ring with the pastry case inside it on a baking sheet or flat tray and fill it using a spoon, taking care not to let the filling overflow. Sprinkle the remaining grated cheese over the top of the filling and return to the oven and bake for 45 minutes, until just set.
- Transfer the tart onto a trivet and leave to cool enough to handle.
- Remove the filled tart from the loose-bottomed flan ring and serve warm or at room temperature.