Torta di Spinaci (Spinach Tart) by Elizabeth Minchilli
This recipe is called a tart, but it’s really more of a flan, made without a crust. The vegetables are mixed with ricotta and eggs and just a bit of flour before being baked. The result is a sort of rustic soufflé. I enjoyed this dish at rezdora Maria Elisa’s home in the countryside. The day I visited, we went into the woods to gather the vegetables: wild nettles. If you can find nettles, then by all means use them (make sure to wear gloves when you wash them to avoid being stung). Otherwise, another leafy green like spinach or Swiss chard will do. Maria Elisa served this as a side dish, but since it’s so cheesy I think it would work as part of an antipasto as well. It is also substantial enough to eat on its own for lunch with a big green salad.
About 2 pounds of spinach or other greens
1 cup of fresh ricotta
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
½ cup of whole milk
4 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
4 ounces of Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated (1 cup)
1 tablespoon of fresh marjoram leaves (or ½ teaspoon dried)
4 tablespoons (½ stick) of salted butter, melted
½ teaspoon of sea salt
A few grindings of black pepper
Place the greens in a pot with about an inch of water and cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until wilted. Drain, and when cool enough to handle, squeeze the greens into a ball, squeezing out every last drop of moisture.
You should have about 1 cup. Roughly chop the greens and set aside.
About an hour before you are going to bake the tart, place the ricotta in a fine sieve and drain it over a bowl to remove the excess whey.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan with parchment paper.
Put the chopped greens in clean bowl with the drained ricotta, whole egg and yolk, milk, 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, 3/4 cup of the Parmigiano, the marjoram, butter, salt, and pepper. Mix well with a fork.
Pour the mixture into the pan, leveling off the top with the back of a spoon. Cover with the remaining olive oil and Parmigiano.
Bake for 50 minutes, until the tart begins to brown and is well set. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Loosen the sides with a knife and, using an offset spatula, turn it out onto a serving platter. Serve.
© The Italian Table: Creating Festive Meals for Family and Friends, by Elizabeth Minchilli, Rizzoli, 2019. All images credited © Elizabeth Minchilli.