Tag Archives: Mozzarella

Pizza Rustica (Rustic Pizza)

17 Apr

This pizza is a little bit a different from what you imagine about pizza, but it’s still delicious! Pizza rustica is a typical recipe for Easter, especially for the Easter Monday picnic, Pasquetta, but I prepare it as an aperitif or appetizer for a casual dinner with friends throughout the year too. To tell the truth it is not a real pizza but a pie with a buttery crust, filled with eggs, ricotta cheese, mozzarella, Parmesan and spicy pepperoni, a very appetizing mix. Ricotta is a fresh cheese with a delicate flavor that blends perfectly with the peperoni. There are several variations of pizza rustica with different crusts depending on the region where it is prepared. Some people use a yeast dough as a crust, others add different types of cheese. This recipe is the one I love the most, one that my children especially enjoy.

Preparation time: 60 min . Cooking time: 40 min. Servings: 6

Pizza rustica

Pie dough
350 g (2 ¼ cups ) flour 00
5 g (1 teaspoon) salt
5 (1 teaspoon) sugar
5 g (1 teaspoon) baking powder for pizza or focaccia
170 g (6 oz) butter, cold, cut into pieces
70 ml (heaping ¼ cup) cold water
350 g (12.5 oz) ricotta cheese
3 eggs
75 g (¾ cups) grated Parmesan cheese
250 g (9 oz) mozzarella cheese (see note below), cut into cubes
100 g (3.6 oz) pepperoni
salt and pepper

1. For the pie dough. In a large bowl mix the dry ingredients (flour, salt, sugar and baking powder). Add butter and work with a pie cutter until the mixture is sandy. Add water, working first with a spoon and then with floured hands to form a ball. Wrap in cling film and leave in the fridge for about 20 minutes.
2. Prepare the filling. In a medium bowl mix the ricotta with a fork and then add the eggs. Beat with a spoon to obtain a creamy mixture. Stir in the Parmesan cheese, mozzarella and pepperoni. Add salt and pepper to taste
3. Preheat oven to 180 ° C
4. Remove the dough from the fridge. Spread 2/3 of dough with a rolling pin on a floured surface with 2-3 mm thickness. Transfer the dough into a ceramic pan (25 cm, 10 inch) in diameter, puncture the bottom with the tines of a fork, pour in the filling and level. Roll out the remaining third of the dough. Cut into 6 mm wide strips with a knife and form a latticework over the filling
5. Bake for 40 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let it cool on a rack for about 20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Note: I would suggest using a pizza mozzarella because fresh mozzarella has too much liquid in it. If you can’t find it, Caciocavallo cheese and Provolone cheese are good substitutes for pizza mozzarella. Paola

Melanzane alla Parmigiana (Eggplant Parmesan)

23 Oct

Eggplant, also known by its French name aubergine, is a vegetable long prized for its beauty as well its unique, pleasantly bitter taste and spongy texture.  It originates from Asia, and the first one imported in America was round and with a yellowish-white color (like an egg!).  The Italian name melanzana means” mela insana” (insanity-apple), because when it was first introduced in Italy (around 1500) people thought that this vegetable was noxious and could cause mental and intestinal disorders.  Notwithstanding this dubious start, eggplant is, in any case, a delicious vegetable that can be enjoyed grilled and marinated, stuffed, roasted or fried.  I like to cook and eat “insanity apples” in a wide assortment of recipes.  In addition being an important source of fiber, vitamins and minerals, eggplant also contains phytonutrients, many of which have antioxidant properties and protect us from a variety of diseases. 


Preparation time: 2 hrs.                  Baking Time: 40 min.                        Servings:4

Melanzane alla Parmigiana, a symphony of Italian flavors, is a appetizing main dish made of eggplants, tomato sauce, Mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses, and is flavored with fresh basil.  It is not know if the name Parmigiana means “melanzane all’uso di Parma” (eggplant from Parma, the city of Parmesan cheese), or if it comes from Parmiciana (par-mee-CHA-na), a Sicilian word referring to the louvered shutters made of overlapping wooden strips, recalling the arrangement of the eggplant slices in the pan.  As far as I know, Sicily is where you can enjoy the most delicious and authentic eggplant Parmesan.

900 g (2 pounds) eggplant
Kosher salt
½ small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
Olive oil (Extra Virgin)
600 ml (about 2 cups) tomato sauce
1 sprig of basil
300 g (2 cups) diced Mozzarella cheese (see note, below)
100 g (1 cup) grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Wash the eggplants under cold water.  Cut off the ends and slice them vertically into thin (4 mm, ¼ in) slices.  Arrange one layer of slices in the bottom of a large colander and sprinkle with kosher salt.  Repeat this procedure until all the eggplants are in the colander.  Weigh down the slices with something heavy, (for example three plates) and let them drain for at least one hour.  This step helps release some of the moisture before cooking.

Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F)

  1. In a large sauce pan over a medium-high heat, sauté the onion and garlic in 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Add the tomato sauce, salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.  (I personally do not add salt because my cooking is low in salt, but this depends on your taste).  Cook on medium heat for 5 minutes.  Set aside.  I recommend using a dense tomato sauce rather than a liquid one
  2. When the eggplants have drained, press down on the slices to remove the excess water, wipe off the excess salt, and dry with paper towels
  3. Heat about 1 cm (½ in) olive oil into a large, deep skillet.  When the oil is hot, fry the eggplants until light golden brown on both sides.  Drain well on paper towels
  4. In an 11-cup baking pan (23 cm x 18 cm; approx. 9 in x 7 in), spread a paper-thin layer of tomato sauce.  Arrange the eggplant slices side by side, covering the sauce in the bottom of the baking pan.  Spread some of the tomato sauce(about ⅓) evenly on top of the eggplants, 1 cup of mozzarella cheese, some basil leaves and Parmesan cheese (about ⅓ cup) and some pepper to taste.  Repeat this process until you have a total of three layers of eggplants and finish with the remaining tomato sauce and parmesan (no mozzarella) 
  5. Bake covered with aluminum foil for about 30 minutes.  Remove the aluminum foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes.  Let it rest at room temperature for about 10-15 minutes before serving.  Sprinkle some grated Parmesan cheese on top and serve.

Note: Choose eggplants that are firm and heavy for their size.  Their skin should be smooth and shiny.  Eggplants are sensitive to both hot and cold temperatures.  You can leave eggplants at room temperature for a day or two with no ill effects.  After that, refrigerate them, but not for too long, at about 10°C (50°F).  Also, do not use fresh mozzarella cheese in this recipe, it has too much liquid in it.  I would suggest using a pizza mozzarella, if you can find it.  Caciocavallo cheese and Provolone cheese are good substitutes for pizza mozzarella.  Also, if you do not want to fry the eggplants, you can grill them (but I would recommend the fried ones, they are much tastier and more appetizing!).  -Paola

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