One thing I’ve been trying to do lately is utilize my cookbooks that have been sorely neglected over the past few years.
Case in point: back in 2009, my Mom, Sabrina and I went to go see Lidia Bastianich for a book signing of her newest cookbook, Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy. Since then, I’ve used the book exactly once:
Oh, make no mistake – after the book signing, I spent about two hours marking all kinds of recipes that I wanted to try – and then, somehow, all my grandiose ideas were shelved.
Just like the book. 4 years ago……
Torta di Riso e Zucchine – adapted from Lidia Bastianich
Although the original recipe calls for the filling to be baked inside a crust, I skipped it (obviously) and baked it in a large paella pan. The only component I would alter for next time would be to precook the rice a bit – it was a bit underdone for my liking.
For the dough:
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for working
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup cold water, plus more as needed
For the filling:
1 pound small zucchini
1/2 cup Arborio (short-grain) rice
2 cups ricotta cheese
1 cup grated parmigiano cheese
2 bunches scallions, finely chopped (about 2 cups)
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups milk
Fresh ground black pepper
Butter for the baking pan (12 x 18 pan)
To make the dough:
1. Put the 2 cups flour and the salt in the food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse a few seconds to aerate. Mix the oil and water together in a spouted measuring cup. With the processor running, pour the liquid through the feed tube and process about 30 seconds, until a soft dough forms and gathers on the blade. If it doesn’t, it is probably too dry. Add more water, in small amounts, until you have a smooth, very soft dough.
2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead by hand for a minute, until it’s smooth and soft. Pat into a rectangle and wrap in plastic wrap. Let rest at room temperature for 1/2 hour. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to a day, or frozen for a month or more. Defrost in the refrigerator, and return to room temperature before rolling.)
To make the filling:
1. 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, so the grains absorb the vegetable liquid.
2. Fold in the ricotta (breaking up any lumps), then the grated cheese, scallions, beaten eggs, milk, and pepper, stirring until thoroughly mixed. Heat the oven to 375º. Spread the butter on the bottom and sides of the pan.
3. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough 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 the floured rolling pin and then unfurling it over the baking sheet. When the dough is centered over the pan, then gently press it 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.)
4. Pour and scrape the rice-zucchini 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, 45 minutes to an hour. 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.