Have I told you guys how much I love ricotta cheese?
It’s quite alarming, really. I buy a large tub almost on a weekly basis, and we manage to polish it off with no trouble at all, even if I don’t actually cook with it. We pile it onto toast and top it with honey or jam for breakfast, we dollop it into scrambled eggs or frittatas for dinner, and my all-time favourite pancake recipe is Bill Granger’s impossibly fluffy ricotta hotcakes, which I often make on weekends as a lovely breakfast treat (I plan on posting the recipe for those on here soon because I need to talk about them properly!). I’ve also discovered that I always prefer this Ricotta Cheesecake recipe over regular cream-cheese ones, because of it being so much lighter and easier to make.
I am always looking for new ways to use ricotta in my cooking, and as soon as I saw this recipe on my dear friend Paola’s gorgeous blog ‘Italy On My Mind’, I knew I was bound to fall in love with it. I met Paola in the Daily Plenty workshop I attended a few months ago, after following her on instagram for a short while before that, and my love for her recipes and style of cooking and storytelling just grows with every post she shares. Italian food and culture have an unmatchable charm, and she manages to make you fall in love with them even more with her passion and authenticity (and her gorgeous Italian mama!).
I made this recipe a few times now, modifying and adapting it slightly each time till I reached the ideal version for my taste. It may look complicated or rather intimidating to make, but trust me; it really isn’t. To prove it to you, I actually made a video of myself making the pie, with the help of my very patient and supportive instagram husband! (instagram husbands are TOTALLY a thing btw)
This is my first ever video (scroll down to the end of the post to see it!), so please bear with me and do excuse any amateur-ish qualities. I was SO dreading venturing into the world of videos, thinking that it would take ages to shoot and edit and would be a total hassle and massively overwhelming…and I was so right!
Seriously, it took us almost three FULL days to get this video done. I feel like I wasted a significant chunk of my youth slaving away in iMovie, trying to get the cuts and speeds and music juuust right, and watching it so many times I almost got sick of the whole thing by the end of it. I won’t lie, it was pretty damn exhausting lol. If it weren’t for my dear husband, I would’ve most DEFINITELY given up and not finished it…thankfully, he has the patience of a Kung Fu master. How on EARTH do people make actual, full-length movies?? Errrmahgeerrd.
I must say that I am, however, quite happy with how it turned out in the end! I can’t promise too many videos in the future (life’s way too short, man), but at least now I know what it involves and might attempt making more of them if time allows (and if the Mr. is around to calm me down in my embarrassingly frequent meltdowns).
Back to the pie though: it’s just wonderful to make it at the start of the week to be enjoyed for light, summery lunches throughout the subsequent few days. It packs really well (ideal for taking a slice to work!), and can be eaten cold, room temperature or reheats beautifully in a toaster or oven. It is also PERFECT to take to a picnic or dish party/potluck, which is precisley what I did a few weeks ago when I was invited to a food blogger’s christmas lunch. I prepared everything the day before, cooked it and popped it in the fridge till the next day. It travels really well and looks quite impressive on any dining table/picnic spread! …Oh, and it’s SO CHEESY! NOMS.
The crust is a breeze to make, and comes together in just a couple of minutes in a food processor. I made mine with just over half whole-wheat flour for added nutritiousness. The filling couldn’t be simpler either; just ricotta, spinach, eggs, herbs and seasoning! If you cannot get your hands on ricotta cheese (I hear you, Cairo readers!), it is actually SUPER easy to make it yourself at home. I used to make it all the time back when I lived in Egypt; it takes a mere 20-30 minutes and just three basic ingredients to make. Find the method here and here.
I hope you enjoy the video! I actually created a Youtube channel so that I can post any future videos all in one place, so please subscribe here if you would like to stay updated. Let me know what you think of our video attempt, and if you decide to give this delicious recipe a go!
- FOR THE CRUST:
- • 200g wholewheat flour
- • 150g plain flour
- • ½ tsp. salt
- • 160g unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes
- • 1 egg, lightly beaten
- • 4 tbsp. ice cold water
- FOR THE FILLING:
- • 250g baby spinach, OR 3 bunches regular spinach, stems removed, OR 250g frozen spinach, defrosted, squeezed dry & finely chopped
- • 500g fresh ricotta cheese
- • 50g grated parmesan cheese
- • 1 tsp. salt, or to taste
- • 1 large handful fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
- • 1 large handful fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
- • finely grated zest of one large lemon
- • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- EGGWASH FOR BRUSHING:
- • 1 egg
- • 2 tbsp. milk
- MAKE THE CRUST: Place the flours and salt in a food processor, pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse a few times until the mixture is sandy and pea-sized lumps of butter still remain. Add the egg and water and pulse until the mixture comes together and starts to form a dough. Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, divide it into 2, making one portion larger than the other (1/3 and ⅔). Flatten each portion into a round disk and wrap with cling film, and place them in the fridge to rest for 30min to an hour.
- MAKE THE FILLING: First, blanch the spinach (skip this step if using frozen). Bring a large pot of water to the boil, drop in the spinach, cover the pot and cook for just 30 seconds until the leaves wilt. Drain the spinach and immediately plunge them into a large bowl filled with ice cold water (I like to throw in some ice cubes to keep it super cold). Swish the leaves in the cold water for a few second till cool, then drain them and using your hands; squeeze out all the excess moisture from the leaves. You want to get as much water out as possible. Once well drained, finely chop the spinach an place into a bowl.
- Add the rest of the filling ingredients to the bowl and mix with a fork until thoroughly combined. Cover and keep in the fridge until ready to use.
- Preheat oven to 180C (350F)
- ASSEMBLE THE PIE: Roll out the larger of the two pastry disks to form the base of the pie. Sprinkle flour onto a clean counter and use a rolling pin to roll out the pastry from the centre outwards, rotating as you go until it is about 3mm thick and is a circle about 5-7cm larger than a 22cm pie dish; you may need to bang the pastry a few times at first with the rolling pin to soften the dough and flatten it (refer to video). Transfer the pastry to your pie dish and tuck it in gently, letting the pastry sit comfortably against the sides of the dish. Place the dish with the base in the fridge to chill for 10 minutes while you prepare the lattice.
- To prepare the lattice, roll out the second, smaller pastry disk into a circle 3mm thick and slightly larger than the top of your pie, about 25cm. Using a fluted or plain pastry wheel (or just a regular knife if you don’t have one), cut the pastry into 8 equal strips. The easiest way is to cut it in half first, then each half into half again, then half again (refer to video). Separate the strips and set aside.
- Take the pie base & the filling out of the fridge. Pour the filling into the pie base and smooth it out with a spatula. Arrange the pastry strips on top of the filling to form the lattice and fold the edges over, pinching the edges to form a pretty border (refer to video for easy step-by-step guide).
- Beat the remaining egg in a small bowl with the milk and brush the top of the pastry generously.
- Bake the pie in the oven for 60-70minutes, until the pastry is golden brown and the centre of the pie is slightly puffed up and domed (it will deflate while cooling). Leave to cool at least 10-15 minutes before slicing, serve warm or at room temperature. Store leftovers covered in the fridge up to 5 days, and reheat in the oven or a toaster (avoid microwaving it as it will make the pastry soggy).
Recipe adapted from Italy On My Mind.