Originally a Christmas dish, this savory Neapolitan vegetable pie is an Italian mealtime classic. In the Napoli hometown, the stuffed pie crust has a hint of sweetness and needs yeast and lard. I use regular bread dough for a lighter outcome. It's a different way of eating greens, puts smiles on children's faces and gratifies your taste buds with a piquant filling surprise.
For the crust:
500 g (2 1/2 cups) flour
125 ml (1/2 cup) milk
60 g (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
125 ml (1/2 cup) lukewarm water
12 g (1 tsp) active dry, or brewer's yeast
1 pinch of salt
1 tsp sugar
40 g (2 tbps) extra virgin olive oil
1 egg yolk stirred with a little milk for brushing
For the filling:
1 large or 2 medium heads of escarole (broad-leaved endive) washed and chopped
A fistful of Gaeta olives (or small purple Kalamata olives) pitted
A pinch of salted capers, rinsed
2 garlic cloves, halved
1 spicy red peperoncino
1 oil-packed anchovy (optional)
Extra virgin olive oil
To make the crust, first melt the yeast in a small vessel with the milk, lukewarm water, very little salt and a tsp of sugar.
Now place the flour in a large mixing bowl with the softened butter, olive oil and incorporate the yeasty blend. Mix well with a wooden spoon to obtain a moist ball, pouring the lukewarm water in slowly.
Turn the oily dough onto a clean surface, and knead briefly, just until it becomes smoother, about a minute. Cut the dough into two pieces, one slightly larger than the other. Wrap each piece in plastic, and let rest in a warm place, for about 2 hours. The dough pieces will double in volume.
Preheat oven at 180° C (350° F).
Boil the chopped escarole for 2 minutes in plenty of water. Drain and wring away excess water.
Meanwhile, lightly film a large skillet with olive oil, and heat over medium-high. Brown the garlic and peperoncino to release their flavors, and discard when the garlic begins to brown. According to your taste you can decide to leave in the peperoncino. The original recipe calls for an added oil-preserved anchovy too, you're free to omit it but it does give the whole recipe a punch without ever noticing the actual anchovy flavor.
Sauté the parboiled escarole for 5 minutes in the flavored olive oil with the pitted olives, capers and a pinch of salt. Let it cool 10 minutes before the next step.
Roll the two dough disks or squares out; given the greasiness of the dough, no flour is needed, but just in case, you can line your baking pan with some parchment paper.
The larger dough piece should be bigger than your 9" pie shell. Drape the larger rolled dough over the lined pie shell leaving some overhang all around.
Fill with the cooked escarole and cover with the second dough piece.
Trim away a little of the excess dough, crimp the edge all the way around to seal the pie, and cut 4 small slits in the top, or pierce the surface with the tines of a fork.
Brush the surface with some egg wash and bake 20-30 minutes (depending on oven vigor).
Let the pie rest on a wire rack for about 15 minutes before serving.
Cut generous slices and serve paired with the rest of your meal, generously washed down by big Aglianico wine. Otherwise you can enjoy it cold the next day, with a chilled beer.
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