When I first moved to Italy I was surprised to learn that escarole, the broad-leaved and slightly less-bitter version of the endive salad vegetable, could be cooked. Known as scarola in Italian, this winter salad leaf is the main ingredient of theSavoury Escarole Pie - Pizza di Scarola or Torta Rustica di Scarola. I'm not a great fan of raw escarole - in fact, it's probably my least favourite of the lettuce varieties - but I was amazed by how good it tastes in this dish. It's now a regular fixture on my home menu. It's so easy to prepare anddelicious hot or cold!
I make this pie from memory and the quantities tend to vary every time depending on what I have in my fridge or larder, but this is the base recipe and starting point for your own personal version of this pie.
- One large head of escarole salad
- 1 pack of ready rolled puff pastry - round or rectangular (230g)
- 1 handful of black pitted olives (I use Taggiasca)
- 4 anchovies
- 1 tablespoon of capers (rinsed and squeezed lightly if in brine)
- 2 unpeeled and bruised cloves of garlic
- Several tablespoons of olive oil
- Salt to taste if necessary. Use sparingly - the capers and anchovies may well suffice
- Fresh red chilli pepper - amount depends on personal preference and heat of chilli!
- Pre-heat oven to 180-200 °C (350-400 °F).
- Wash the escarole thoroughly - separate the leaves and submerge in a bowl of water. The low lying plant often hides soil in its leaves. Shake the escarole dry and leave to drain in a colander.
- Meanwhile, heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a wide pan, add the bruised garlic, chilli pepper and anchovies until the contents of the pan begin to sizzle just a little.
- Add the leaves to the pan and stir quickly - beware of a little spitting as any remaining water droplets hit the hot oil - and sauté the escarole until it begins to wilt.
- Add a tiny pinch of salt at this point to help the escarole release its moisture and cook in its own vegetable juices - you shouldn't need to add any extra water. Go very easy on the salt - the other ingredients are salty enough to add flavour.
- Cover the pan and sweat the vegetables for about ten minutes on a low heat.
- Add the olives and capers and then continue to simmer the leaves until they are tender and no longer crunchy.
- Remove and discard the garlic.
- Set pan aside and leave to cool for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile unroll the ready-made puff or flaky pastry and spread out on a baking tray, using the greaseproof paper provided. (You can, of course, make your own, but this is a quick recipe for busy people!)
- Spread the escarole mixture on one half of the pastry (leaving space around the edges to seal the pie) and wrap the remaining half up and over the mixture and carefully seal the edges by pressing with your fingers or a fork. I usually prick the top with a fork as well, to allow air to escape and avoid the contents escaping from the sides.
- Bake for approx. 20 minutes or until golden.
- Buon appetito!