Popularized in the Middle Ages, the culinary tradition of making savory pies continued throughout the Renaissance (1400’s to 1500’s). Nobility would be served pies filled with meats, poultry and fish at dinner and at banquets. Other varieties were made with spinach or chard. In the northern region of Emilia Romagna in Italy, cooks would go out to the “orto” or garden and pick these leafy plants. The leaves were combined with cheese, eggs and herbs and cooked in pastry shells.
This Renaissance pie or “erbazzone”, derives its name from “erba” (Italian for “grasses” and “plants with stalks”). In this day and age, my yummy Emilian Spinach Pie can be served at lunch with a green salad or as an appetizer at dinner time.
Prep time: 20 minutes (with ready-made pie pastry); 45 minutes (with Pate Brisee)
Bake time: 30 minutes
Makes: One 9-inch pie
PREPARE THE PASTRY:
Two readymade pastries for one 9-inch pie
One recipe for Pate Brisee, found in this website’s Recipe Category “Pastry for Sweet & Savory Pies”
1. Roll out 2 readymade pie pastries for a 9-inch pie (according to package directions). Alternatively, use one Pate Brisee recipe (found in our Recipes under Pastry for Sweet & Savory Pies.
2. Set the rolled-out pastries aside.
3. Butter a 9-inch pie plate and set aside. Gently fit one pastry sheet into the plate and trim edges to a one-inch overhang. With a fork, make random holes in pastry and set it aside.
PREPARE THE SPINACH-LEEK FILLING:
2 pounds fresh spinach, boiled (drained and cooled) and finely chopped
2 pounds frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 small white or brown onion, finely chopped
1 large leek, white parts only, finely chopped
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (about 3 to 4 ounces)
3 large eggs, slightly beaten
3/4 cup plain breadcrumbs
1 to 1-1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Dash each ground pepper and nutmeg
1 egg yolk mixed with 1 teaspoon cold water (for egg wash)
One 9-inch pie plate
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
2. Melt the butter in a 14-inch skillet set over medium heat. Add the garlic, onion and leek; stir fry until onion is clear.
3. Combine the onion mixture and the spinach in a large porcelain, glass or stainless steel bowl.
4. Stir in the cheese, eggs, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper and nutmeg until mixture is uniform; transfer the spinach filling to pastry-lined pie plate.
5. Top the filling with second pastry sheet, trimming it to a one-inch overhang. Pinch and seal the edges.
6. With a fork, make random holes over top of sealed pie and brush with egg wash. Cover and seal pie edges with one-inch aluminum foil strips.
7. Transfer pie to a rack placed in center of preheated oven.
8. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil during last 5 minutes of baking.
Text and Photographs ©2010 Nancy DeLucia Real