Here is a simple recipe to make the base dough for the crust of Italian torte salate, or savory tortes. It’s a keeper. The olive oil gives the torte crust a gentle crumb and incomparable flavor. The variety of fillings that can go into savory tortes is limited only by your imagination. Try this simple spinach, ricotta and egg torta.
In Italy, this dough is also known a pasta matta — literally “crazy dough.” The recipe is similar to the French pâte brisée, the difference being that the French use butter and the Italians use olive oil.
Makes enough dough for 1 double-sided torta crust
- All-purpose flour — 2 cups
- Olive oil — 1/4 cup
- Salt — 1 teaspoon
- Lukewarm water — 1 cup
- Olive oil (for brushing layers) — 3 tablespoons
- To make the dough: Add the flour to a large bowl and make a well in the middle with a fork. Add the 1/4 cup olive oil and salt to the well and mix in gradually with the fork. When the olive oil is fully incorporated, dribble in the water, a little bit at a time, continuing to mix with the fork until a dough forms. You may not need all the water. Then again you may need a little more.
- Remove the dough to a floured work surface and knead until very smooth and supple. Cut the dough into eight equal portions, roll into balls and set aside to rest, covered with plastic wrap or a clean towel, for at least 30 minutes while you prepare the filling. The torte dough can also be wrapped tightly and frozen at this point.
- To make a typical torte in 9-inch springform pan: Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease the inside of a 9-inch springform pan. Roll each of the balls of dough into thin, 14-inch rounds using a rolling pin on a lightly floured work surface. Lay one of the rounds into the bottom of the pan, with the edges going up the side of the pan. Use a pastry brush to brush the dough lightly with some of the 3 tablespoons of olive oil.
- Repeat with three more rounds of dough, brushing each additional layer with some of the olive oil.
- Add your filling of choice to the pan and spread it evenly over the pastry layers. Lay the remaining pastry rounds onto the top of the torta filling, brushing each layer lightly with olive oil.
- Trim the edges of the dough hanging over the edge to fit the pan, and crimp them together to seal the torta. Cut a couple of slits in the top pastry layers with a small knife to allow steam to escape.
- Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the torte filling is cooked through and the crust is lightly browned.
Pasta per Torte Salate Variations
- Using a food processor: A food processor can make quick work of both mixing the dough ingredients and most of the necessary kneading. Just add the flour, 1/4 cup olive oil and salt to the bowl of the food processor. With the processor on, add water slowly through the top just until the dough comes together in a ball. Pulse for another 30 seconds or so to make sure the dough is smooth and well mixed. Remove to a lightly floured work surface and knead with your hands for 2 or 3 minutes more, then proceed with the recipe.
- Quicker torta crust: Instead of cutting the dough into eight equal portions, cut it into only two portions and roll each out to 14-inch rounds, one for the bottom crust and one for the top. This thicker crust won’t be as delicate as the layered crust, but it is still quite tasty and easier to deal with when you’re pressed for time.
- Whole-wheat crust: Substitute whole wheat flour for some or all of the regular all-purpose flour.
- For a firmer, more pliable dough, substitute an egg for 1/4 cup of the water.