Recipe: Emilian Spinach Pie (Erbazzone)

Photo courtesy of Nancy DeLucia Real
Photo courtesy of Nancy DeLucia Real

Art historian and culinary instructor Nancy DeLucia Real shares with us a 16th century Renaissance recipe from Master Chef Bartolomeo Scappi's "The Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi (1570): L'arte et prudeza d'un maestro cuoco (The Art and Craft of a Master Cook)." Scappi worked his way up as a cook in aristocratic households, eventually becoming the personal chef to Pope Pius V. His "opera," or "works," contains over 1,000 recipes.

Real writes, "The culinary tradition of savory pies began in the Middle Ages and continued throughout the Renaissance. Rather than being filled with live birds, this two-crusted pie from Emilia-Romagna is traditionally made with erbe or leaves ("erbazzone"), including chard or spinach, leeks, eggs and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese."

Read more about what Real has to say about Renaissance Italian dining practices, fire-spewing peacocks and Leonardo da Vinci: wedding planner here.

Emilian Spinach Pie (Erbazzone)
Makes one 9-inch pie

2 ready-made, frozen pie pastries, thawed
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"¨
2 pounds fresh chard or spinach, boiled, drained, cooled and finely chopped or 2 pounds frozen chopped chard or spinach, thawed, and drained"¨
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 salt"¨
Dash each ground pepper and nutmeg
1 egg yolk mixed with 1 teaspoon cold water (for egg wash)"¨

For the pastry: Roll out two ready made pie pastries for a 9-inch pie (according to package directions). Alternatively, use Nancy's Pâte Brisée recipe found here.

Set the rolled-out pastries aside.

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.

For the filling:"¨ Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Melt the butter in a 14-inch skillet set over medium heat. Add the garlic, onion and leek; stir fry until onion is clear.

Combine the onion mixture and the spinach in a large porcelain, glass or stainless steel bowl.

Stir in the cheese, eggs, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper and nutmeg until mixture is uniform; transfer the spinach filling to the pastry-lined pie plate.

Top the filling with the second pastry sheet, trimming it to a one-inch overhang.

Pinch and seal the edges. 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.

Transfer pie to a rack placed in center of preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil during last 5 minutes of baking. Serve warm.


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