Monday, September 30, 2013

Pizza Rustica

For my final post of this year's MoFo, I proudly present my adaptation of a dish I used to make when feeling particularly domestic, ambitious, hungry, and/or pregnant (usually some combination of the above). A quick glance at The Vegetarian Epicure's original recipe reveals a truly colossal gut bomb featuring a pound of ricotta, half a pound of mozzarella, a cup of Parmesan, and five (!) eggs, in addition to the 3/4 cup butter called for by the pie crust. In those days we were young, foolish, and apparently untroubled by and/or impervious to the effects of cholesterol in gigantic quantities and never thought a thing of it, but I should note that a little of this very rich pie went a long way. It also made great leftovers, so one pizza could easily be fed off for a couple of days with something simple like a salad or steamed greens on the side.

I hadn't thought about this recipe in ages, but in planning this year's theme it was one of the first things on my "to do" list; I finally got around to it one cloudy afternoon, when there was a nip in the air and my kitchen fairly cried out for me to bake something. (Since the oven was on, I also made an apple-pear crisp with a wheat germ and walnut topping; watch this space.) For my herbivorous update I replaced the prototype's dairy cheeses with homemade tofu ricotta, and store-bought vegan mozzarella and parmesan. I added sautéed mushrooms because I didn't have olives, upped the quantity of onions, garlic, and other seasonings, and blew off the eggs entirely because let's face it: who needs 'em except hens? I also used frozen pie crusts because I couldn't be arsed to make my own pastry, but if you're inclined to haul out the rolling pin please go right ahead. The end result felt as indulgent as its inspiration, and - just as in the old days - one slice was enough for any reasonably hungry person. To satisfy honor and my personal credo of "eat the rainbow," I also made a green salad with roasted sweet potatoes and maple/tahini dressing, which was really all that was necessary to complete the meal.

On a more personal note, I have to say that of all the things I've cooked this month, this dish probably brought me closest to that fondly remembered sensation of being just grown up enough to have my own kitchen, but still enough of a kid to find that fact a bit giddying. Autumn is proverbially a season of nostalgia, and as this pie baked away in the oven I was reminded of the fall before my first son was born, which I largely spent reading, napping, and puttering around the kitchen and pantry of the lovely second floor apartment we'd moved into the previous summer. It was nice to think of that time, and to reconnect with how I felt about cooking back then. Most of all, it was an enormous pleasure to recreate this recipe and serve it to my (now rather enormous, in both size and number) family. I am so glad to have taken this culinary trip down memory lane, and to have revisited those old, dog-eared, tamari-stained cookbooks for Vegan MoFo; something tells me they might not be returning to the back of the bookshelf just yet.

Pizza Rustica
~ Pastry for a two-crust pie (I used frozen)
~ 1/2 lb. mushrooms, sliced
~ 1 large bell pepper, julienned
~ 1 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 medium onion, diced
~ 4 cloves garlic, minced
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, oregano, basil, marjoram
~ A few generous grinds of black pepper
~ 1 14 oz. can diced fire-roasted tomatoes, drained
~ 1/4 cup tomato paste
~ 1 14 oz. package firm tofu, drained and pressed
~ 1.5 cups shredded vegan mozzarella (I used Daiya)
~ 1/2 cup vegan parmesan
~ 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, oregano, garlic powder
~ 1 cup chopped, fresh parsley
~ Juice of one lemon

~ Preheat the oven to 425 degrees fahrenheit.
~ Coat a large, deep skillet with cooking spray and cook the mushrooms over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes, until browned and fragrant. Sprinkle with salt, transfer to a plate, and set aside.
~ Add the julienned pepper to the skillet and cook over medium-high for 7-10 minutes; transfer to a plate and set aside.
~ In the same skillet, sauté the onion in the olive oil over medium heat for 5-7 minutes, until they are softened but not brown. Add the garlic and dried seasonings and cook another minute or two.
~ Add the drained tomatoes and tomato paste, stir to combine, and continue cooking for about 15 minutes, until thickened. Remove from heat, stir in the cooked mushrooms, and set aside.
~ In a food processor, combine the tofu, vegan mozzarella and parmesan, nutritional yeast, oregano, garlic powder, fresh parsley, and lemon juice. Blend until smooth.
~ Now we're ready to assemble our pie! 
~ Line one pie crust with half the tofu ricotta mixture and press down firmly with a spatula or the back of a large spoon. Top with half of the tomato sauce and half of the cooked, julienned bell pepper, again pressing down firmly (you really want to pack these layers densely).
~ Repeat these layers and top with the second crust, being sure to seal the edges well. 
~ With a sharp knife, make a couple small gashes in the crust, and bake at 425 degrees fahrenheit for 40-50 minutes (ovens vary wildly, so keep an eye on it; cover with foil if it starts to brown too much).
~ Remove from oven and allow to stand for 30 minutes before slicing.


  1. Congrats on mofo completion! Glad you've enjoyed the trip down memory lane. I've enjoyed reading your excellent vegan solutions!

    The dairy and eggs in the original of this made me turn pale...

  2. thanks for sharing this recipe! it sounds good! :D