Triple Pine Nut Savory Free-Form Rustic Pie Recipe

Triple Pine Nut Savory Free-Form Rustic Pie Recipe Recipe

It's Meatless Monday and I'm sharing with you today a dish I especially prepared for my friend Vincent whom I  visited in Los Angeles last week. My main concern was to prepare something that would let me pass security at the airport and of course, something delicious! I made a savory, 3-layered pine nut free-form pie (crostata-like pie). The savory crust was made from scratch with quality butter. First, I used a basil pine nut pesto, then topped it with an arrabbiata sauce (garlic, tomatoes and bell peppers) mixed with pine nuts and harissa (for a hint of spiciness); the last thick layer was a ricotta, pine nut, and lemon mixture garnished with grilled zucchini. 

I love the concept of an organic-shaped, free-form pie. It's a fuss-free, don't-need-a-pie-pan dish, which maintains its flakiness better than a pie. I improvised almost all the components of this savory pie, using homemade sauces I had previously canned. It really doesn't matter how much time you devote to a dish; my philosophy is that, as long as you put your heart and soul into cooking I guarantee that those who will enjoy the product of your efforts will appreciate it.




Yields: 8 servings

1 (18"-diameter) disk savory crust
¼ cup tomato sauce
2 tablespoons harissa (optional), for hint of heat
6 tablespoons pine nuts, lightly toasted
16 ounces ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons fresh chives, snipped
2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley
2 tablespoons fresh sweet basil
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon orange blossom honey
½ teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt (or regular salt)
1 organic lemon
¼ cup cave-aged Gruyère cheese, shaved
3 tablespoons Manchego cheese, freshly grated
1 zucchini, sliced lengthwise and salted


For the crostata pastry:

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Dust a flat surface with the remaining flour. Place the dough and roll it out into about 18"-diameter disk. Transfer to a baking pan lined with parchment paper. While you prepare the filling, chill the dough in the refrigerator.

Making arrabbiata sauce:

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a saucepan. Add the garlic and fry until golden. Add the bell peppers and cook over low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent the peppers from burning. Add the tomato sauce, harissa and 3 tablespoons pine nuts. Cook over high heat for about 10 minutes. Transfer to a food mill. If you don't have a food mill, you can use a food processor, then pass the sauce through a coarse-mesh sieve. Return the tomato sauce to the pot, add the reserved onions and let simmer for 10-15 minutes until the sauce thickens. Season with salt and pepper. You could add more harissa sauce (if it's not spicy enough to your taste), but if you're a bit more adventurous, don't hesitate to add more. Mix well. Let cool.

For the ricotta filling:

Using a handheld mixer, whisk 2 eggs with the honey. Add cayenne pepper and nutmeg.

In a mixing bowl, soften the ricotta cheese with the egg mixture until you get a smooth paste-like consistency. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper. Add 3 tablespoons pine nuts, zest of a lemon, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of Italian parsley, basil, chives, Gruyère cheese, 2 tablespoons of Manchego. Mix well. Set aside.

For the egg wash:

Using a fork, beat the remaining egg with 1 tablespoon of water. Set aside.


Pat dry the zucchini slices using a paper towel. Brush a hot griddle pan with olive oil. Drizzle oil on the zucchini slices. Place the slices on the flat griddle. Cook until the zucchini is softened (about 2-3 minutes on each side) on medium heat. Remove from the pan. Set aside. 

Place the basil pesto on the center of the dough. Using a flat spatula, even out the mixture, forming an 11"-diameter layer in the center. Cover with cooled arrabbiata sauce. Top with the ricotta mixture, then the sliced zucchini. Fold the dough on each side of the tart creating a "free-form" blossom pocket.

Brush the pastry with egg wash. Sprinkle with a bit of sea salt and 1 tablespoon Manchego. Chill in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes prior to baking.

Bake for 15 minutes at 375°F, then lower the temperature to 350°F and bake for another 30-35 minutes until golden. If the crostata is not browned enough, you can change the oven setting and broil for 2-3 more minutes.

Transfer to paper towel-lined sheet and allow to cool for about 15 minutes.

Garnish with more parsley.

Bon appétit!


Instead of making one large crostata, you could also form individual-serving sizes.

Make sure the pine nuts are lightly toasted before using, so the pie is very fragrant.

The reason I added harissa (chile, beet, tomato paste) and pine nuts is to thicken the tomato sauce so the pie didn't become too watery.

You could use store-bought pie crust or make your own (I posted a video to show you how easy it is to prepare).
Published By: Jacqueline Pham on January 26, 2015.


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