Italians call them crostatas while the French prefer galette. No matter what you call it, it's basically a free-form pie. Whether you use homemade or premade crust for this Butternut Squash and Sage Ricotta Crostata, be prepared to love it. While you're at it, make two.
Confession time. Traditional pies are not easy to make.
At least they're not easy for this food blogger/long-time cook/mom.
My good friend, Nora, is an excellent pie maker (pie baker?? baker of pies? pie chef?). Whatever you call it, she's it. Her pies (especially apple - shown above) are a work of delicious art. So — wouldn't it be a great idea to create a week called "Pie Week" and share the ins-and-outs of making a great pie? Envision posts featuring crusts and unique fillings culminating in the creation of the perfect pumpkin pie with an amazing, granola crumb topping. Easy, right?
Let's put it this way. Pie makes homemade brownies and scratch cakes look like child's play.
Translated: knowing it's time to regroup and understand when you're beat. But then —sometimes, when you're at your lowest, inspiration strikes. And pie becomes crostata. A crostata is something that's easy to support. It doesn't ask for too much fluffing or styling and flaunts its rustic simplicity. Dare I say it? Its elegance. A crostata is elegant. Better yet: a crostata can be sweet OR savory which is something totally worth celebrating.
So—What is a crostata?
The word "crostata" in Italian means pie. The word "galette" in French doesn't mean pie. It translates to "flat cake" which I guess is more of a free-form pie.
To make a crostata, you roll pie dough into a circle, pile the filling into the middle of the circle and pleat the dough around the edge and bake it directly on a baking sheet.
Easy stuff. Child's play.
And no matter what you say about it - it just means "good".
Does a crostata have to be sweet?
Nope. Take this crostata.
Savory Butternut Squash and Ricotta Crostata. Pie dough folded around roasted butternut squash accented with caramelized onions, fried sage and big satisfying plops of ricotta. All kissed with crushed red pepper, honey and a mound of melted gruyere.
Yes, ma'am. Forget the pie. Choose the crostata.
Before we get started on the filling, let's work on the crostata dough.
How TO make crostata DOUGH
Two ways to be a successful crostata dough maker
- Make your own dough from scratch. You can use this recipe or this one. Or one from your mom or grandma.
- Buy a premade pie crust from the store. If you go this route, you can scroll to the bottom of the post but please pause to look at the pretty pictures on the way.
- EQUIPMENT -
- If you don't have a food processor, don't sweat it. You can use your hands or a pastry blender (at least five blades). And eventually, it'll look like the picture below.
- COLD INGREDIENTS:
To make a great pie or crostata dough, your cold ingredients (butter and either vodka or water depending on your recipe) must be really cold. That's how the flakiness happens. When the heat hits the butter, it expands creating flaky layers. Flaky layers are good.
- REST, RELAX, THEN ROLL:
- Rest: Crostata dough needs to chill out in the fridge for about an hour.
- Relax: Well that's for you. Grab a cup of coffee. Or make your filling if you need something to do.
- Roll: You're going to roll out your dough when the crust is good and cold. Not frozen but chilled.
- You can include sugar. This recipe includes a little sugar which helps make the crust tender.
- The crust recipe makes two crusts (double-crust pie and all) but if you want to make two crostatas (let's say one sweet and one savory), you can omit the sugar and sprinkle it on the crust intended for a sweet pie right before filling and voila! Sweet crostata!
- CRUST NOTES:
- See the big morsels of butter in the dough? That's what you're looking for. You want the dough to be scraggly and shaggy. For more info, refer to the "flakey layers" note above.
- You can freeze the crust and defrost before rolling out.
- Don't defrost too much or you'll have a crust that's too soft which will cause problems like ripping. Which means patching. Which means a PITA.
FILLING YOUR CROSTATA
To make this savory butternut squash crostata:
- Roast some butternut squash and fresh sage leaves in a little olive oil and salt and pepper
- Mix some ricotta with a little nutmeg, Parmesan and egg
- Roll out your crust
- Spread the cheese on the crust leaving a 1" margin around the edges.
- Top with butternut squash and then sprinkle on some grated gruyere
- Fold in an approximately 2" section and work your way around in a circle going in one direction. Make sure you stay consistent in the size of the folds and keep working around the crostata until you get to where you started.
- Sprinkle some fresh grated Parmesan on the edges. Then, bake on a baking sheet for about 40 minutes until golden browned.
And that's it! Easy as ....
More Crostata tips
For a crowd:
Make a few different kinds of savory crostatas along with a big Italian Crunch Chopped Salad for a casual and cozy fall brunch. Serve with some spiked mulled apple cider.
For a few:
Divide the crust recipe into four and make smaller crostatas that serve two easily.
Butternut Squash and Sage Ricotta Crostata
- 1 recipe of chilled pie dough, can use 1 premade crust.
- 1 lb butternut squash, prepackaged, cubed
- 2 T olive oil, divided
- 7.5 oz whole milk ricotta, can use part-skim, ½ of 15 oz. container
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp ground pepper
- 1 egg
- 4 T parmesan cheese , divided
- 1 T fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
- 1 small shallot, peeled, thinly sliced
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
- 5 whole sage leaves
- 1 cup fresh spinach leaves, washed, dried
- 2 tsp fresh lemon juice, from ½ lemon
- 1 cup gruyere, grated
- 1 egg
- ¼ nutmeg
- Preheat oven to 400°
For the Crust
- On a parchment paper covered cookie sheet, roll out pie crust to a 12" circle around ¼" thick. Chill until filling is prepared.
For the Filling
- In a rimmed baking sheet, place the butternut squash. Drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper.
- Bake for 30 minutes until browned. Remove from the oven and set aside. Leave oven on.
- Meanwhile, heat a small skillet on medium. When heated, add olive oil and shallots. Saute for 5 minutes until lightly browned. Add garlic and toss for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and set aside.
- In a small bowl, combine the ricotta with 2 T of Parmesan. Add the egg, nutmeg, sage and s+p. Set aside.
Assembling the Crostata
- Remove crust from the fridge. Leave crust on parchment paper on pan.
- Using a spoon, spread an even layer of the ricotta mixture on the chilled crust, leaving about a 1 ½" border all away around.
- Top with spinach leaves. Sprinkle with lemon juice from ½ of a lemon along with a little salt and pepper.
- Sprinkle the butternut squash over the spinach and top with the gruyere.
- In 2-3" sections, starting folding crostata edges in working your way around the circle working counter-clockwise.
- Beat an egg in a small bowl and brush edges of the crust with the egg. Sprinkle outside edge of crust with remaining Parmesan.
- Scatter crushed red pepper on top of the gruyere.
- Bake at 400° for 40-45 minutes until the center is lightly toasted and crust is golden.
- Cool slightly and cut into wedges. Sprinkle with additional lemon and seasonings.
- For a non-vegetarian option, add 2 oz. chopped prosciutto before adding gruyere.
- Serve either warm but also SO good at room temperature!
- Garnish with toasted pinenuts for some extra crunch!