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The Unseen Pie

Crostata Ricotta e Visciole ~ "...a firm, juicy, succulent pie decadent in a reassuringly understated way. It rests slimly on the plate with a rustic charm, gracefully paying unspoken homage to its history."

By Caroline JanePublished 10 days ago Updated 9 days ago 5 min read
Top Story - May 2024
22
My Unseen Pie

"What's this pie?" I asked as my tour group and I walked out of a restaurant in Rome's Jewish Ghetto, having sampled an array of antipasti.

"Oh, that." Our guide said almost dismissively before remembering, "Actually, there is a story to that pie..."

As you can imagine, hearing those words, my ears pricked up like a dog listening to the rustle of a food bag. "Story you say..."*

"Yes," he said. "In the eighteenth century, the Jewish population of Rome was banned from selling cheese and dairy products by Papal decree. It was one restriction in a long line of limitations imposed on the Jewish people by the Papacy. Other restrictions included living in a cordoned-off area (the Ghetto**), not being allowed out of this area at dark, being prevented from having a profession of any sort, and being prohibited from owning any property. At the same time, women had to wear yellow veils to mark themselves, and all Jewish people had to attend Catholic sermons."

[I think I swore here... ]

He continued..."This pie, or 'Crostata Ricotta e Visciole' as it is officially called, was one of the Roman Jewish ways to continue buying and selling cheese. Baking it in pies hid it from the Papal establishment."

"A rebellious pie!" I exclaimed.

"Indeed." He smiled, incredibly used to tourists!

We moved on, a schedule to keep, out of La Taverna Del Ghetto, where I had spotted the pie, and continued our pre-arranged tour, going on to sample various pizza types, pasta in egg-rich sauces, gelato, sweetened coffees, and tiramisu across the now very trendy and foodie-focused Jewish Ghetto area. It was a wonderful evening. All the foodstuffs were lovely. As the world well knows, Italians make great food! However, the unassuming, nearly unseen pie with its tragic provenance and rebellious story was the one food I took home in my heart... and I hadn't even tried it!

A picture of the dresser inside the restaurant where the pie was first spotted.
The Old Jewish Ghetto area in Rome

A few days later, back in GB, I hit Google and researched recipes*** Below is my incarnation of Crostata Ricotta e Visciole, or as I have endearingly dubbed it, "The Unseen Pie."

A rich, crumbly, short, sweet pastry crust is covered with sweet black cherries that have been softened with a shake of sugar on the hob for about ten minutes and cooled. A layer of sweetened, vanilla-laden and enriched ricotta cheese cream is smoothed over the top, decorated with off-cuts of crust and baked in the oven on a moderate heat for forty-five minutes. It is a rewardingly simple pie to make. I had time and the peace of mind, as my pastry rested and my cherries cooled, to take the dog out for a short ramble in the hillside. Returning from a blast about in the sunshine, I assembled as described and completed some office work while it was baking.

No stress. No drama.

It emerged from the oven with golden brown pastry shrunk ever so slightly from the edges of the fluted tin. Its light sunkissed cream was slightly raised and curvy against the top crust decoration.

It is a firm, juicy, succulent pie decadent in a reassuringly understated way. It rests slimly on the plate with a rustic charm, gracefully paying unspoken homage to its history.

The pie. Hot with a little of the cherry cooking liquor poured on top.

Recipe:

You will need Plain (all-purpose) strong white or OO flour, around four large eggs, caster sugar, vanilla extract, a tub of ricotta, frozen sweet cherries, and about half a block of butter.

I have not included measurements because tin sizes vary.

For the Crostata (Pastry):

Make a sweet, short-crust pastry with either Strong White Bread Flour or OO flour, which helps it become crisper. Add half its weight in chilled cubed butter, a sprinkle of sugar, and a couple of fresh eggs to combine the mix. Ensure that the pastry rests in the fridge for at least half an hour—overnight is fine.

Cherries:

One bag of frozen black cherries. Enough to cover the base of your pie dish. Many recipes I read suggest adding a spritz of lemon and sugar or even red wine to the pan when heating. As I used frozen cherries, there was enough liquid to cook them in. I simply sprinkled them with sugar to lightly sweeten them.

Note—You will not use the liquid when you place the cherries onto the rolled-out pastry. The cherries should be removed with a slotted spoon and pressed to keep the pie from getting a soggy bottom!

Ricotta mix:

A tub of ricotta with enough sugar to sweeten to your own taste. Add a squeeze of vanilla paste and an egg. Whisk until combined and smooth.

Assembly:

Roll out the pastry as thin as you can (a few mm) on a well-floured surface. Lift and place in a buttered, fluted, loose-bottom tart/flan tin. Using an off-cut of the dough, press into the sides and base to avoid fingerprints/damage. Trim the edges, squish them up in a ball, and re-roll these out in a thin, flat, oblong, ready to make your choice of decoration.

Layer the squeezed cherries across the bottom and smooth the ricotta mixture over the top of them. The contents of the case should rise to around 2/3 up the side of the pastry case. Decorate with either a lattice or pie top crust of your choice. Brush the pastry with an egg wash.

Note—the pastry top is not strictly necessary, and arguably, the pie looks more attractive without it. However, the top crust or lattice kept the cheese mix secret.

Bake for around 45 minutes or until golden brown with the ricotta slightly domed.

Cool a little before taking it out of the tin. It can be eaten warm or chilled.

It tastes great with a strong Italian coffee!

Our Tour Guide stood at the edge of the Ghetto overlooking the Roman Palatine.
Me, at the end of the tour in front of the Pantheon.
In memory of all the Roman Jews who lost their lives. These brass plaques are found all over the ghetto and state the names of the people who lived in the buildings and how they died.

***

Notes:

* I am paraphrasing here, obviously. Four days later, I could not remember a full conversation, especially not after a good few Aperol Spritz! The Tour was booked through Tripadvisor. It is the Jewish Ghetto Food and Wine Tour, and I thoroughly recommend it.

** The word "Ghetto" comes from the Italian word "getto," which means a "foundry." The first Ghetto was established in 1516 on the site of an old foundry in Rome. The Papal decree that confined the Jewish people of Rome to their Ghetto was issued in 1555. The information here is sourced from Wikipedia.

*** The best recipe I found for the pie was this one here by Rachel Roddy. If I were to level this pie up at any point (not that it needs it), I would consider using star anise and red wine when heating the cherries. It would make a deep and flavourful accompanying sauce.

If you want to try the quintessential Roman Jewish Ghetto pie, apparently THE place to go is Pasticceria Boccione, the oldest surviving bakery in the area. As I did my tour in the evening, it was closed. The best goods, like with any great bakery, can be bought early in the morning.

Enjoy and love to all.

CJ xx

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About the Creator

Caroline Jane

Warm-blooded vertebrate, domesticated with a preference for the wild. Howls at the moon and forages on the dark side of it. Laughs like a hyena. Fuelled by good times and fairy dust. Writes obsessively with no holes barred.

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Outstanding

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Comments (16)

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  • Anna 5 days ago

    Congrats on Top Story!

  • Shirley Belk5 days ago

    What a GREAT story!!! Stories within stories and true hidden historical treasures. Loved the Rebellious Pie

  • Dana Crandell9 days ago

    This sounds marvelous. Thank you for the recipe and the fun read!

  • Congrats on your TS.

  • Tiffany Gordon 9 days ago

    ❤️ This dish sounds delicious!!!!

  • Andrea Corwin 9 days ago

    Oops congratulations on TS🎉🎉

  • Andrea Corwin 9 days ago

    It is similar to a clafoutis… sort of. Loved the story about it. ❣️

  • Caroline Craven9 days ago

    The pie looks and sounds amazing. Love the story behind it too. Hope you had a smashing time away.

  • A rebellious pie seems like my kinda thing hehehe. Your pie got my mouth watering!!

  • Babs Iverson9 days ago

    Loved it!!! The back story, your story and the recipe!!! Well deserved Top Story & congratulations!!!💕❤️❤️

  • Hannah Moore9 days ago

    Engaging as always. That tour sounds like a migraine in the making to me, but also, so good.

  • Cathy holmes9 days ago

    That piece looks and sounds delicious. Excellent article. I hope you thoroughly enjoyed your vacation.

  • Omg 😳 this pie looks frigging mouthwatering I love it so much and your history that you researched into it is astounding I’m very impressed with your work 💕💕💕💕💕💕💕💕

  • Kendall Defoe 10 days ago

    I passed by a bakery yesterday, and all I got was a baguette. Beginning to regret this...

  • Jay Kantor10 days ago

    Cj - You Fun us for Double-Dipping to the Top - Then you rise in (1) hour with your keyboard crumbs/wit a Dollop; Vocal Brass musta got the 'Munchies' after reading yours. - Slice me a piece of the Glamorous 'Kugel,' Please - Jk.in.l.a.

  • Rachel Deeming10 days ago

    Oo, that sounds so good. Nice to see full length, non Viking you in front of the Pantheon!

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