Ciao Italia: My Lifelong Food Adventures in Italy
SERVES 6 TO 8
I almost forgot to include the recipe for my grandmother's spinach and mashed potato pie, until my mother reminded me. This vegetable and potato combination is delicious, and you can vary the cheese with whatever is on hand.
1 1/2 pounds (4 to 5) medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
4 tablespoons Filippo Berio Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
6 ounces mozzarella, Asiago, or other cheese, cubed (1 1/2 cups)
1 10-ounce bag fresh spinach, stemmed, washed, and drained
1 large clove garlic, peeled and cut in half
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, diced
Place the potatoes in a 2-quart pot and cover with water. Bring water to a boil and cook the potatoes until tender, about 12 minutes. Drain the potatoes, but reserve ¼ cup cooking water.
Place the potatoes in a bowl. Add the cooking water, 1 tablespoon of oil, salt, and egg. With a potato masher or an electric mixer, beat the potatoes until smooth. If they seem too dry, add a little more water. Fold in the cheese and set the mixture aside.
Place the spinach in a dry skillet, cover with a lid, and cook until the spinach wilts, about 2 to 3 minutes. Drain the spinach in a colander.
In the same skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil, add the garlic, and press on the garlic with a wooden spoon to release its juice. When the garlic begins to turn color, remove and discard it.
Return the spinach to the skillet, add the pine nuts, and sauté the mixture for about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat, add the nutmeg, and blend. Set the mixture aside.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. With the remaining tablespoon of oil, brush the bottom and sides of a 9-inch round cake pan.
Place half the potato mixture in the pan, smoothing the top. Add the spinach mixture, spreading it evenly on top of the potatoes. Place the remaining potato mixture on top of the spinach, spreading to cover the spinach. Dot with the diced butter and bake for about 40 minutes, or until the top begins to crust over.
Place the pan under the broiler for 2 to 3 minutes to brown the crust. Let cool for about 3 minutes, then cut the pie into wedges and serve immediately.
Variation: Instead of making a pie, form balls from the spinach and potato mixture. Roll the balls in flour, beaten egg, and bread crumbs and fry in vegetable oil. Serve as an accompaniment to roasted meats.