Ciao Italia: My Lifelong Food Adventures in Italy
Spinach is one of the first leafy vegetables to appear in my Italian garden. It is such a versatile vegetable I have many uses for it, including this tart, with a dense spinach and creamy cheese sauce filling.
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon King Arthur™ Unbleached, All-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 cup diced Swiss cheese (4 ounces)
1 large egg, slightly beaten
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 medium tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces
2 to 2 1/2 tablespoons ice water
In a large bowl or in a food processor, mix the flour and salt together. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs, or pulse to form a coarse mixture. Slowly add the water and mix or process just until a ball of dough begins to form. Do not overmix. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Place the spinach in a saucepan without any additional water, cover, and cook over medium heat until wilted, about 5 minutes. Drain well and squeeze out as much water as possible. Coarsely chop the spinach and set aside.
In a small saucepan, heat the milk until hot. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Add flour and whisk to form a paste. Slowly whisk in the milk and cook, whisking continually, until the mixture starts to thicken and coats the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the nutmeg and half the Swiss cheese, and stir until the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth. Transfer the sauce to a medium bowl and cool for 5 minutes. Stir in the egg and blend well. Set the sauce aside.
Roll the chilled dough between two sheets of waxed paper to a 10½-inch round. Fit it into a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Trim the edges. Place a sheet of aluminum foil over the dough and fill it with uncooked beans, rice, or pastry weights to prevent puffing while baking. Bake the tart shell for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and weights and let cool for 10 minutes. (Leave the oven on.)
Add the spinach to the cream sauce and mix well. Stir in the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Spread the spinach mixture evenly in the tart shell. Arrange the tomato slices in a circle on top of the filling, and sprinkle on the remaining Swiss cheese and the pine nuts.
Bake the tart for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and the top is lightly browned. Cool the tart for 5 minutes, then cut into wedges and serve.