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Creative Cuisine    
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Welcome to this condensed version of Creative Cuisine. To enjoy the complete column, become a member of MyCookbook.

Torta Rustica

First pestos, then tortas, now Torta Rustica. What’s Torta Rustica? It’s Italian for rustic tart – a hearty combination of meat, cheeses and vegetables baked in a pastry crust and served cold or at room temperature. Other regional Italian variations include Pizza Rustica or Torta Pasqualina (Easter Torta), among many others.
For the Torta Rustica and Pizza Rustica, the meat can be boiled or baked ham, prosciutto (a salt-cured, air-dried Italian ham), or sausage. The cheese may be any combination of ricotta, mozzarella, provolone, Italian fontina, Parmesan (cow’s milk cheese), or pecorino Romano (sheep’s milk cheese). The vegetables are roasted red peppers and spinach, but some versions call for tomatoes and onions.

The torta is made by lining a spring form pan with Pastry Dough. The meat, cheeses, and vegetables are layered into the pan; then the filling is covered with a disk of pastry dough that is crimped to seal. As with any recipe, the best ingredients produce the best results; but it’s not only the best ingredients that are important. How the ingredients are prepared, and the right equipment and utensils also help to make the recipe a success. Since the assembled torta is heavy, use a good-quality spring form pan with a snug-fit base.

For the vegetables, do not use marinated roasted red peppers, and make sure the spinach is well drained. A basic cheese to all the tortas is ricotta, which is mixed with eggs and other seasonings, and spread over one of the layers of meat or vegetables. Mozzarella, provolone, and Italian fontina are sliced (rather than shredded) and layered. The Parmesan and pecorino Romano (both hard, sharp flavored cheeses) are grated and added to the ricotta mixture or sprinkled over a layer of meat, cheese, or vegetables.

With many different varieties of ham and sausage available, the recipe for the torta becomes more personalized. Whether you use baked ham, proscuitto or sausage, make sure it’s a high-quality product. For incomparable flavor, try any of Citterio’s Oven Roasted Hams – Rosemary Ham, Sun Dried Tomato & Basil Ham, or Pesto & Parmesan Ham.


ham In 1878 in Milan, Italy, Giuseppe Citterio, founded this family business based on the philosophy of "producing the finest quality meats." In 1974, Citterio opened a plant in Pennsylvania, combining old-world tradition and quality with new-world technology. Today, Citterio continues to abide by its standards, supplying a variety of high quality meat products to stores and restaurants throughout the United States.

Citterio’s Products

In 1996, Citterio’s Rosemary Ham received the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT) Award for Outstanding Meat, Patè, or Seafood. Since then, Citterio has introduced the Sun Dried Tomato & Basil Ham and the Pesto & Parmesan Ham. The hams are 95 percent lean meat and contain no nitrates. The meat is whole muscle, not sectioned and formed together. The hams are flavored with imported seasonings from Italy, packed into molds, then slowly roasted in a brick oven for 14 hours. Once cooled, they are Cryovac-packed with their seasoned coating intact. When cut, the ham is moist but dry with a silky texture. The flavor is wonderful, and the ham is great for sandwiches, salads, appetizers, and just about anything else. Since it contains less water, the ham also freezes well.

Citterio produces a full line of Italian meat products such as prosciutto, Genoa salami, and soppressata. Many of their products are available in consumer packs by mail order. The roasted hams are available in the delicatessen section of Pathmark, Shoprite, Grand Union, Harris Teeter, Food Emporium, and Shaw’s, just to name a few. The ham retails for about $6.00 a pound. If your store doesn’t have the ham, ask the deli manager if they would consider ordering it.

You can check out Citterio’s products and their gift basket line (which includes Italian meats, cheeses, breads, condiments and cookies), or request a catalog at, or call them at 800-435-8888.

herbed-wine cuisine book cover Janice Therese Mancuso is the author of Herbed-Wine Cuisine. She owns a specialty food business, writes about food, conducts cooking classes, and thoroughly enjoys a well-prepared meal.

Visit her web site at

©1998 by Janice Therese Mancuso. All rights reserved.

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