This spectacular Spinach Torta Rustica is an Italian spinach tart with spinach ricotta filling encased in buttery yeast bread. A savory “pastry, ” it’s similar to a Pizza Rustica that’s frequently served on Easter Sunday.
This Cheesy Stuffed Bread is much thicker than either a pizza or American tart, but is a delicious addition to a holiday meal or eaten as a simple, comforting entree!
Spinach Torta Rustica
Bill’s Aunt Alice shared this spinach tart recipe with me when we first moved to Indianapolis. Alice’s first question to me when we met (on about my second date with Bill) was, “Do you like to cook?” I think my answer sealed her approval. We bonded that day at a college football game…mainly because neither one of us paid much attention to anything but the clock. Well, I thought I’d misplaced this recipe, but found the splattered copy folded in my recipe box.
How to Make an Italian Spinach Bread
This yeast dough is soft and buttery, like a brioche. Not the easiest to cut and weave, but that’s what makes it look rustic. And the spinach filling is generous and delicious, a nice contrast to the tender bread. Here are the steps to make this spinach bread.
- First, make the yeast dough. Double-check to make sure your yeast has not expired by checking the date on the packaging.
- Pro-Tip: If your yeast packet or jar is near its expiration time, you can go ahead with the first step in this recipe to see if it’s still alive and active. Sprinkle the yeast over warm water and add the honey. If the mixture does not start to bubble or foam and give off a yeasty aroma, do not continue with the recipe until you purchase new yeast.
- PRO-Tip: Proof your dough in a warm spot in your kitchen, 85 º is the optimal temperature. If you try to force your dough to rise by placing it in a hotter environment, the resulting bread you bake will rise, fall, and collapse.
- While the dough is proofing, make your filling.
- Make sure your spinach is very dry. Drain the excess liquid, then squeeze the spinach to remove as much water as possible.
- Saute the garlic and onion until soft, mix in the spinach. Mix the rest of the filling ingredients in a bowl, then combine with the spinach mixture.
- When the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and divide it into two pieces, one slightly bigger than the other.
- Roll the larger piece into a round that will fit in the bottom of your springform pan. Roll the second piece into a 9-inch square and cut into 9-10 strips.
- To put the spinach bread together, top the dough in the bottom of the pan with the spinach mixture, then weave the strips on top of the spinach to make a lattice pattern, going over and under with each strip. Tuck the ends down around the filling.
- Brush the top with egg wash and sprinkle with Parmesan if desired. Bake as directed and serve warm or at room temperature.
Cheesy Stuffed Bread
How do you store a Torta Rustica?
Since there is an egg and ricotta in the filling, this spinach bread should be kept in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap. To serve, bring the bread to room temperature or gently warm it.
What is the difference between Pizza Rustica and Torta Rustica?
Both are rustic tarts, but a pizza rustica typically has a thinner, flaky crust, and more of a quiche-like filling. The pizza rustica is also known as an Easter pie. Torta rustica is more of a broad term, and pizza rustica could be considered a subcategory of the torta rustica.
Can you use other cheeses in a torta rustica?
Yes, feel free to add some shredded cheese to the filling. I’d suggest Mozzarella to keep with the Italian theme, but Monterey Jack or Cheddar would also be delicious.
This spinach torta rustica was just as wonderful as I remembered, but it did not instantly convert Nick, our youngest, into a spinach fan. He said it wasn’t the worst thing he’s tasted. Baby steps. It may take college for his finicky palate to appreciate mom’s home cooking. Bill never ate spinach until he met me…and he had seconds and thirds of this delicious cheesy stuffed bread.
More Bread Recipes You’ll Love:
- Easy Dutch Oven Bread from The View from Great Island
- Homemade Bagels
- Potato Bread Recipe
- Easy Biscuits Recipe
- Zucchini Bread Recipe
- More of the Best Bread Recipes
This recipe was first shared in July 2011. Photos and text were updated in 2020.
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup warm water (105-115º)
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups flour
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup butter (one stick), at room temperature
- 1 10-ounce package frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- A few grinds of black pepper
- A few grates of fresh nutmeg or a pinch of ground nutmeg
- 1 egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon water
To prepare the torta dough, sprinkle yeast over warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
Add honey and let stand for 5 minutes. Mix in salt and 1/2 cup flour. Beat for about 3 minutes on medium speed.
Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until smooth. Gradually beat in the remaining 1 1/2 cups flour to make a soft dough. Beat in butter, one tablespoon at a time.
Place dough in a greased bowl and let rise in a warm place till doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Make filling while the dough rises. To make the filling, saute onion in olive oil till soft and lightly browned. Stir in garlic and cook for less than a minute. Mix in spinach and remove from heat.
In a medium bowl, beat the egg yolk. Mix in ricotta, 1/2 cup Parmesan, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add spinach mixture.
Punch down risen dough. Divide into two pieces, one slightly larger than the other. On a floured surface, roll larger piece into an 8-inch circle. Fit into the bottom of an 8-inch springform pan.
Spread evenly with filling. Roll the rest of the dough into a 9-inch square.
Cut the square into 9 or 10 strips. Weave strips over the top of the filling to make a lattice pattern. Tuck the ends of the dough down around the filling.
Preheat oven to 375º. Let torta rise for 15-20 minutes till dough puffs up slightly. Brush top of the dough with an egg beaten with water. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan cheese.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, till browned. Cool for 5 minutes, then remove rim. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Recipe courtesy of Bill's Aunt Alice.
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