food. family. life.

green vegetable tart al la reggio emiglia


{mother’s day poetry: for annette}

there was a time when life without you was impossible.

every breath they took, every step, every word came from you

now babies become girls, girls become women…

beautiful and strong, smart, engaging and independent

so off they go


by daniel j. (may.11.2014)









The spring weather has turned warmer. The days are filled with sunshine and warm breezes that fill you with hope for the summer’s quiet months to come.

I look for food and food dishes that are simple, something that can be prepared ahead of time allowing me to relax and enjoy the early evening with my famiglia before dusk becomes the dark of night.

This delicious rustic green vegetable tart originates from Reggio Emilia in the region of Emilia Romagna (a region that is home to the city of Parma that produces the remarkable Prosciutto di Parma and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.)

“La erbazzone” showcases a variety of local seasonal vegetables available that day, ready to become an incredibly flavorful filling. The tart shell is traditionally made with lard and butter (or vegetable lard) and mixed with flour, salt and carbonated water before chilling.cucinadimammina_erbazzone di parma_04

The flaky crumbly texture of the tart shell combined with the vegetable filling is a perfect starter for an evening meal, a wonderful breakfast served with poached eggs or an even better late night snack (warm, cold or room temperature.)

This dish is a recipe (one I adapted from Mario Batali) from the country farmer wife’s tavola, a simple food tradition always found in la cucina povera.

{erbazzone di reggio emilia}


pastry dough:

2 cups unbleached flour

1/2 cup cake flour

1/2 to 3/4 tsp. sea salt

5 tbsp. lard, chilled (or vegetable lard if you prefer; I sometimes use 2 tbsps. cold unsalted butter and 3 tbsps. lard)

3 tbsp. olive oil, chilled

12-14 tbsp. cold carbonated water

1 large pizza pan or baking tray (heavily coat with olive oil or crisco)


6 oz. or so of thinly sliced and minced pancetta or nitrate-free organic smoked bacon

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 medium sweet yellow or red onions, chopped

2 to 2 1/2 lbs. of swiss chard (white or red) and escarole (you can replace one of these with fresh beet greens or a blend of any three), blanched until barely wilted, squeezed of all excess water and chopped

1 1/2 to 2 cups freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese

3 whole eggs (remove a yolk or two if you wish)

sea salt and pepper to taste

handful of fresh chopped parsley, if desired

topping (optional):

2 tbsp. of lard or olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced

sea salt

Combine the two flours and salt in a medium bowl. Using a food processor, add the flour and salt mixture to the cold lard and olive oil. Start pulsing this slowly until the fat and flour mixture resembles coarse crumbs.cucinadimammina_erbazzone di parma_10

Begin to sprinkle about 7 or 8 tablespoons of the cold carbonated water and continue to pulse and blend. If the mixture looks too dry, continue adding the water by tablespoon until the mixture forms a ball of dough.

Gather the bits of dough into a ball, wrap and chill at least 30 minutes. When ready to assemble, halve the dough and roll into 2 rounds a little larger than a pizza pan.

Fit one round on a heavily oiled pizza tray and set aside.

Note: Roll the dough as thin or as thick as you like, I prefer mine on the thinner side (about 1/4″ or less) to keep the best balance of flavors.

Cook the pancetta or bacon in a light drizzle of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Cook about 5 minutes, or until the pancetta has rendered much of its fat (the pancetta or bacon will be crisped up and golden brown at this point.)

Add the onion and garlic and sauté covered, 15 minutes or until softened. Uncover, raise the heat to high, and cook another 6 minutes, or until a rich golden brown.cucinadimammina_erbazzone di parma_16

Add the chopped blanched swiss chard and escarole greens and saute 3 to 5 minutes or so, adjusting the heat to prevent from browning too much. If this mixture gets too dry, add a touch of water and deglaze the pan of the brown bits for more flavor.

Once all the liquid has evaporated, remove the vegetable mixture from the heat and place in a large deep bowl to cool; set aside.

In a medium bowl; add the eggs and grated cheese and mix and blend well. Once the vegetable and pancetta mixture is cooled; add in the egg mixture and mix well until all is combined and coated.cucinadimammina_erbazzone di parma_21

Preheat the oven to about 400 degrees fahrenheit. Set the baking rack as close to the bottom of the oven as possible.

Spread the vegetable & egg filling on pastry-lined pizza tray, remember to leave about a 2-inch border for sealing with the top pastry round.

Dampen the edges of the bottom pastry round with water and then gently and evenly top with the remaining round pastry dough and pinch the edges together.

Now fold the edges over toward the center of the tart, and crimp. Lastly, make slashes in the top of the pastry round allowing steam to escape while baking.

For the optional topping, combine the lard or olive oil and minced garlic in a small pan and heat over medium heat 2 minutes, or until the lard has melted and the garlic has softened and is fragrant; set aside.DSC_9808

Bake the vegetable tart for 20 minutes then, if desired, brush the crust with the optional topping of melted lard and garlic with a sprinkle of sea salt.

Continue to bake another 20 minutes or until a it turns a pale golden color and you see very crisp edges. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

When cooled enough, cut in narrow wedges and serve immediately or store in the refrigerator or freezer to serve at a later date.

Note: This recipe is flexible allowing you to change up the mixture of greens you have on hand and I also love to make a version that uses sauteed broccoli rabe mixed with roasted and crumbled italian sausage for a heartier take.

Note: Photography provided by Carina A. Favale and Annette L. Venditti

Buon Appetito!


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