Asparagus and Mortadella Pie

Springtime in Bologna is one my favorite times of year. The winters here can be pretty cloudy and bleak, so I’m so grateful when the sun suddenly appears and the skies turn blue. Spring also means the re-opening of many farmer’s markets, like Mercato della Terra, who serve up fresh spring vegetables, like peas, fava beans, and my favorite — asparagus!

Sadly, if there is one thing that traditional Bolognese cuisine lacks it’s vegetables.There are some vegetables in Bologna’s traditional lasagna since the lasagana noodles are turned green by the addition of spinach but I don’t really know if it counts as a a full serving of vegetables.

Mortadella - the king ingredient of Bologna

I also remember having the most  delicious caramelle pasta with procsiutto and asparagus at Trattoria al Biassnot. Caramelle is a type of fresh stuffed pasta, shaped into the form of a piece of candy – like the ones in a wrapper that you have to twist at both ends. They’re so cute! And delicious. Better than real candy! Still, meat and cheese seem to take priority in Bologna, vegetables being only a second thought or mere decor.

So you can understand my dilemma when it come to cooking bolognese dishes! I LOVE vegetables and so have to insert a few greens here and there just to balance out the whole meat and cheese thing.

Meat and Cheese of Bologna

The abundance of meat and cheese, as seen in one of Bologna’s historic markets.

Asparagus in Bologna

The Asparagus has arrived!

Last weekend, my friends and I headed to Giardini Margherita – the most popular park in Bologna – for a little picnic. I woke up in the morning, inspired by the sunnny spring head, and decided to make this little pie – a quiche really. It reminds of my the quiches my mother used to make every year for Christmas.We were slightly untraditional and used to skip the whole Christmas ham dinner and just enjoy great big brunch before opening our presents. Every year, my mother would make a variety of quiches, usually ham and cheese or broccoli and mushroom. I grew to love them so much that I still request a ham and cheese quiche every year.

Asparagus and Mortadella Pie

Meet Asparagus and Mortadella Pie, the Bolognese and more modest version cousin of Quiche Lorraine

This “quiche” is my Bolognese version, with just a touch of green asparagus for good measure and health. If you can’t find mortadella, Italian prosciutto would be a fair substitute, although not quite as Bolognese.

Asparagus and Mortadella Pie

Servings: 4 (or 3 really hungry people)

Ingredients

1 round brisée pie crust
1 lb (500 grams) fresh asparagus
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
3 eggs
3/4 (185 grams) cup milk
3/4 cup (80 grams) parmesan cheese, grated
1 cup (250 grams) ricotta cheese
2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 cup (150 grams) mortadella, cut into cubes
1 tsp salt
¼  tsp pepper

Method

Wash the asparagus thoroughly under cold water. Cut off the tough ends of the asparagus stalks (about 1 inch from the bottom). These are usually the whitish/purplish bits.

Bologna Asparagus

Place asparagus in a large pot of salted water. Boil until tender, but slightly undercooked, about 10 minutes. Cooking time can vary depending on how thick your asparagus are. Smaller asparagus are more delicate and will take less time to cook, while fatter asparagus need more time. They should be soft but still have a bite to them, as they will continue to cook in the oven afterwards.

Drain asparagus and rinse under cold running water. Cut off the tips of the asparagus, about 3 inches from the top and set them aside. These will be used to decorate the pie at the end. Cut the remaining stalks into ½ inch rounds.

Mortadella Cubes

Preheat oven to 320 degrees Fahrenheit (160 degrees celsius).

Add olive oil to a medium-sized sauce pan and sauté shallots until soft. Add in chopped asparagus pieces and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

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In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs with a whisk. Add milk, parmesan, ricotta, salt and pepper. Mix until smooth.

Add shallots, asparagus, mortadella cubes, and fresh thyme to the egg and cheese mixture. Mix well, until all ingredients are evenly coated.

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In a round 9-inch pie pan, unroll brisee pie crust and use your fingers to fit the crust to the pan. Sprinkle a bit of thyme over the top of the crust.

Pour the filling into the pie crust, using a spoon to spread the mixture evenly. Decorate the pie with the remaining asparagus tips until all the asparagus has been used. Brush the tops of the asparagus with a bit of olive oil.

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Bake in the oven for 75 minutes, or until the filling is firm. Allow the pie to cool, about 5 minutes, before serving.

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Asparagus and Mortadella Pie

Servings: 4

Ingredients

1 round brisée pie crust
1 lb (500 grams) fresh asparagus
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
3 eggs
3/4 (185 grams) cup milk
3/4 cup (80 grams) parmesan cheese, grated
1 cup (250 grams) ricotta cheese
2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 cup (150 grams) mortadella, cut into cubes
1 tsp salt
¼  tsp pepper

Method

Wash the asparagus thoroughly under cold water. Cut off the tough ends of the asparagus stalks (about 1 inch from the bottom). These are usually the whitish/purplish bits. Place asparagus in a large pot of salted water. Boil until tender, but slightly undercooked, about 10 minutes. Cooking time can vary depending on how thick your asparagus are. Smaller asparagus are more delicate and will take less time to cook, while fatter asparagus need more time. They should be soft but still have a bite to them, as they will continue to cook in the oven afterwards.

Drain asparagus and rinse under cold running water. Cut off the tips of the asparagus, about 3 inches from the top and set them aside. These will be used to decorate the pie at the end. Cut the remaining stalks into ½ inch rounds.

Preheat oven to 320 degrees Fahrenheit (160 degrees celsius).

Add olive oil to a medium-sized sauce pan and sauté shallots until soft. Add in chopped asparagus pieces and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs with a whisk. Add milk, parmesan, ricotta, salt and pepper. Mix until smooth.

Add shallots, asparagus, mortadella cubes, and fresh thyme to the egg and cheese mixture. Mix well, until all ingredients are evenly coated.

In a round 9-inch pie pan, unroll brisee pie crust and use your fingers to fit the crust to the pan. Sprinkle a bit of thyme over the top of the crust.

Pour the filling into the pie crust, using a spoon to spread the mixture evenly. Decorate the pie with the remaining asparagus tips until all the asparagus has been used. Brush the tops of the asparagus with a bit of olive oil.

Bake in the oven for 75 minutes, or until the filling is firm. Allow the pie to cool, about 5 minutes, before serving.

 

 

Asparagus & Mortadella Pie

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