My main recollection of Rustico Leccese took place at Alminini beach, near Otranto. Biting into one too soon, I squealed out a giant cry as my tongue felt it had just been dipped into mount Vesuvius. Funnily enough the same thing happened when I made them at home, but oh no not with me. The rustico’s wounded – Murray.
My childhood Summers were mostly spent at Alimini beach. If we didn’t have a packed lunch of provolone and mortadella panini’s then our go to lunch would be a Rustico, which we’d buy from the beach bar. Given to you in a napkin, it glistens in the sun on your way back to your sun lounger and trying to resist a bite before it cools is quite difficult. Although it is tastiest eaten hot, for goodness sake be careful.
The Salentine equivalent to a pasty, these puff pastry pies are a great lunchtime snack to grab and go. Most takeaways and bars stock them. If you find yourself in desperate need of one, trust me you will once you’ve tried one, do not fear they are widely available. I have to say, I’m quite proud these little pie’s originate from Salento.
500g Puff Pastry
125g Mozzarella (chopped)
Basic tomato sauce
1 Tin chopped tomatoes
1 Garlic clove
Small handful of basil
Salt and pepper
Salt and Pepper
Method Oven 220 C Makes – 6-8
1. Make the tomato sauce – Put a large glug of olive oil in a saucepan. Pour in the chopped tomatoes. Add the garlic, basil, sugar, salt and pepper and let simmer for about half an hour.
2. Make the béchamel – Melt the butter in a pan and add the flour into it. Using a balloon whisk mix it until it becomes a sandy texture. Take off the heat. Slowly add the milk, mixing all the time with the balloon whisk so it does not form lumps. Once all the milk has been added put back onto the heat, add the salt and paper, and mix until thickened. Once it starts to boil take of the heat and it is done.
3. Roll out the pastry. Cut equal amounts of circles with a cutter, with one being slightly larger than the other.
4. Place the larger circles on a baking tray. Brush the edges with some egg.
5. Arrange the béchamel, tomato sauce, chopped mozzarella, salt and pepper onto the middle of the circle.
6. Place the smaller circle on top and lightly press the mixture towards the center to form a pie shape. Make sire the edges of the pastry are stick together.
7. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
8. Lightly brush with egg. Place in a pre-heated oven for approximately 15 minutes. Serve very hot.
* If you have the time you can make the puff pastry yourself, but I bought mine.
*Don’t put too much filling into the pies or they will be very difficult to seal. The filling will also burst out when cooking. I’d say approximately a heaped teaspoon of each sauce is enough.