By Joe Yonan
Free-form tarts, such as the Italian crostata and the French galette, are some of the easiest filled-pastry dishes to master, because, well, there’s so little to actually master: No need to be careful not to stretch the dough as you put it in a pie dish or tart pan and risk shrinkage.
No need for any decorative edge work. No need, even, to trim the pastry to fit anything. Just roll it out to a rough circle, fill as desired, and lift the pastry up and over, crimping just enough to hold everything together.
Pumpkin, Walnut and Sage Crostata
900g sugar pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut into 2,5cm wedges
4 shallots (230g), quartered
4 cloves garlic, peeled but left whole
16 fresh sage leaves
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt, or more as needed
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more as needed
1/2 cup (56g) raw walnut halves or pieces
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
1 teaspoon honey (may substitute agave nectar)
1 pinch red pepper flakes
1 store-bought pie crust
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
42g Stilton cheese, Gorgonzola cheese or another blue cheese, crumbled (optional; may substitute goat cheese or feta)
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees with the racks in the upper and lower thirds. Line two large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, combine the pumpkin, shallots, garlic and 8 sage leaves. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, season with the salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Divide the mixture between the pans. Roast about 25 minutes, until the pumpkin is barely tender.
Remove one of the pans from the oven and set aside. Add the walnuts to the other pan and roast for another 10 minutes, until the pumpkin on that pan is very soft and the walnuts are fragrant. Scrape the pumpkin-walnut mixture into a food processor (leave the oven on).
Add the vinegar, mustard, honey and red pepper flakes and process. With the motor running, drizzle in the remaining 4 tablespoons olive oil and process until the mixture is smooth. Taste, and season with more salt and/or pepper, if needed.
Remove one of the parchment pieces from the empty baking sheet and turn it over on your countertop to expose the clean side (alternatively, you can use a clean piece of parchment). Lightly flour the parchment and roll the pastry out on the parchment to a rough 10-inch circle. Transfer the parchment and pastry to the empty baking sheet.
Spoon the puréed mixture into the centre of the pastry, leaving a 2-inch border around the edges. Arrange the reserved pumpkin wedges, roasted sage, shallots and garlic on the filling. Lift the pastry up around the vegetables and crimp. Return it to the oven and bake for about 30 minutes, until the pastry is deep golden brown.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small skillet until it foams, then scatter the remaining 8 sage leaves around the pan so they don’t overlap. Using a spatula, turn the leaves over and crisp them, no longer than 45 seconds. Transfer them to a plate, where they’ll crisp further.
When the crostata is ready, sprinkle the cheese, if using, and fried sage leaves over. Let cool at least 15 minutes before slicing. Serve warm or at room temperature.