This is porrata or torta di porri, a leek pie – porri means leeks in Italian.
I learnt it from one of my favourite websites: Memorie di Angelina, written by Frank Fariello and chock a block with great authentic Italian recipes. In turn, Frank learnt it from Giuliano Bugialli and Bugialli claims it to be of Tuscan origin.
It is a bread dough, filled with a huge quantity of cooked down leeks, a couple of eggs and, if you want, some diced pancetta, with the sweetness of the leeks being counterbalanced by a hefty dose of freshly ground black pepper. In some other versions, a pate brisée takes the place of the bread dough and cooked ham instead of the pancetta – and why not, they sound equally good.
To my knowledge the oldest references to this pie are to be found in the 1804 Memorie istoriche dell’Ambrosiana R. Basilica di S. Lorenzo (Historic Memoirs of San Lorenzo Basilica, Florence), edited by Domenico Moreni, but actually written by Pier Nolasco Cianfogni – both were men of the cloth. In this book, it is said that in the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance, leek pies were traditionally prepared by the monks of San Lorenzo Basilica fifteen days after the feast of San Lorenzo (10th of August), on a day named Porrea or Porrata (I remind you that “porro” means “leek” in Italian), to celebrate the souls of the dead benefactors of the basilica, but we do not know anything about the composition of such pies. Whether it is something Bugialli read about in some other sources or something he came up with (collating unrecorded domestic versions, possibly), the bottom line is that this leek pie is delicious.
I have tweaked Frank’s and Bugialli’s version here and there – largely by using less dough and by dispensing with the pancetta. If you want to use it, place some cubed pancetta on the bottom of the rolled out dough, before adding the leeks.
This pie is much better at room temperature and keeps well for a couple of days. It is great picnic food.
Porrata – Leek pie
Make a straight bread dough, using:
200 g bread flour, including 10% wholemeal flour
1 scant teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 scant teaspoon instant dried yeast
between 50 g to 100 g water
Let it proof over 5-6 hrs
In the meantime, prepare your leeks:
wash and slice 1.5 kg leeks. Cook them in a large pan, adding a generous glug of oil and some salt. By the end, they must be well reduced in bulk and rather dry, not at all soupy. Let them cool then add a couple of eggs, a generous handful of grated parmesan and a lot of black pepper.
Roll out the dough onto a piece of parchment: you are aiming at a 30-35 cm disc. Shower the base with some more grated parmesan, add the filling, leaving a clean edge of about 5 cm. Fold in the edge to make an open-faced pie, with a pleated rim. Brush the edge with oil and sprinkle it with salt.
Bake in a preheated oven (200C) for about 45 minutes. I generally cook the pie first on the bottom of the oven for about ten minutes and then transfer it to the middle of the oven, until well cooked.
Eat at room temperature.
I do think it is better with pancetta now, but I still generally make it without
Update march 2021: experiment: using far less yeas and a long proofing: 1 teaspoon yeast. Overnite (10 hours) pin the fridge. In the morning , I kneaded it and let it proof again for few hours. The dough was less bread-ey than usual and I quite like that. Thinly rolled. With this dough, I found the pie to be better on the same day.