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.
Such tarts have plenty of visual appeal, especially when what goes inside is colorful. They’re even easier to cut and serve, with no dish to get in the way. Just treat them like a pizza!
They’re the perfect way, then, to make a vegetarian something for Thanksgiving that’s uncomplicated yet impressive, suitable for centerpiece duty if needed but no slouch as a side for the omnivores.
This crostata delivers layers of flavor, too, thanks to a double-pumpkin filling. You pile wedges of pumpkin, shallots, garlic and sage leaves onto two sheet pans, roast for a half-hour or so, then add walnuts to one of the pans and roast an additional 10 minutes. The mixture with the walnuts gets pureed with some tart and spicy additions to form the creamy base of the tart. The contents of the other pan get piled on top of the pastry for another bake.
When it comes out, all golden brown and fragrant, you crumble on blue cheese (if you like) and garnish with fried sage leaves.
I’ll forgive you if you don’t want to wait until Thanksgiving to make it — or if you want to keep making it long after the holiday has come and gone.
Pumpkin, Walnut and Sage Crostata
Active: 35 minutes | Total: 1 hour 40 minutes
1 sugar pumpkin (about 2 pounds), peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch wedges
4 shallots (8 ounces), 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
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more as needed
½ cup (2 ounces) 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 (may substitute vegan butter, such as Earth Balance)
1½ ounces Stilton cheese, Gorgonzola cheese or another blue cheese, crumbled (optional; may substitute goat cheese or feta)
Preheat the oven to 400 F 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 pureed mixture into the center 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.
Make ahead: The pumpkin mixture and the filling can be prepared separately and stored in the refrigerator up to 3 days in advance. There’s no need to bring them to room temperature before assembling the crostata.
Nutrition: Calories: 360; Total Fat: 28 g; Saturated Fat: 8 g; Cholesterol: 20 mg; Sodium: 220 mg; Carbohydrates: 26 g; Dietary Fiber: 5 g; Sugars: 8 g; Protein: 5 g.
Adapted from “Higgidy: The Veggie Cookbook” by Camilla Stephens. Mitchell Beazley, 2019