For quite some time I’ve been wanting to make a dish that showcased the amazing flavor of mortadella, my favorite Italian cold cut. I suppose this affinity of mine for what could be considered the equivalent of American bologna shows my rustic, peasant roots. What can I say? I love what I love. In any case, this baked ricotta & mortadella rice cake hits the spot.
Now…I’m not a total troglodyte, mind you. I of course like prosciutto, speck, coppa, bresaola and many of the other delicious Italian cold cuts that are considered more ‘pregiati,’ or precious. But when it comes to that visceral satisfaction that only those foods you absolutely adore can give you, then mortadella it is. For me, anyway.
My favorite way to eat it is with a dinner roll that has a flaky, crunchy but not too hard crust. Since I can’t buy an Italian michetta for the job, I’ve looked around for suitable alternatives and discovered Portugese rolls, which work fabulously. I just cut one of those little bad boys in half and stuff it with as much mortadella as I can get away with without embarrassing myself. Then I indulge. Preferably with a nice glass of wine.
But we cannot live on simple, tasty sandwiches alone. Sometimes it is necessary to indulge our mortadella proclivities in some other way; one that hopefully involves a bunch of other tasty, wholesome characters. Like rice. And peas. And cheese.
All of which brings us to this wonderful baked rice dish, where the beguiling flavor of mortadella permeates in every bite.
While I typically prepare it for dinner or a Saturday lunch, it’s also great for potluck gatherings because it’s as delicious served warm as it is at room temperature. It also travels well and its perfect little slices can be nibbled on easily with one hand while balancing a drink with the other. I also tend to bring one along on road trips in an effort to avoid the inevitable ‘fast food’ trap. Many a times have I cheerily waved, with a benevolent smile, at a McDonald’s as I munched on a tasty slice.
You can’t really go wrong with this dish. It’s wonderful any way you slice it.
making baked ricotta & mortadella rice cake
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Prepare a 10-inch springform cake pan by lining a 15-inch long piece of parchment paper along the bottom of the pan before closing in the sides around it. Then, butter it generously.
Add ½ cup of frozen peas to a small pot of boiling water and cook for a couple of minutes. You want them to retain their glorious green color. Drain them and cool them immediately under cold water. Drain them once more and set aside.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a handful of Kosher salt. Add 2 cups of Carnaroli or Arborio rice and allow to cook, stirring occasionally, for 13 minutes or so. Start tasting it for firmness. It will probably need to cook for another minute or two, but do not allow it to overcook. You want the rice to be nice and firm. I used to be a big fan of Arborio rice until I tried Carnaroli. I have since become a HUGE fan. I find that it holds its firmness and shape better and is less likely to overcook. If you haven’t yet tried it, I highly recommend that you give it a go. I think you’ll be equally pleased with the results.
Drain and immediately cool by running cold water over it to stop it from cooking.
Drain it once more, very well, and place it in a large bowl. Add 2 lightly beaten eggs, 1/3 cup of the Parmigiano-Reggiano, a dash of freshly-ground nutmeg along with salt and pepper to taste.
Mix all the ingredients very well.
In another large bowl, combine ½ cup of ricotta, 1 ½ cups (8 oz.) of chopped mozzarella (or provolone), 1/3 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano, 6-8 oz. of chopped Mortadella, and a pinch of salt. Use half of the rice mixture to cover the bottom of the Springform pan.
Cover it with the cheese/mortadella mixture, leaving a ½–inch border uncovered by the mixture.
Mix very well. Spoon half of the rice mixture into the prepared springform cake pan.
Then arrange the cooked peas on top. Cover everything with the remaining cooked rice mixture.
Place the pan in the oven and lower the temperature to 350°F. Bake for 40 minutes or so, or until the top becomes a beautiful golden color and the crust nice and crisp. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes before removing the sides of the springform pan. Using the sides of the parchment paper, carefully slide the cake onto a cutting board and cut into wedges. Makes 6-8 servings.