Red Onions, Black Olives And Spinach Pie

Did you ever stand wondering what to bring to your friends’ potluck? Or which dish to prepare ahead of a nice Sunday brunch that is vegetarian (and easily vegan), not too costly, very original and yes, not too labor intensive?

Well, this pie fills all the needs. Freely inspired from a kind of southern / Sicilian style pie, it is made with bread dough, and filled with strong flavors that complement the bread. A kind of portable, family sized panini dressed up for the occasion.

The proposed filling is simplified to make it palatable to everyone; but if your invitees’ tastes allow, you could add anchovies and some extra chopped mozzarella.

Especially in Southern Italy there is the tradition of making a lot of this kind of pies, sometimes filled with leftovers, or often with the ingredients the home cook has handy, and always with some kind of green leaf vegetables. Spinach is the easiest option, scarola, dandelions greens, chard, kale (or a mix of them) being others.

Do not skimp on the onions, as their flavor -when sauteed- is unbeatable, and goes so well with the bread crust. And because onions, especially red onions, are rich in flavonoids, they help bringing down bad cholesterol. They also have cancer-fighting properties, and they feed the good bacteria in the large intestine.

Please note that the quantities for the filling are indicative, as you can decide to increase or decrease in function of your taste.


For 4 portions – as a main dish

450 grams of flour
250 ml of lukewarm water
1 tablespoon dry instant yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 tablespoon salt
a dash of EV Olive Oil


4-5 red onions
1 garlic clove
2 pounds ready to cook spinach
Salt and pepper
Nutmeg – a pinch
Dry Oregano Leaves – a pinch or two
EV Olive oil: as needed
100 gr smoked scamorza cheese, grated (or not smoked scamorza, or provolone, or caciocavallo cheese, or parmigiano)
¾ of a cup of Kalamata Style black olives, pitted and cut in smaller pieces.
1 tablespoon of capers – optional



1. Prepare the dough by adding approx. ¾ of the flour in your stand mixer bowl; add the rest of the dry ingredients, mix quickly with the leaf attachment; add the water and a tablespoon of EV Olive Oil.

2. Mix with the paddle attachment until the dough comes together.

3. Change the paddle to the hook attachment.

4. While mixing at low speed, keep adding the rest of the flour on the side of the bowl with a spoon. You might have to stop the motor a couple of time to mix the dough by hand.

5. Mix until you have a smooth ball of dough. Divide in 2, a larger piece and a smaller one; cover each piece with plastic wrap and put them in a bowl to rise for at least one hour, covered with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel.


6. In the meantime, prepare the filling. Slice the onions, drizzle with oil, mix, cook in the oven @ 375F for 25-30 minutes on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.

7. When done, transfer the onions to a skillet in batches, drizzle more olive oil, add the garlic and sauté until nicely caramelized. Season with salt and pepper.

8. Put the spinach in a pot with a few tablespoons of water and a EV Olive Oil. Cover and let it cook until tender; remove the leaves and let the cooking water reduce until you obtain a thick sauce. Add the sauce to the cooked spinach, season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

9. Squeeze the garlic clove.

10. Gently mix all the ingredients. Check the seasoning, add the oregano.

11. Let it cool down, then add the grated scamorza cheese.


12. Take the bigger ball of dough, now doubled in volume. Flatten it with your hands on a lightly floured surface, until you obtain a circle approximately 4 inches larger in diameter then your cake form.

13. Oil lightly the cake form, then gently move the dough in there, letting the extra dough go over the edges.

14. Sprinkle the dough (the base) with semolina. This will absorb the extra sauce, if needed.

15. Do the same with the smaller dough ball, set aside.

16. Gently pour the filling in the cake mold, sprinkle the chopped Olives and capers. Flatten with the back of a spoon.

17. Now take the other disk of dough, put it on top.

18. With scissors, cut the extra dough hanging out of the cake mold, both upper and bottom disks at the same time, leaving only ½ inch.

19. With your finger, fold the dough all around the border making a wave pattern.

20. Punch with a fork or a toothpick at regular intervals.


21. Pre-heat the oven at 370F

22. Cook for approximately 40 minutes. When the crust becomes hard to the touch, cover with aluminum paper and let it cook 10 more minutes.

23. Let it cool down for 10-15 minutes before removing from the mold, then transfer to a cooling grate.

A Few Notes:

  1. As an extra measure you can also put parchment paper on the bottom of the mold, and 2-3 large strips of parchment across the mold. It will help with unmolding!
  2. You can add anchovies for an extra kick.
  3. Cut only when it has cooled down a bit.
  4. You can warm it up in the oven before eating, whole or sliced.

Elisabetta Ciardullo is the founder of Think Italian! Events. As Personal Chef she is an ambassador of the Italian cuisine and culture, bringing it into the private homes of Americans, as well as to many corporate clients in Los Angeles.