This is a recipe to show you that you can make savoury pies, tarts and strudels without buying ready-made puff pastry, just by using what you have in your pantry. In this case, I made a strudel dough, a versatile recipe that requires just flour, extra virgin olive oil, and water. I usually use this dough to make both sweet and savoury strudels, relying on pantry and seasonal products for the filling.
Speaking of the filling of this strudel, I opted for some of the most valuable ingredients you can find in a Mediterranean pantry: onions, garlic, dried oregano, anchovies, and olives.
Onions and garlic are the basslines of the majority of the Italian recipes, they give depth of flavour, and harmonize all the other ingredients. Used on their own, onions can provide pungency and a sharp note when fresh, and a mellow sweetness then stewed gently over low heat. That’s the path I followed today.
I made my Aunt Teresa’s stewed onions, with tomato sauce, anchovies, oregano, and a pinch of chilli pepper. She usually uses these stewed onions as a stuffing for a pillowy bread, a recipe belonging to the Southern branch of my family, as the use of dried oregano and chilli pepper would reveal. These stewed onions have the taste of my childhood trips to visit relatives in Basilicata, of family gatherings where people speak with a Southern accent.
This strudel has an intense and bold Mediterranean flavour, thanks also to a handful of black olives and some provolone cheese, which you could substitute with mozzarella, scamorza, or just omit it.
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More pantry-inspired recipes with onions, leeks, and garlic
Pasta with tuna sauce. This is one of my mum’s Sunday dressings for pasta, something I prepare now as a weekly meal. Your favourite pasta – I like short ones with a hole to collect the sauce, like penne or tortiglioni – a can of good quality tuna, a can of tomato sauce – my favourite brands? Petti and Mutti – a white onion, the heat of chilli pepper, and obviously extra virgin olive oil.
Risotto with leeks and pecorino. A good risotto can be as comforting and nurturing as a hug. A good risotto made with leeks is the hug of your best friend after a rough day, a caress from your grandma, the most soothing dish that you can make with such poor and simple ingredients. Most of the time I also use olive oil instead of butter when making a risotto, but today I decided to respect the well-working combination of leeks and butter to create a creamy winter risotto.
Focaccia with onions. Focaccia con le cipolle is a recipe from Basilicata, a soft bread stuffed with sweet stewed onions. Whenever Aunt Teresa makes it for birthdays, christenings and lunches with the family, we fight to conquer the last slice. Everyone, without exception, even those who usually avoid onions. Here the onions are cooked slowly for over an hour, so they become sweet and delicate.
Onion soup. This soup requires a long cooking time, but let me tell you this: each and every single minute you’ll spend listening to the pot simmering on the stove is worth your patience. It takes time to have soft and sweet onions and a thick soup.