Rice cake sweet or savory? No, it’s stupid!

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A very typical La Spezia’s local food is the torta di riso – the rice cake, in two, or even three possible versions.

If you look at it from Liguria, the rice cake isthat savory one; if you come from Carrara it’s sweet (although also in La Spezia there are sweet rice cakes variants). And if you look at it from Sarzana – that is between the two cities – ? No doubt it is a stupid cake.
The torta scema – stupid cake is a specialty of Sarzana and is one of those flavors – closely linked to my homeland – that I carry with me since childhood. My grandmother would go crazy for it and buy it every time we passed by Sarzana and – even today – I can not find it anywhere else than there. It is part of, along with the stuffed mussels and farinata (read here to discover its history), the flavors that I’ll bring with me anytime, anywhere.

PWhy is it called stupid cake?

I have no certainty about the origin of the name, but there are two possible explanations.
The first one is that it’s called stupid cake because it preparation involves just a pinch of salt. Things without salt, at home we have always called “sciocco”, which in Italian means both saltless and silly. For assonance, therefore, a silly cake is a cake with a little salt.
The second explanation I can give myself is that this particular rice cake is called cake stupid for the few simple ingredients that are needed to prepare it.
Whatever the motivation of the name, I always found to call silly is unfair towards its great taste .

What is the torta scema?

The appearance of the sarzanese stupid cake is unmistakable: a layer of rice covered with golden breadcrumbs. Can you find something simpler than this? Not easy.
Softer than the Ligurian rice cake (which has pastry around), the stupid cake is dense at tasting – I know it is an explanation that perhaps it’s not clear – and has the flavor of the genuine and simple cooking of the land where it was born.
It is the ideally cooked in a copper pan in a wood oven, but I have tried to do it at home with the oven (baking at 200 degrees) and it did not turn out bad.

How can you make the stupid cake?

Ingredients are so basic:

  • 200 grams of rice;
  • 1.5 liters of water;
  • Oil
  • salt
  • a little butter;
  • flour;
  • breadcrumbs.

The first step you cook the rice in salted water. After cooking, let it cool in the cooking water, adding oil and a little salt.
When cooled, you can butter the pan and then, sprinkle a thin layer of flour and breadcrumbs , and then lay the rice on it, making sure to flatten it well (some say to make a batter and place it on the bottom of the pan, but in my memory there is no batter).
Spread the rice, the final touch: spread the surface with the remaining bread crumbs , add a little oil on the surface and bake at 200 degrees , cooking for about an hour (or until the surface is golden).

Where to buy the stupid cake

If you’ve never tried and you want to, you can take it at Silvio’s (Via Guglielmo Marconi, 14. Tel. 0187620272). It is in this historical pizzeria in Sarzana my father occasionally sends me to load our truck.

 

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