A cheesecake that skips the sweet and hits the savory

Mario Batali
Tribune Content Agency

Savory cake. Have I lost you? I sure hope not because my potato and salami cheesecake from "America Farm to Table: Simple, Delicious Recipes Celebrating Local Farmers" is absolutely killer. This versatile dish makes an original appetizer for a fancy dinner party, plays an excellent sideman to a light main course and also makes a great lunch with some roasted squash or a simple arugula salad.

The ricotta and eggs give this cheesecake the texture we really like. Instead of using vanilla and sugar like in traditional cheesecake preparation, we use salami and the undisputed king of cheeses, Parmigiano-Reggiano. Grate the Parmigiano-Reggiano with a little vigor to bring out its sharp, fruity grittiness when mixing with the salami and parsley. The meat can be whatever you have diced up in the refrigerator: ham, pancetta pieces or sweet Italian salami, as I prefer it. Spicy salami works just as well, which is what I used when I made this for Rachael Ray, a lady who loves a kick.

When dusting the bottom of your springform pan, you can also use what I like to call "fatboy breadcrumbs," left larger for a richer, crunchier, different texture. Breadcrumbs are super useful in breading, of course, but can also be added to dishes like pasta or salad, for a nutty flavor. Stale bread works as well as fresh, so be resourceful if you've got an older loaf lying around. Don't be timid with those pieces of butter on top either. They will create glistening hot spots, making those breadcrumbs even more crunchy and delicious.

Mario Batali is the award-winning chef behind 25 restaurants


Potato and Salami Cheesecake

3 pounds waxy gold potatoes, such as Yukon Gold

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

1 cup fresh breadcrumbs, toasted in a saute pan till light golden brown

4 large eggs

1/2 cup whole milk

1/4 cup fresh ricotta

1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1/2 pound sweet Italian salami, cut into 1/4-inch dice

1 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped (1/4 cup)

4 ounces Asiago cheese, grated

Place the potatoes in a saucepan and add water to cover. Bring the water to a boil and cook the potatoes until tender, about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, butter the bottom and sides of a 12-inch springform pan with 2 tablespoons of the butter and dust the bottom and sides with 1 / 4cup of the breadcrumbs.

In a medium bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Add the milk and ricotta and mix; set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Drain and peel the potatoes and pass them through a food mill or ricer into a very large bowl. While the potatoes are still warm, use a large rubber spatula to fold in the Parmigiano, then add the salami and the parsley and stir just enough to evenly mix. Gently stir in the egg mixture; do not overstir, just bring it all together.

Place half of the potato mixture in the prepared pan and gently smooth it to the edges. Sprinkle the grated Asiago over the potato mixture to within 1/4 inch of the outer edge, but not over. Top with the remaining potato mixture and carefully smooth it over with a wet spatula. Sprinkle with the remaining breadcrumbs and dot with the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Place the pan on a baking sheet and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until light golden brown on top. Remove from the oven and let rest for 20 minutes.

Unmold onto a serving plate and cut into wedges, like a cheesecake.

Serves 8.

Per serving: 483 calories; 27 g fat (13 g saturated fat; 50 percent calories from fat); 37 g carbohydrates; 8 g sugar; 174 mg cholesterol; 967 mg sodium; 23 g protein; 3 g fiber.