A 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 is savory; if you come from Carrara in Tuscany, it’s sweet. La Spezia is in Liguria, but here some prepare sweet rice cakes variants. If you are from Sarzana – between the two cities – No doubt, it is a stupid cake.
The torta scema – stupid cake is a specialty of Sarzana and one of those flavors I have carried 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. It is part of, along with the stuffed mussels and farinata (read here to know more), the flavors I’llI’ll bring with me anytime, anywhere.
WHY 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 you put just a pinch of salt in its preparation. We call things without salt ““sciocco,” which in Italian means both “”saltless”” and “”silly.”” For assonance, a silly cake is a cake with too little salt.
My second explanation is that this rice cake is called a stupid cake for the few simple ingredients needed to prepare it.
Whatever the name’s motivation, I always found to call it stupid is unfair to 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 more straightforward than this? Not easy.
Softer than the Ligurian rice cake (which has pastry around), the stupid cake is dense at a tasting. It may be a meaningless explanation, but to me, it has the genuine and simple taste of the land it comes from.
It is ideally cooked in a copper pan in a wood oven, but I have tried baking it in my house oven (200°C), and it did not turn out bad.
HOW TO MAKE THE STUPID CAKE?
Ingredients are plain:
- 200 grams of rice;
- 1.5 liters of water;
- a little butter;
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 sprinkle a thin layer of flour and breadcrumbs. Next, lay the rice on it and 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).
For the final touch, spread the surface with the remaining bread crumbs, add a little oil, and bake at 200°C for about an hour (or until the surface turns a nice gold color).