Pasqua in Italian means Easter, and Torta Pasqualina, literally Easter Cake, is the savory Italian Easter Pie prepared for a homemade Easter brunch. It is a very old traditional Italian recipe, which goes back to the 1500s, and is known as part of the culinary tradition of the North-East regions of Liguria and Piedmont. The original recipe of this ricotta pie calls for 33 layers of very thin dough (as many as the years of Christ), filled with a soft cheese called prescinseua, chard, and a whole dozen of eggs placed in the middle (as many as the Apostles).
But, wait! Before you panic at the idea of so much work, let me tell you that a more modern version of this savory and delicious Easter pie can be easily – and quickly – made using puff pastry dough (conveniently found already made and frozen in most supermarkets), ricotta cheese, and as few as 6 eggs. Spinach can be used instead of chard, or mixed with it. And in some variations of the Torta Pasqualina, thin sliced Prosciutto (Italian cured ham) is added on the bottom of the pie.
In other words, follow the basics of the recipe I am about to give you, but feel free to add your own create, if you like, and may your Italian Ester Pie be a great – and yummy – masterpiece. Happy Easter day!
Ingredients and Instructions
• 500 g (1 pound and 2 oz) white flour
• 4 tablespoon olive oil
• a pinch of salt
• 1 kg (2 pounds) chard or spinach
• 450 g (1 pound) ricotta cheese
• 100 g (3.5 oz) Parmesan
• 8 eggs
• 2 teaspoons marjoram, chopped
• 2 teaspoons parsley, chopped
• 1 clove of garlic, minced (optional)
• salt, pepper
- Prepare the dough, combining flour, oil, a pinch of salt and a bit of warm water, just enough to obtain a soft but smooth ball of dough. On a well floured surface, knead the dough well for a few minutes, or until the dough becomes elastic. Divide the dough into 12 balls. Cover with a damp cloth and let stand for about 1/2 hour.
- Make the filling, by cleaning and washing the chard or spinach. If using the chard, slice the leaves in fine strips, place in boiling water and cook at high heat just until wilted. Cool, and then squeeze out excess liquid. Add 50 g (1.7 oz) Parmesan cheese, marjoram, parsley, garlic, 2 eggs and mix, seasoning with salt and pepper.
- Preheat the oven, set at 375F (190C). Oil a round baking pan, 9 inches (22 cm) in diameter. Roll 6 of the dough balls out, very thin, one at the time. Each disk obtained this way should be larger than the baking pan you are going to use.
- Lay one dish of pastry over the bottom of the baking pan, and let it go over the edges. Brush lightly with oil. Place another disk over it, oil and repeat, until you have used 6 disks. Do not brush with oil the top of last disk.
- Spread the chard or spinach filling over the dough, and then spread the ricotta cheese over the veggies, leveling with a knife. Make 6 small cavities in the ricotta. Crack and pour a raw egg into each cavity and sprinkle each with salt, pepper and the remaining Parmesan cheese.
- Cover the filling with the remaining 6 pastry sheets, which you have rolled out with the pin like the previous ones, brushing each one with oil. Pinch the edges and trim the excess dough, prick the top of the pie in a few places, to allow the steam to be released during the baking process, and brush the surface with oil.
- Bake for about 1 hour, and let cool off completely before removing from the baking pan.
Finally, slice and enjoy. Buon appetito!