Torta Pasqualina, or Easter Pie, is a well-known Italian Easter tradition. Originally from Genova, this savory pie is probably one of the most famous traditional Easter dishes in Italy and easily available across the Liguria region and beyond. It’s fragrant, soft yet flaky shell unveils an aromatic, delectable filling. The original recipe contained artichoke, but quite common variations use chard leaves, or as in this case, spinach. The pie is made with puff pastry, but in the past it’s said to have been made with thirty-three sheets of very thin pastry, one for every year of Jesus’ life.
Italian tradition wants that Easter Monday, or il Lunedì dell’Angelo, Italians go on a day trip somewhere. This is actually how many Italian people spend that day: out on a picnic or sightseeing. made with classic spring ingredients: chard or mixed herbs (sometimes wild), succulent fresh and aged cheeses, hearty eggs and of course Torta Pasqualina.
This pie is a fantastic make ahead, perfect for multiple occasions: for lunch simply accompanied by a soup or salad, as a starter for any dinner or for picnic. It’s not too difficult to make: it requires some patience and … step-by-step instructions. To simplify, you can also prepare the dough and cook the greens one day, and finish the assembly the following day.
Wash the spinach leaves carefully under cold running water to get rid of any sand or grit. Shake off the excess water and put them directly into a large saucepan with a lid.
Turn the heat on low, cover them and leave to wilt for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow the spinach to cool completely.
When the spinach is cool, put it into a blender and whizz for a few seconds to chop it into small pieces. Alternatively, you could do this with a knife. Then, in a bowl, mix the spinach with the ricotta cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste and mix in 1 egg.
Butter a deep 20cm cake tin and line it with one of the sheets of puff pastry. Pour in the spinach mixture and transfer the tin to the fridge to chill for about 30 minutes.
Carefully make four large holes in the spinach mixture with a spoon, big enough to take an entire egg each. Then break 1 egg into each of the holes.
Cut an 18cm circle out of the second sheet of puff pastry. Place it carefully over the top of the mixture, and use a sharp knife to score a cross in the pastry over the eggs so that when you come to cut the pie you will cut the eggs in half.
Beat the remaining egg with a fork and paint the disc of pastry with it. Gently fold down the edges of the pastry lining to join up with the disk and seal the pie. Paint the top of the pie with the beaten egg and put the whole thing in the fridge for 30 minutes.
While the pie is in the fridge, preheat the oven to 180°C.
Remove the pie from the fridge and, if you want to, score a pattern on the top of the pie with a sharp knife. Make a small hole in the centre of the pie with the knife, paint one final layer of beaten egg on the top, and bake it in the oven for 1 hour.
Allow the pie to cool completely, and then cut into eight portions using the cross on the top as a guide.
Happy Easter to everyone!
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