Torta Pasqualina: Traditional Italian Easter ‘Cake’

April 1, 2010

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An early Happy Easter to you all! I’m definitely eager to put my feet up after my stint as a domestic madwoman on speed. I just realised that churningoutposts 4 days in a row when you’ve never done it before was more exhausting than I thought. Photos! So many damn photos!*rocks back and forth*

The hardest thing was trying to write different posts without sounding a) repetitive, b) like a stiff and c) like a w*nker. So forgive me if I verge on b) and c) because when I write a post straight after writing an essay (where you’re trying so desperately to sound mildly intelligent), it takes a while to shake the ‘academic’ out of me and get back to normal.

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But I digress (ugh, wankerism #1!).

From Liguria and the Piemonte region of northern Italy, I give you a Torta Pasqualina. Gorgeous name isn’t it? Mine looks a little ugly with warped out puff pastry sheets but I assure you it’s fabulous for something that is simply pastry, veges and cheese.

The key is to use the best and most freshest ingredients possible, especially fragrant herbs and fresh ricotta. For the love of gawd, do not use supermarket commercial-made ricotta, which is more wet slop than cheese and the taste is just putrid. It’s worth paying a tiny more for fresh ricotta from a deli or you could simple make it yourself and the taste would be far better and more importantly it’s dry and perfect to cook with. Trust me, I tried once when I was at my laziest and I paid the price.

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Normally you’d make your pastry and roll it out as thinly as possible and make a few layers but traditionally there are 33 layers in this ‘pie’ to represent the age of Jesus when he was crucified. I can’t imagine myself rolling out 33 portions of pastry. My lazy ass just wouldn’t allow me on this day so I used my favourite puff pastry and also because the flavour works so beautifully with the cheese. For the veges I used English spinach though silverbeet or cavolo nero are the more traditional choices. I also love making it with leek and fennel on the odd occasion as these are simply, vegetables of the gods.

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 I could never make holes big enough to fit my extra large eggs!

This is everything an Easter dish should be, rustic, homely, comforting and traditional. It also strikes the perfect balance to the mass chocolate orgy that you’d no doubt be participating in after dinner.

And on a final note, have a fabulous Easter!

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Torta Pasqualina


Ingredients

500g English spinach, roughly chopped (can substitute with cavolo nero or silverbeet)
6 eggs (2 for the ricotta, 4 for the pie)
80g finely grated mozzarella (or grated fresh parmesan)
400g fresh ricotta
1/4 cup fresh oregano leaves, roughly chopped (can be substitute with marjoram)
olive oil for brushing
sheets of frozen puff pastry (I used about 3 to cover a 20cm springform tin)

1 egg for the eggwash

Method

Preheat oven to 180°C.

Cook the spinach in a large pot of salted, boiling water for 3-4 minutes, until tender. Drain, then refresh in iced water and drain again thoroughly. You want to extract as much water as you can so the pastry doesn’t get soggy.

In a separate bowl, mix together 2 eggs, fresh ricotta, mozzarella, oregano and season with sea salt and ground black pepper to taste.

In a 5cm deep, 21cm round tart tin with a loose base (a 20cm springform tin will also work), lay down sheets of pastry, brushing a little olive oil between each sheet and making sure to allow enough excess pastry over the sides to cover the pie.

Fill the tart with half of the spinach and then the ricotta mixture, levelling the top. Make 4 indentations in the ricotta and carefully break 1 egg into each hollow, making sure the yolk remains intact. Carefully top with remaining sprinach, then fold the pastry sheets over the top to cover and join up in the middle.

Lightly beat another 1 egg and brush over the tart. Bake for 1 hour or until golden brown.

 

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