Torta Pasqualina is the classic of the classics at Easter when you want to celebrate this religious festival with family and friends. It’s the main king of any picnics. Rich in colors, spectacular, toothsome, it wonderfully welcomes the spring.
Originally from Liguria, notably from Genoa, now it enriches Eastern lunches all over Italy: multilayered puff pastry encloses a delicious stuffing which celebrates fresh seasonal vegetables.
The puff pastry usually contains spinach or chard, ricotta cheese (or a typical cheese from Liguria whose difficult name, “prescinseua”, I can’t pronounce myself. I can’t be found outside Liguria easily), and the baked eggs you can clearly see when you cut the pie.
According to the tradition, the puff pastry is said to have been made with thirty-three thin sheets, one for every year of Jesus‘ life. Number 33 is part of the legend, but actually the puff pastry has been made of 24 sheets since 1930, which is a reasonable number. I mean, 24 very thin layered sheets of puff pastry one- believe me, it is a very challenging task: each sheet must be as then as paper.
In the past, the anagram of the family name used to be carved on the edge of the pie with a knife: it was not a whim, but it was the only way to recognize the one family’s pie from the others as they were baked in the common oven of the village baker.
The original recipe has always wanted chard, but when Pasqualina Pie spread all over Italy, in some Regions it was replaced with artichokes. Anyway, the stuffing indisputably fits vegetarian people, because it does not contain any meat, for sure.
Of course, you may encounter plenty of variations, spinach instead of chard; in autumn mushrooms. This is a genuine recipe from the old peasant tradition: farmers’ housewives used seasonal products from their area; on the other hand, artichoke used to be very expensive!
No, the genuine Pasqualina pie does not contain any meat
A few recipes of Pasqualina pie from all around the world add some meat or ham which makes the pie richer and gives a stronger taste but the Italian recipe doesn’t not want any meat.
Such a variations would allow only a very little meat, because it already contains two sources of protein: eggs and ricotta, cheese: a significant quantity of meat would make the dish too rich and difficult to digest.
Keep in mind that this pie perfectly suits picnics; after lunch a nice walk or some games or chats with friends are welcomed: if it is too rich, you will just have a nap all together!
Anyway, this is 100% vegetarian recipe! I can’t wait! I feel like tasting it!
A few trick for a perfect Pasqualina pie
- Roll out the puff pastry in very thin sheets, the pie will be very flaky after the cooking;
- Brush the layers with little oil: the base of the pie will be scrumptiously flaky. Otherwise the layers will stick together in a hard block;
- Strain the ricotta cheese perfectly: the filling mustn’t be too moist;
- Prick the top carefully, it won’t break during the baking.
Easy and delightful Northern Italian Easter Pie recipe with ricotta cheese
For the puff pastry
- 800 gr wheat flour type 00
- 2 tbsp oil
- lukewarm water
- 1 tbs salt
For the stuffing
- 1 kg fresh or frozen chard, of spinach, or artichoke
- 1 medium yellow onion
- some twigs fish marjoram
- freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- 500 gr cow’s milk ricotta
- 2 glasses cream
- 2 tbsp flour
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 4-6 eggs
- salt and pepper
- Prepare the dough: place 500g of flour on the pasta board and make a well in the center where you pour 330ml of lukewarm water, the oil, and the salt. With the tips of your hands gently incorporate the flour from the sides of the well a little at a time;
- It the dough is dry, add some more water; knead well until a smooth and elastic dough forms;
- Knead vigorously with the palms for about 15 minutes, regularly turn the dough at the right angles;
- Add the flour until the dough can absorb it, about 700g; you will use the remaining flour to roll the sheets out;
- Divide the dough into 6 or 7 small even balls;
- Let sit the balls under a dampened tea towel until the stuffing is ready;
- Wash the chard leaves under running water and discard the tough stems;
- Boil the chard in plenty of slightly salted water; you may also steam it;
- Carefully squeeze the chard and spread it onto a tray;
- In a pan, sweat the onion with little oil over high heat and add the chard. Sauté for a few minutes without lid until all its juice has evaporated and season with salt and pepper; remove from the oven and let it cool down;
- Add about 50-60g of freshly grated Parmigiano and the chopped marjoram leaves, toss evenly;
- Strain ricotta cheese (you may use your hands, or let it rest for a few hours in a strainer on a bowl) and transfer it into a bowl with 2 tbsp of flour and the cream; add the chard and mix it until well combined;
- Now, go back to the dough and roll out the balls in very thin round sheets; they should be larger than your baking pan and as tin as pasta sheets; flour the board and the rolling pin, so the dough won’t get sticky;
- Grease or line a baking pan with parking paper; roll up one sheet of dough one the rolling pin and drape it over the pan;
- Brush the pastry with oil and roll out at least other two sheets, brushing oil between each layer;
- Do not oil the last sheet, and put the filling into the pan and smooth the top; make four or six hollows evenly spaced in the stuffing and crack 1 egg into each; be careful not to break the yolks;
- Sprinkle each egg with a little grated parmigiano cheese, a splash of oil and little white ground pepper;
- Place the other dough sheets over the top of the mixture brushing oil between each layer;
- Cut the overhanging edges of pastry, and pinch the sheets that overlap to create a decoration on the border: brush it with slightly beaten egg white to seal the pie;
- Brush the top with little melted butter which will keep the pie moist and give a natural golden brown color;
- Prick the top, so it won’t break in the oven;
- Pre-heat the static oven at 180°-190°C (356-374°F) and bake for about 45 minutes to 1 hour according to the dimension of the pie;
- The crust test: if the crust is crispy and golden brown, your Pasqualina Pie is done;
- …I know it smells wonderful, but please try to resist and wait until it cools down! You won’t miss the surprise when you cut it!
How can you store Pasqualina Pie?
Pasqualina pie keeps well in the fridge covered up to 3 days. Once baked and cooled down you may also freeze it in single serving slices. You will have to defrost and heat up the slices in the oven or in the microwave oven before serving.
A few faster and lighter variations
- You may buy brisee or puff pastry. Yes, you can! I won’t tell any people from Liguria. A promise.
- You may use whole grain flour a higher fiber content and a more rustic taste;
- You may replace the cream with the same quantity of thick greek yogurt. The sourer taste will slightly resemble that of the traditional Ligurian cheese (that one whose name I can’t pronounce!);
- Enrich the stuffing with borage and parsley;
- If you want to make chard even more scrumptious, replace onion with shallot;
- You may vary the stuffing to your taste: beet greens, spinach, asparagus, radicchio, artichokes, mushrooms are all delicious substitutes of chard.