Torta Pasqualina (Easter Chard and Ricotta Pie)

By • March 17, 2015 1 Comments

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Author Notes: This pie -- made with fine, almost transparent layers of dough and filled with chard, creamy ricotta and carefully eggs -- is one of Liguria's iconic dishes, next to pesto of course. It has become an essential part of the Italian Easter table ("pasqua" means Easter in Italian).

This is the most traditional way to make a torta pasqualina, but there are many other ways you can approach this pie. To cut a few corners, you could skip the dough and use high-quality, store-bought puff pastry or filo pastry instead (Ottolenghi does his torta pasqualina with all-butter puff pastry). But I do highly recommend trying out this dough and this technique -- it's rather amazing, with a result that is somewhere between puff pastry and filo pastry. You can also combine the ricotta and chard mixture together for one filling rather than separate layers. You can leave out the cracked yolks over the top, if you wish, or you can use whole eggs, if you don't like separating. You can use spinach or any other greens instead of the chard.

This recipe supplies more than enough dough (it's easier to work with more than less), so when you trim it, you will have quite a lot left over -- you could make a focaccia di recco with it (https://food52.com/blog/12384-focaccia-di-recco). Or you can roll out the dough and make decorations for the top of the pie, if you want to get really festive!
Emiko

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Serves 8

For the pastry:

  • 4 cups (500 grams) bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (plus more for brushing dough)
  • 1 1/4 cups (about 310 milliliters) water, or as needed
  1. Place the flour, salt, and olive oil in a bowl and add water, little by little, until you have a dough that is neither dry nor sticky. You may need to add a bit more water, you may not need it all, so I suggest doing this by hand or at least adding the water bit by bit so you can see how the dough behaves.
  2. Once the dough comes together, knead it on a lightly floured surface for 5 to 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic (it should bounce back when poked). Wrap in plastic wrap and let rest for at least 1 hour (you can also prepare this the night before and leave it overnight in the fridge).

For the filling:

  • 2 pounds (1 kilogram) swiss chard (or other greens such as spinach)
  • 1/2 medium brown onion, chopped finely
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 handful fresh marjoram leaves
  • 8 eggs
  • 1 cup (120 grams) grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups (about 350 grams) ricotta
  • 1 pinch ground nutmeg
  1. Remove the central veins of the chard, then cook the leaves until tender, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the water, drain, let cool slightly, then chop finely. Squeeze again to remove as much water as possible (too much liquid will create a soggy base).
  2. In a large pan, sauté the onion in 2 tablespoons olive oil until soft and translucent. Add the chard and toss to combine with the onion, cooking a further 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, add the fresh marjoram leaves, and set aside to cool. When cool, combine 2 beaten eggs and a third of the Parmesan with the chard mixture and set aside until needed.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the ricotta, 2 eggs, a third of the Parmesan, and nutmeg, and season with salt and pepper. Beat until combined. Set aside in the fridge until needed.
  4. To assemble the pie, brush olive oil lightly over a cake tin with a removable base (about 9-10 inches or 23 to 25-centimeter diameter is ideal, but slightly larger sizes work too). Cut the dough into 4 equal portions. Roll the portions out one at a time, keeping the others well covered with a tea towel or plastic wrap. On a large, lightly floured surface, roll the first ball of dough until very thin -- you should be able to see your fingers through the other side.
  5. Lay the dough gently over the cake tin to cover the sides and base. Let the excess dough hang over the edge. Brush the dough lightly with olive oil. Roll out a second ball of dough as before and lay over the first layer of dough the same way. Brush with olive oil, pushing out any air bubbles with the brush as you do so.
  6. Fill the pie base with the chard mixture, smoothing over the top with the back of a spoon. Next, layer over the ricotta mixture, smoothing over the top with the back of a spoon. Then, with the help of a spoon, make 4 round indents over the surface of the ricotta that are big enough to fit an egg yolk in each. Crack the eggs, separating the whites from the yolks. Place the yolks in the indents in the ricotta and the whites in a small bowl. Whisk the whites together with a fork and pour over about half of the whites to make an even layer that just covers the ricotta. Sprinkle over the rest of the Parmesan.
  7. Roll out the third ball of dough as before. Gently lay it over the top of the pie and brush lightly with olive oil. Roll out the last ball of dough and lay it over the top. Trim the dough overhang, leaving about an inch (2 1/2 centimeters) from the edge of the top of the pie, and roll the trim down until it reaches the top of the pie. Brush the top with olive oil and then bake for about 50 minutes at 350° F (180° C) or until the top is golden brown and puffed. (A tip: If you have an oven that doesn't bake well from the bottom, place the pie on the lowest shelf for the first half of the cooking time, then move it up for the second half). Remove the pie from the oven, and let the pie stand for 15 to 20 minutes in the cake tin before removing the tin and cutting into it. Serve warm or even cold -- this makes a great portable picnic dish too.

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Cheese & Dairy|Vegetables|Entrees|Pies & Tarts|Swiss Chard