Torta Pasqualina (Ligurian Easter Tart)

Torta Pascualina is a traditional Easter dish of Ligurian origin, in northern Italy. It is a savory tart filled with spinach, ricotta and whole boiled eggs. It is perfect for a brunch and can be served hot or at room temperature.

The original recipe was made with thirty-three sheets of very thin pastry dough stacked together with olive oil or lard. Each layer represented one year of Jesus’ life. Nowadays the recipe has been simplified and most bakers use puff pastry or a flaky dough for the crust.

The most interesting aspect of the torta pasqualina is the eggs baked inside. When you cut the tart you can see the egg sliced through. It is a showstopper!

serves 8

For the dough

  • 2 ½ cups All Purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 ½ stick cold butter (6 ounces)
  • 1 egg
  • water as needed (about 3 tablespoons)

For the filling

  • 1 tablespoons olive oil plus extra for the pan
  • 1 clove fresh garlic, peeled & minced  
  • 1 pound fresh spinach or swiss chard (or a combination)
  • salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 pounds ricotta cheese, drained
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 4 eggs, beaten to blend
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour 
  • 6 small eggs
  • 1 tablespoon chilled butter, but into 6 slivers

To make the dough

In a bowl or on a cool surface, mix together the flour, salt and baking powder. Cut the cold butter into 1/2-inch pieces. Add the cubed butter to the dry ingredients and, using a bowl scraper, cut in the butter until the butter pieces are approximately the size of dried lentils (about 1/8 inch), working quickly to avoid melting the butter. Form a well in the mixture and pour some of the water and the egg into the well. Begin to combine the water into the flour/butter mixture. Be careful not to overwork the dough at this stage. Add more water as needed until all of the dough comes together. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (or freeze for 20 minutes), up to overnight, to relax the gluten. In heavy large saucepan cook spinach and/or chard over high heat with olive oil and garlic (2 minutes), stirring frequently.  Drain; squeeze dry. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let it cool. Blend in ricotta, all but 2 tablespoons of Parmigiano Reggiano, the four eggs blended and flour. 

Brush a 10-inch springform pan with oil.  Cut dough into 2 pieces. Shape each piece into ball. Flatten one ball into disc, keeping remaining dough covered with plastic wrap to prevent drying. Roll disc out on lightly floured surface into 15-inch round large enough to cover bottom and sides of pan. Fold in half. Fit into prepared pan and unfold. Brush lightly with oil. Pour in filling and smooth top with a spatula. With back of moistened spoon, make 6 indentations in filling. Break 1 egg into each well (if eggs are too large, separate the egg and add the yolk and just some of the white). Sprinkle evenly with remaining 2 tablespoons Parmigiano Reggiano. Preheat oven to 400 F. degrees. Roll remaining piece of dough out on lightly floured surface, layering in pan and brushing with olive oil. Trim and flute edges, save scraps. Brush top and rim with oil. Pierce top of pie with toothpick, being careful not to break eggs. Roll out any scraps into a round. Cut out decorations. Affix to top of pie.

Bake pie 1 hour (if top begins browning too quickly, cover loosely with foil).  Cool slightly before serving. Can be prepared 3-4 days ahead, wrapped and chilled. Bring to room temperature or warm gently in oven before serving.