Torta pasqualina

Spinach, egg & ricotta pies (Torta Pasqualina)

Market ingredient: Cavolo nero
Difficulty: Medium. The dough requires a bit of love and labour.
Deliciousness: Simple cheesy fun
Did The Beard like it? Yes, but not seasoned enough for his Lebanese, hungover taste buds.

Buona pasqua, tutti! I hope everyone is having a thoroughly enjoyable long weekend of over-indulgence. In honour of this Pagan-Christian (whichever way you swing) festival, I thought it would be rude not to cook something a little festive. My challenge this week was:

  1. Create something with the delicious bunches of cavolo nero found at Kurrajong Organics stall this week,
  2. Make something Easter-y, and who better to turn to for inspiration than those proud staunch Catholics, the Italians,
  3. Prove a certain Italian HTML developer that people outside of his homeland can actually cook,
  4. Make sure the weekend wasn’t all about sweet stuff, since Ruski and her adoration for Sarah Wilson has now made me a little paranoid about all things sugary.

So when I discovered this recipe on Gourmet Traveller, it seemed like the perfect dish for the Easter weekend. “Torta Pasqualina” in Italian loosely translates to “Easter cake” (although the afore-mentioned Italian may choose to correct me here), and it combines spinachy-greens with ricotta and parmesan, and whole eggs baked into the mixture. Eggs = Easter, right? It’s apparently traditional to make this as 1 big pie, but upon doing a little research, I thought it would be nice to make it as small individual pies.

Individual pies (torta pasqualina)

Bunch of cavolo nero

The recipe calls for mixed greens such as silverbeet, cavolo nero and “frisee”, which I have to admit, I had to Google it as I had no idea what it was. It’s endive – why couldn’t they just say that? With a huge bunch of cavolo nero purchased, I’ve ignored the “mixed” part of the greens ingredient and just rolled with what I had. Another recipe for the same dish includes lemon rind, parsley and grilled artichoke, which I liked, but I didn’t have any artichoke on hand. So it’s a bit of a mix-and-match of a couple of recipes.

Ingredients for individual Torte Pasqualine

Makes 6

  • 6 eggs
  • good glug of olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • a couple of cloves of garlic
  • 350g bunch of cavolo nero
  • handful of flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 300g firm ricotta
  • 30g grated parmesan
  • grated rind of 1 lemon

Olive oil pastry

  • 500g plain flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1tbsp of extra virgin olive oil

Instructions for cooking Torte Pasqualine

  1. For the olive oil pastry, combine the flour and salt in a bowl, and make a well in the centre. Pour the oil and about 160ml of luke-warm water into the well and mix to combine. Turn onto a lightly floured bench and knead until smooth. Separate into 6 small balls, cover and rest for 1 hour.Ingredients for pie dough and individual balls of dough
  2. Place the 6 eggs in the freezer to chill (it will stop them from overcooking in the pies).  Heat olive oil in a pan and sautee the onions and garlic until translucent. Remove from heat and place into a food processor.
  3. Blanch the cavolo nero and parsley in boiling water for a minute, or until it is bright green, drain and refresh under cold water. Squeeze the excess water from the greens and transfer to the food processor. Add the beaten egg, ricotta, parmesan and lemon rind, season to taste. Process the mixture until smooth.Cavolo nero and ricotta mixture blended together
  4. Pre-heat the oven to 200C. Roll out each piece of pastry into thin pieces and line 6 lightly oiled individual ramikens or pie moulds, allowing the pastry to hang over the edge. Fill each ramiken about 2/3 with the ricotta mixture. Make an indent in the middle and crack a single, chilled egg into the middle. Brush the edges of the pastry lightly with oil and fold the pastry over the top of the mixture, pleating as you go.Individual Torte before covering and then covered
  5. Brush the tops of the pies lightly with oil and season, then place in the oven for about 15-20 minutes, or until the pastry is golden.Torte Pasqualine after removing from the oven
  6. Stand for about 10 minutes, turn out of the moulds (you may need to run a small knife around the edge to loosen the pie), then eat!  Delicious!
I’d definitely do these babies again, although I did feel like it needed some work. Next time I would:
  • Consider using a Mix Master with a dough-hook to make the pastry dough. I do love the feeling of kneading dough, but this dough is much tougher and stretchier than a bread dough, so it was kind of hard work kneading it out.
  • The original recipe only mentioned using 80ml of lukewarm water in the dough and I found this to be NOWHERE near enough. The dough wasn’t even close to forming.  I don’t know exactly how much additional water I put in, but I think it was pretty close to being double the amount.
  • The mixture, whilst tasty, felt a little dry. I haven’t yet worked out what I might need to do to make it less so; some additional olive oil in the mixture, perhaps?  The ricotta itself was fairly dry so perhaps a less firm ricotta would have been better.
  • I also would have seasoned it a little more, or I might just try a saltier cheese, like fetta.
  • Smaller eggs, like quail eggs, would probably work quite nicely for the centre of the pies. Chicken eggs still worked perfectly, but I think small quail eggs would be nicely contained within the torta.
So the recipe was nice, but needed work. Matteo, I’m waiting for it… “It’s just not how we make it in I-taly….”
Finished Torta with salad and cut down the middle showing the cooked egg

2 thoughts on “Torta pasqualina

  1. I was waiting for this and looks like I can’t use the sentence that made me famous all around Sydney this time 😉 But i can give you a couple of tips as I checked on an Italian website how to make the torta pasqualina (the website is in Italian but they do have a youtube channel in English if that can interest you). In their version they used marjoram, nutmeg and a creamy ricotta. Hope this helps and buona pasqua

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