Torta Pasqualina is a Ligurian Easter tradition that dates back to the 15th or 16th century. My grandmother used to make this with artichokes instead of spinach, but given the unusual circumstances this year, I couldn't get my hands on artichokes. That said, I love this torta just as much when I make it with spinach. Traditionally, the dough would consist of thirty three layers, symbolizing Christ's age when he was crucified. This recipe uses eight, four for the bottom and four for the top. GIve it a try, and let me know what you think!Note: The ingredients in this recipe are tailored to a 10" spring form pan.
For the dough
- 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 3/4-1 cup water
- scant 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 egg
- pinch of salt
For the filling
- 1 lb fresh spinach chopped
- 1 large onion finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic
- 6 eggs divided
- 16 ounces ricotta cheese
- 3/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano (maybe 1 cup)
- fresh ground nutmeg qb
- salt qb
- pepper qb
- egg wash for the top
For the dough
- Put the flour and salt in a bowl and make a well in the middle.
- Add the egg and the olive oil. Using a fork, break the egg and mix it with the olive oil.
- Then, add the water a little at a time, incorporating it into the flour until you have formed a dough.
- When the dough turns shaggy, use your hands to form it into a ball. Remove from the bowl and knead for about 8-10 minutes, until it is smooth and homogenous. It should very soft and easy to knead.
- Form the dough into a cylinder and cut into eight equal pieces. An easy way to do this is to cut the cylinder in half, then cut the half in half.
- Roll the dough into eight individual balls, and brush with olive oil. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and set aside for at least an hour, or until ready to use. If you let the dough sit over night, it will be easier to stretch with the rolling pin.
For the filling
- Add olive oil to the bottom of a saute pan and heat over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and garlic, season with salt, and pepper and cook until the onions turn transluscent, about 5-7 minutes. Then, remove the mixture from the pan and set aside.
- Add a little more olive oil to the pan and then add the chopped spinach. Season with salt and cook until it is wilted and then transfer it to a colandar to drain the water.
- Add the ricotta cheese and the grated Parmigiano Reggiano to the onion mixture and mix well.
- Once the spinach is cool enough to handle, squeeze out the excess water and add it to the cheese mixture and combine. You can either squeeze out the water by hand, or put the spinach in the middle of a cheese cloth and wring the cloth, squeezing out the water.
- Season with salt and pepper, and the ground nutmeg. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
- Add an egg to filling and mix until well combined. Refrigerate until read to assemble the torta.
To assemble the Torta
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Grease a 9"-10" springform pan and set aside.
- Using a rolling pin, stretch one ball of dough until it measures about 1 mm in thickness. Repeat with three additional balls of dough. I use a peice of parchment paper to cover the dough when I roll. It makes it much easier and keeps it from sticking to the rolling pin.
- Brush the disk of dough with olive oil, sprinkle with flour, and then lay another disk on top. Repeat this layering until you have used all four disks.
- Using the rolling pin, stretch the dough one last time.
- Then, place the dough on the bottom of the spring foam pan, making sure it conforms to the pan, releasing any air bubbles.
- Spread the filling evenly inside the pan.
- Using the back of a spoon, make 5 large holes in the spinach mixture for the eggs. Add one cracked egg to each hole and sprinkle the eggs with salt.
- Trim the excess dough from the pan and begin to work the dough for the top of the torta, using the same technique you used for the bottom, stretching the dough and then layering with olive oil and a sprinkling of flour.
- Lay the top on the torta, and trim the excess dough. Crimp the edges.
- Make a hole in the center of the torta so air can escape as it cooks.
- Brush the top with egg wash and bake at 375°C for 50-60 minutes.
- Let it cool for 15-20 minutes in the springform pan before removing it.