Torta Pasqualina

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i was lucky to travel to italy many years back when i was still in school. i was there over the spring and had the pleasure of experiencing easter mass at the vatican. it was a mass filled with traditions. italy is full of tradition and when it comes to food there is no exception. it was while i was in italy that i really began my true passion for food. i was lucky enough to take a cooking class as part of my studies, and being that it was the easter (pasqua in italian) season we learned to make torta pasqualina. it is traditionally served during this time of year and is a savory flan filled with green vegetables, ricotta, and eggs. in fact it is seen as luck if you cut into it and get an egg in your slice. 

Crust Ingredients:

  • 4 1/2 cups flour (600g)
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbls olive oil

Filling Ingredients:

  • 500 g spinach (2 large pre-washed spinach)
  • 1 leek (diced)
  • 1 small onion (diced)
  • 1 clove garlic (minced)
  • 4 sprigs of thyme (leaves only)
  • 2 cup parmigiano reggiano cheese (grated)
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 3 eggs
  • 8 sage leaves
  • nutmeg
  • salt and pepper
  • 6 egg yolks and 6 egg whites

Equipment:

  • springform pan
  • stand mixer with dough hook
  • kitchen scale
  • large pot or dutch oven

Directions:

in a stand mixer with a dough hook, combine flour and salt and mix slightly. add water and mix slightly to incorporate some water into the flour then add the oil and let mix for a minute or two until a dough ball starts to form. remove dough and begin to need on a large well floured surface for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. cut the dough into 4 parts, with two of the pieces being slightly larger. a kitchen scale comes in handy for this, as you want the large pieces to be about 300 grams and the smaller pieces to be about 185 grams. cover with a damp cloth and let rest for about 1 hour (this give you time to make the filling).

dice up the leek (after washing it well to remove all the dirt trapped between the blades), onion and garlic. in a very large stock pot or large dutch oven, heat some oil and add the leeks. cook for a few minutes to let the soften, then add the onion, garlic, and thyme leaves. season with some salt and pepper and cook the onion until it begins to become translucent (about 4 minutes). begin to add handfuls of spinach to the pot and keep adding more as it wilts down until all the spinach has been added. stir continuously until all the spinach has wilted. add more salt and pepper to taste. place out the spinach filling onto a sheet tray to cool.

in a bowl combine ricotta and 1 cup parmigiano cheese. chop up the sage leaves and add it to the cheese mixture, along with a healthy grating of nutmeg, pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. mix well and taste to see if it needs more nutmeg, or salt. add in two eggs and mix well.

once the spinach is cool enough to touch and handle, grab a handful at a time and squeeze into a ball over the sink to try and squeeze out the moisture. wrap the ball in a paper towel and squeeze again to get as much moisture out. set the small ball onto a cutting board and repeat with the remaining spinach. dice up each ball of spinach and place into a bowl. add 1 cup parmigiano and 1 egg and mix well. 

pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. oil a spring form pan and set aside. flour a large surface area to roll out the dough. grab one of the larger pieces of dough and begin to roll it out until it is thin and approximately 2 feet in diameter. gently place the thin layer into the spring form pan so that it creates a flat surface, then runs up the sides of the pan and drapes over the edge. brush this layer with oil and repeat with the second piece of dough. once the two have been draped it's now time to fill in the torta. spoon in the spinach first creating a smooth even layer. then spoon in the ricotta cheese on top. create 5 evenly distributed dimples into the ricotta cheese and place an egg yolk in each dimple (you should have 1 egg yolk remaining). whip the egg whites slightly and then pour on top of the ricotta and egg yolks.  roll out one of the smaller pieces of dough into a thin layer about 1 1/2 feet in diameter and drape over the torta, sealing in the filling. brush with oil and repeat with the last piece of dough. trim the draped dough by cutting along the top of the spring form pan, then roll the dough onto the top of the torta. whip the remaining egg yolk and brush it over the top of the torta. bake for 1 hour. after an hour, if the top is not lightly brown and cooked through, brush with oil and cook for another 10-15 minutes. let cool slightly before cutting into it.