Torta Pasqualina: Easter Greens & Ricotta Cake

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Torta Pasqualina
Celebrate the end of Lent with torta Pasqualina, a savory Easter cake.

Easter is a relaxed holiday. There’s a saying “Natale con i tuoi. Pasqua con chi vuoi.” Christmas with your family. Easter with whomever you like. In Italy the Easter celebration spills over to Monday, called La Pasquetta, when Italians like to eat al fresco or go on a picnic.

Torta Pasqualina, Easter cake, is traditionally served as an antipasto on the Easter table. Torta Pasqualina is best at room temperature so it’s good to go for your picnic too.

The torta includes traditional symbolic Easter foods. Before modern production, eggs were costly and only available this time of year so eggs and tender leafy greens are a reminder of spring awakening.

The dough for the crust is fun to make. It’s pliable enough so that you can stretch it and roll it out really thin. If making dough doesn’t sound like fun to you, use puff pastry instead.

Chard and baby spinach sautéed with onion in olive oil and brightened by fresh marjoram forms the first layer. Ricotta whipped light and fluffy with egg and parmigiano creates the second layer topped with a golden phyllo-like crust.

Spring lamb, “the Lamb of God” in all those Renaissance paintings, is a symbol of Christ’s sacrifice. So baby spring lamb is another traditional Easter food. If you’re looking for an Easter main course check out my abbacchio video, baby spring lamb roasted with rosemary and garlic served with golden potato wedges. And if you want help with the other courses, check out my Easter recipe roundup.

Buona Pasqua! Buon Appetito!

 

Torta Pasqualina: Easter Chard & Ricotta Pie
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Antipasto
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
Crust
  • 2½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2½ cups flour
  • 1½ cups water
Filling
  • 1 pound swiss chard
  • 1 pound spinach
  • 1 bunch of spring onions (or half an onion)
  • 1 pound ricotta, drained
  • ½ cup grated parmigiana
  • 9 eggs
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh marjoram
  • 2 tablespoons chopped Italian flat parsley
  • sea salt freshly ground black pepper
Instructions
Crust
  1. You want to end up with 4 sheets, 2 for the base of a 10" inch spring form pan and 2 for the top crust.
  2. Dissolve the salt in the water then add the oil and stir.
  3. Put the flour in a large bowl. Add the water mixture.
  4. Mix the flour with a fork or knead it with you hand.
  5. When a dough has formed put it on a lightly-floured surface and knead it until it becomes smooth, about 2 or 3 minutes.
  6. Form the dough into a ball, wrap with plastic film and let sit at room temperature for about an hour.
Filling-Greens
  1. Blanch the chard and spinach in simmering water for about 3 minutes. Drain the greens and let them cool on a plate.
  2. When cool squeeze all the water out of the greens. You want them very dry.
  3. Roughly chop the greens.
  4. Chop the onion.
  5. Over medium-high heat put 2-tablespoons olive oil in a large saute pan.
  6. When the oil starts to ripple add the onion and cook until the onion starts to turn translucent.
  7. Add the greens to the pan, add sea salt and pepper and mix well. Cook until the greens are tender.
  8. Put the greens in a bowl and add the chopped marjoram and let the greens cool.
  9. Put the ricotta in another bowl. Beat 3 eggs and add them to the ricotta along ¼ cup grated parmigiano, parsley, nutmeg (which I forgot to add in the video) and sea salt and black pepper to taste. Whisk all the ingredients together so that the ricotta mixture is well blended and fluffy.
Assembly
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Divide the dough in 4, roll 2 larger dough pieces (about 10 oz. each) to a thin sheet about a 13-inch diameter and the smaller balls (about 7 oz.) and roll out to to a thin sheet about 10-inches.
  3. Brush the bottom and sides of the baking pan well with olive oil.
  4. Spread one larger sheet of the pastry and spread it with evenly over the bottom of the pan and about up the side.
  5. Brush the pastry all over with oil.
  6. Put the second pastry sheet, put it on top of the first sheet and pat it so that the second sheet adheres to the first.
  7. Add the greens to the baking pan and spread them evenly over the bottom crust.
  8. Add the ricotta mixture and spread it evenly over the greens.
  9. Make an indentation with the back of the spoon in the center and then 5 indentations spread evenly mid-way between the center and the edge of the pan.
  10. Separate 6 eggs. Put an egg yolk in each indentation.
  11. Lightly beat the egg whites and spread a thin layer of the whites on top of the ricotta mixture and sprinkle grated parmigiano all over.
  12. Completely cover the top the ricotta layer with one of the smaller sheets. Press it to adhere to the side crust and brush it with olive oil.
  13. Lay the last small sheet on top to fully cover the cake and press this last sheet gently to adhere to the side crust.
  14. Cut off any dough that hangs over the side of the baking pan. Roll down the remaining dough on the sides, crimp with your fingers to form the edge of the crust an the circumference of the cake. Gently depress the edge with a fork to create a pretty top edge.
  15. Brush the top of the cake with olive oil.
  16. Bake the cake in the oven until the top crust is golden, about 45 minutes.
  17. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

Black Kale Steam/Sauteed with Garlic & Chili

Tuscan Black Kale
Tuscan Black Kale
Tuscan black kale will make you want to devour your veggies!

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I love leafy vegetables cooked using this easy steam/saute method. You can have delicious and healthy vegetables on your table in about 15 minutes.

Heat up olive oil, garlic and chili flakes in a big pan. Throw in the leafy greens and coat them all with the oil. Add a little water and bring it to a rapid simmer. Cover the pan.

In a few minutes take off the lid and let the water evaporate. Saute the wilted greens in the garlic-infused oil until they’re tender.

All of the healthy vegetable goodness stays in the pan and the perfectly cooked tender greens flecked with garlic and chili flake glisten in the sheen of the olive oil.

Choose your favorite leafy vegetable, chard, brocolli rabe, escarole. But don’t be limited to greens. The steam/saute method works with most vegetables.

I cooked a vegetable with many names. Black kale because of its color. Dino(saur) kale because of the large leaf’s rough surface. Tuscan kale from the region in Italy where it is a favored ingredient for ribollita, the famous Tuscan twice boiled soup.

Call it what you want. Just make some soon. It’s vegan, Mediterranean, and if you leave out the bread, it’s even paleo!

The intense slightly bitter kale flavor is mellowed by the buttery olive oil. The heat of the chili flake warms your throat with each swallow.

Eat a bowl of kale as a light lunch or serve it as a side for your main course. Have a hunk of crusty bread handy to sop up the sauce that’s left on the plate.

Italians eat fantastic food but the Mediterranean Diet, most prominent in southern Italy, is healthy as well. I eat lots of vegetables and fruits locally grown and in season, legumes, nuts and grains. I love fish. Extra virgin olive oil is my fat of choice. I eat meat in moderation and sweets from time to time.

My meals are delicious and nutritious. Yours can be too.

So eat your vegetables! Roast some sausage to serve with steam/sauteed broccoli rabe for a complete meal. Or for something entirely different make a green bean and red onion salad.

Gianni’s Tip: I removed the thick tough stem at the base of each kale leaf. I saved the stems as I do with all my vegetable trimmings. Set the trimmings aside and throw them in the pot the next time you make a broth or soup for extra flavor. If you don’t use the trimmings immediately, just bag them and put them in the freezer for later.

Use it all up. Head towards zero waste in your kitchen. You’ll be happy and the planet will be too.

Buon appetito!

5.0 from 2 reviews
Black Kale Steam/Sauteed with Garlic & Chili
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: vegetables
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 2 bunches of kale (look for "Lacinato" on the tag) or your favorite leafy vegetable
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • ⅛ teaspoon crushed hot red pepper flakes
  • sea salt to taste
  • ½ cup water
Instructions
  1. Wash the kale well.
  2. Cut out the tough stem as the bottom of each leaf.
  3. Cut the kale into 2 inch ribbons.
  4. Put the olive oil, pepper flakes and garlic in a large pot with a lid and heat the oil over medium heat until the garlic just starts to turn translucent.
  5. Add the kale and sea salt to taste.
  6. Pour in the water, bring to a rapid simmer, and cover the pot tightly with the lid.
  7. Steam, lifting the lid to stir occasionally, until the kale is wilted, about 5 minutes.
  8. Uncover and cook over medium heat until the liquid is mostly evaporated and the kale is tender, about 5 minutes.
  9. Serve immediately.

 

Friday Recipe: Pasta Fave, Aglione e Guanciale con Ricotta Secca

Viola Buitoni and the spring vegetables

Viola Buitoni was holding a cooking class in the kitchen at the Italian Consulate on top of Pacific Heights last week, overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, and I was invited. Le delize di primavera (springtime delights) were on the menu. Viola is a wonderful cook and teacher. I learned some great recipes and kitchen tips as we celebrated spring vegetables with simple and quick preparations.

We set out some fava beans, thinly sliced pancetta and a young Tuscan pecorino cheese so we could nibble as we began our work.

As we munched, I put the sliced rustic Acme bread in the oven to toast and made a fava puree. We prepared two more spreads in about 10 minutes – sheep ricotta flavored with orange zest, nutmeg, fresh majoram and drizzled with EVOO and a lardo spread.

Our tummies satisfied for now we made pasta with fave, green garlic and guanciale. A torta with ricotta, baby chard and prosciutto was put in the oven. Peas sauteed with spring onion and prosciutto and a frittata with fava and borage leaves were cooked on top of the stove as the torta baked. For dessert I made a cooked crema topped with cherries cooked in their own liquid.

Here’s my adaptation of Viola’s pasta recipe for you to enjoy. It serves 4-6 people. The sauce can me made in less time than it takes to cook the pasta. Buon appetito!

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