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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!
- 2½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2½ cups flour
- 1½ cups water
- 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
- 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.
- Dissolve the salt in the water then add the oil and stir.
- Put the flour in a large bowl. Add the water mixture.
- Mix the flour with a fork or knead it with you hand.
- When a dough has formed put it on a lightly-floured surface and knead it until it becomes smooth, about 2 or 3 minutes.
- Form the dough into a ball, wrap with plastic film and let sit at room temperature for about an hour.
- Blanch the chard and spinach in simmering water for about 3 minutes. Drain the greens and let them cool on a plate.
- When cool squeeze all the water out of the greens. You want them very dry.
- Roughly chop the greens.
- Chop the onion.
- Over medium-high heat put 2-tablespoons olive oil in a large saute pan.
- When the oil starts to ripple add the onion and cook until the onion starts to turn translucent.
- Add the greens to the pan, add sea salt and pepper and mix well. Cook until the greens are tender.
- Put the greens in a bowl and add the chopped marjoram and let the greens cool.
- 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.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- 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.
- Brush the bottom and sides of the baking pan well with olive oil.
- Spread one larger sheet of the pastry and spread it with evenly over the bottom of the pan and about up the side.
- Brush the pastry all over with oil.
- 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.
- Add the greens to the baking pan and spread them evenly over the bottom crust.
- Add the ricotta mixture and spread it evenly over the greens.
- 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.
- Separate 6 eggs. Put an egg yolk in each indentation.
- 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.
- 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.
- Lay the last small sheet on top to fully cover the cake and press this last sheet gently to adhere to the side crust.
- 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.
- Brush the top of the cake with olive oil.
- Bake the cake in the oven until the top crust is golden, about 45 minutes.
- Serve warm or at room temperature.