“Torta Pasqualina” – Italian Easter Egg & Spinach Tart
a great pie that doesn’t need Easter as an excuse to be made
This is my take on the Italian Easter pie “torta pasqualina”. It involves that holy trinity of ingredients: Spinach, cheese and eggs and when they combine in a goodly (Godly?) ratio the result is divine indeed. The secret to any spinach recipe is to flavour it well (here nutmeg, fresh thyme, garlic and onions) else the result tastes like grass cuttings. If the truth be told this particular pie used up a load of leftovers and I added and combined until I liked the texture of the filling. After messing around with the eggs “popping” out of their little indents and a surfeit of egg white which then needed to be scooped off and combined with the rest of the mixture (tedious), I have “re-engineered” and come up with what i think is a faster and more idiot proof method that also guarantees a lighter fluffier filling.
For those of you who are still pastry averse fear not – Just buy filo pastry and let it flop over the edges, brush with a little olive oil between layers and tuck the overhang over the pie (to be continued…)
Traditionally the pie has a pastry lid and then lattice work but i have just put lattice pastry over the filling that i topped with cheese as its a little lighter.
Gadgets & Gizmos
I use a deep professional quiche ring (probably in my top 10 most loved kitchen utensils) but a loose bottomed tin, a quiche dish or a pie dish work well. This pie is meant to be deep (almost pork pieish if that makes sense) so I would choose a deeper dish over say a quiche tin if you have the choice. Traditionally the pie has a pastry lid and then lattice work as well.
Ingredients – for 1 23cm 5cm deep pie. Easily serves 6-8.
1.5 kgs fresh proper spinach not baby spinach (which does seem like an enormous amount of spinach I know)
1 large onion
3 cloves of garlic chopped finely or minced
2 large bunches of parsley roughly chopped (left over rucola would also work well)
400g of white cheese. I used some feta, some “telemea” and some urda. I don’t chop it I crumble it into the mixture with my fingers.
100g grated hard cheese such as cheddar, “cascaval”, parmesan of course traditionally or comte
2 eggs lightly beaten to bind the filling
6 eggs separated (the clever part 😉 )
2 tsp nutmeg
salt & pepper
2 tsp thyme or a good few sprigs fresh thyme. Chopped mint, marjoram, spring onions would also work well
Make one Olive Oil and pastry quiche ring pressing the pastry thinner than normal so you have a small ball left over to make the lattice. If you are worried about this multiple the recipe by 1.2 and you will be fine.
Neatly dice the onion and finely chop/mince the garlic. Put in the base of a pan (your biggest saucepan probably) large enough to accept all the spinach. Add a splash of oil and fry ever so gently until transparent.
While the onion/garlic is frying wash the spinach. No need to dry it as the moisture on the leaves will steam it.
As soon as the onions are translucent throw the spinach on top and cover with a lid. Leave for five minutes. Then stir and encourage the top leaves to feel the heat at the bottom until it is all wilted. There should not be too much liquid left but if there is any pour it off. Dont be depressed at the minuscule quantity that remains – it is meant to disappear like that.
While the spinach is cooling (but doesnt have to be completely chilled) start mixing all the other ingredients together: parsley, the 2 eggs, the egg whites from the 6 eggs, the crumbly white cheeses, the seasonings. Leave the grated cheese aside. Add the spinach and squidge together with your hands.
Now here is the clever bit….
Spread 2/3 of the mixture into the pastry case. Create little indents for the egg yolks to nestle in by pressing down a spoon.
Gently coax each egg yolk into its “nest”.
Top with the grated cheese. Roll your pastry into long sausages or cut into strips and place on top of the pie. I like using the cheese on top as this creates its own kind of crust in place of a top layer of pastry.
Cook at 180C for 30-40 minutes.
Makes a great main course for vegetarian guests and the egg yolks inside look great when you cut it.