Torta Pasqualina is the name of a traditional Italian Easter pie made with puff pastry, vegetables such as spinach, chard or artichokes, ricotta cheese and eggs.
It’s a famous Ligurian dish, especially in the Genoa area, nowadays popular all over Italy.
In this recipe of Torta Pasqualina we use chard, respecting the tradition. In fact, at Easter the humble chard was in full bloom and everyone could afford to buy large quantities. Artichokes, on the other hand, were very expensive.
In addition, this savory pie is made with puff pastry. It used to be made with thirty-three sheets of very thin dough, one for each year of Jesus’ life!
In Italy, every family has its own Torta Pasqualina recipe: there are those who use artichokes or spinach instead of Swiss chard; who add a little pancetta to the mixture; who prefer crescenza cheese instead of ricotta.
Whatever you choose, the most important thing for an authentic Torta Pasqualina is that the eggs must be whole and baked inside the pie.
Now follow this step-by-step recipe and find out how to make the perfect Torta Pasqualina from scratch!
Torta Pasqualina: Ingredients
- Prep Time:30 Min
- Cook Time:50 Min
- Servings: 6
Doses are for a round cake pan with a diameter of 20 cm (8 inch)
Step 1) – Carefully wash the leaves of the chard or spinach, depending on your choice of vegetable. Place them in a large pot with a little water.
Cover and cook over a low heat for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the filling.
In a bowl, mix the ricotta, Parmigiano, Pecorino Romano and 1 egg. Mix all the ingredients together. Season to taste with a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Step 2) – Now drain the vegetables and squeeze them well with your hands to remove all the water.
You can leave the chard whole or chop it up as you prefer. We’ve left them whole.
Add them to the mixture. Mix well to combine all the ingredients.
Step 3) – Take an 8-inch round cake pan and line it with baking paper. Then line it with one of the puff pastry sheets.
Fill with the cheese and Swiss chard mixture.
Make three small holes in the vegetable mixture, evenly spaced. Place a whole raw egg in each hole.
Step 4) – Finally, cut a 20 cm (8 inch) circle from the second sheet of pastry. Gently place it over the top of the mixture.
Close the pie by folding down the edges of the pastry to join with the disk.
Bake in a preheated oven at 180°C (350°F) for 50 minutes.
Serve the Torta Pasqualina hot or let it cool down at room temperature.
How to Store Italian Torta Pasqualina
You can store Torta Pasqualina in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days, covered with plastic wrap or in an airtight container.
Before storing, it’s important to allow the cake to cool completely at room temperature. This will prevent condensation from forming inside the container, which could make the cake too moist.
If you have leftover Pasqualina cake, you can also freeze it to keep it longer. Wrap it in plastic wrap or put it in a food bag and place it in the freezer.
To defrost, simply let it sit at room temperature for a few hours before reheating it in a microwave or conventional oven.
Torta Pasqualina can be frozen for up to one month.
How to Serve Torta Pasqualina?
Torta Pasqualina is a typical Ligurian dish traditionally served during the Easter holidays. Here is how to serve it:
Divide the cake into portions: the Pasqualina cake is often quite large, so you can divide it into portions of the right size for your group of guests.
We recommend reheating the cake before serving: torta pasqualina can be served cold or warm, but many people prefer it slightly warmed. You can reheat it in a 180°C (350°F) oven for about 10 to 15 minutes.
Torta Pasqualina: Some Variations and Tips
Torta Pasqualina with chard is the most popular and traditional Ligurian recipe. However, you can always adapt the recipe to your taste.
If you like richer and stronger flavors, here is a variation on the traditional recipe: after cooking the chard, mix it in a pan with chopped onions, a clove of minced garlic and a sprig of chopped parsley. The result is incredibly tasty, perfectly balanced by the delicacy of the ricotta.
Umbrian Easter cake: Crescia di Pasqua
There are several variations of Torta Pasqualina in many regions of Italy. One example is the Umbrian recipe for Torta Pasqualina called “Crescia di Pasqua“.
In Italy, this dish opens the meal on Resurrection Sunday and is used instead of bread. It’s like a soft bread made with grated cheese that is sliced and eaten with various cold cuts.
Neapolitan Easter cake: Pizza Chiena
Halfway between the typical Genoese and Umbrian versions is the Neapolitan Torta Pasqualina, called “Pizza Chiena”: a savory pie with a very rich filling of eggs, cheese and various cold cuts.
Authentic Torta Pasqualina with Artichokes
You can use seasonal vegetables that are perfect for this recipe. For example, try Torta Pasqualina with artichokes for a more intense flavor.
Thoroughly clean the artichokes. Slice them and cook in a pan with a little onion.
Finally, use them to make the filling of your Torta Pasqualina!
Traditional Torta Pasqualina with Asparagus
Another seasonal vegetable often used as a variation in this Italian Easter pie is asparagus, a symbol of the arrival of spring!
The flavor of asparagus goes perfectly with that of eggs, parmigiano and ricotta.
Wash the asparagus and cut off the tough part of the stalk. Cook the asparagus in a pan with a drizzle of oil, a little bit of water and salt. They will be ready in about 15 minutes.
Finally, follow the last steps of the recipe for Torta Pasqualina.
History of Torta Pasqualina Recipe
The history of the Torta Pasqualina has ancient origins, dating back to the 16th century.
It was mentioned by the literary scholar Hortensio Lando in his “Catalogo de gli inventori delle cose che si mangiano et si bevono” (Catalog of the inventors of things that are eaten and drunk).
He calls it “gattafura”, which is its ancient name. It was called this way because it was so good that the cats “furavano” it, that is, stole it.
The original Pasqualina was made with a dough of 33 very thin layers. A number chosen not by chance, to symbolize the years of Jesus Christ.
It was made with only water, flour, salt and extra virgin Ligurian olive oil.
The filling, on the other hand, was made with “prescinseua”, a particular soft cheese with a consistency halfway between yogurt and ricotta, which is very difficult to find outside Liguria and is therefore often replaced by ricotta.
They also used chard, the most common and cheapest vegetable, and whole eggs, a symbol of life and rebirth, the return of spring and the victory of life over death.
In ancient times, not everyone had an oven at home, so the Pasqualina cake was taken to the baker to be baked. In order to recognize one’s own, the anagram of the family was engraved on the edge with a knife.
Over the centuries, the original recipe has been enriched with the addition of ingredients such as artichokes, spinach and asparagus, but the classic version remains the most beloved and popular in Italy.