Emiko Davies’ torta Pasqualina
Prep 1 hour
Cook 1 hour 10 mins
The name of this iconic pastry translates literally as Easter pie. Made with spring's best offerings, this version is especially well known in the Ligurian town of Ventimiglia. Fresh herbs, leafy greens, creamy fresh ricotta and an abundance of eggs are all enclosed in fine, almost transparent layers of dough that are similar to Liguria’s paper-thin focaccia di recco. Made with just flour, water and a touch of olive oil, the dough is rolled and stretched until almost transparent then layered to create a crisp and flaky crust. If you want to cut some corners, you could use a quality store-bought butter puff pastry, but for me the homemade dough is the best part of this recipe. Traditionally, the cheese used for this pie is Genovese prescinsêua, a fresh, tangy curd that is rare outside Liguria, so a touch of thick natural yoghurt added to fresh ricotta is the next best thing.
1kg leafy green vegetables, such as silverbeet (chard) (about 3 bunches)
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
½ onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh marjoram leaves (optional)
350g drained fresh firm ricotta
120g finely grated Parmesan cheese
3 tbsp thick Greek yoghurt
Pinch of ground nutmeg
4 egg yolks
500g bread flour
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing
1 tsp salt
1¼ cups (310ml) water
1. For pastry, combine flour, olive oil and salt in a bowl. Stir in the water little by little until you have a smooth dough that is neither dry nor sticky. You may need to add a bit more water, you may not need it all, so I suggest doing this by hand so you can see how the dough behaves. Once it comes together into a ball, knead on a lightly floured surface until the dough is smooth and elastic (5-10 minutes; it should bounce back when poked). Cover and set aside to rest for at least 1 hour. You can prepare the dough the day before you need it and refrigerate it overnight, wrapped in plastic wrap, so it doesn’t dry out.
2. Meanwhile, remove the tough central veins of the silverbeet and cook the leaves in boiling water until tender (5-7 minutes). Drain well, cool, squeeze out all excess liquid, then chop finely.
3. Heat olive oil in a large pan over low heat. Add onion and stir occasionally until soft and translucent (10 minutes). Add silverbeet, stir to combine, and cook for 2 minutes. Season to taste, stir in marjoram and set aside to cool.
4. Combine ricotta, 4 eggs, Parmesan, yoghurt and nutmeg in a bowl and season to taste. Stir in the silverbeet mixture, then refrigerate until required.
5. Preheat oven to 180C. Lightly oil a cake tin with a removable base (23-25cm diameter is fine, but larger sizes work too). Cut dough into 4 equal portions. Roll out one piece at a time, keeping the others well covered, on a large, lightly floured surface, until very thin. You should be able to see your fingers through the other side. Lay the dough gently over the cake tin to cover the sides and base, with excess dough hanging over the edge. Brush dough lightly with olive oil. Roll out a second piece of dough as before and lay it over the first piece. Brush with olive oil, pushing out any air bubbles with the brush as you do so.
6. Fill the pie with the silverbeet mixture, smoothing the top with the back of a spoon. Then, with the help of a spoon, make four round indents in the greens to fit 4 egg yolks and gently cover them with filling.
7. Roll out the third ball of dough as before. Gently lay it over the top of the pie and brush lightly with olive oil. Roll out the last ball of dough and lay it over the top. Trim most of the overhanging dough, leaving about 2-3cm, then roll the overhanging dough up to form a border on the top of the pie. Brush the top with olive oil. Bake until golden brown and puffed (50 minutes). Cool slightly (15-20 minutes) before cutting. Serve warm or cold.
N O T E
Bread flour is best for this recipe as it is high in protein, and you will be able to stretch the dough very thin without breaking it. You can use plain flour, but the dough will be more delicate and difficult to handle. You could use the trimmings to make focaccia di recco, which has a paper-thin top and bottom and a filling of creamy stracchino cheese. The trimmings also work well for piadine (flat breads), or you could freeze them for another time.
Recipe by Emiko Davies and image by Eatable.