If you look for recipes for the traditional Italian Easter Pie, you will find many variations. Some people call it a pie and some call it a cake. Some have meat inside and some do not. There are so many different ways to make it, but they are all savory. This recipe is one that I have had for twenty-five years. It comes from a very authentic source - Anna Teresa Callen, who is now in her eighties. She is a very well known cooking teacher and author who lives in New York City. She is from the Abruzzo region of Italy. She says this pie is traditionally made with 33 layers of dough, one for each of the years that Christ lived. But she makes this with twelve - for each of the apostles (and a whole lot easier!)
But be aware that this dish is a labor of love. You need to roll out 10 discs of dough in addition to making the filling. Anna says that she was once told that if she couldn't roll out perfect discs of dough for this pie, then she would never be married. Boy, have times changed! Can you get by with fewer layers? Yes, but it does make an impressive torta when you do all the layers. Anna Teresa Callen says that you should make this pie three or four days ahead of time, but I think it is very good the day you make it and the day after.
The pie has a delicious filling of spinach (or swiss chard), ricotta cheese and artichokes. You make indentations in the filling and drop in 6 eggs and they bake up beautifully, all tucked away inside. Anna Teresa Callen serves it as an appetizer with an aperitivo, but it can certainly be a side dish for Easter.
Easter Pie, Torta Pasqualina
for a printable recipe, click here
adapted from Anna Teresa Callen
- 6 cups all purpose flour
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons coarse salt
- 1-1/2 cups (about) cold water
- 1 pound fresh spinach or swiss chard (or a combination), washed but not dried
- 1 10-ounce package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and quartered
- 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
- 1 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large garlic clove, minced or grated
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
- 1-1/2 teaspoons olive oil
- 3 tablespoons dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in warm water for 30 minutes and drained
- pinch of dried marjoram
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 pounds ricotta cheese, drained
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 4 eggs, beaten to blend
- 1/4 cup whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 6 small eggs
- 1 tablespoon chilled butter, but into 6 slivers
Combine flour, oil and salt in large bowl. Gradually add water and mix until a fairly stiff dough forms. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 15 minutes (you can also do this in a stand mixer with the dough hook). Cover with inverted bowl and let stand 30 minutes.
Cook spinach and/or chard in heavy large saucepan over high heat 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Drain; squeeze dry.
Cook thawed artichokes by sauteing for 5 minutes in 2 tablespoons of butter. Stir in parsley. Transfer vegetables to a bowl.
Heat 1-1/2 teaspoons olive oil in same skillet over medium-high heat. Add drained porcini and saute 1 minute. Mix with artichokes. Add spinach and/or chard to skillet and saute 1 minute. Blend into artichoke mixture. Season with marjoram and salt and pepper to taste. Chop mixture finely using sharp knife or in a food processor, pulsing. Blend in ricotta, all but 2 tablespoons of Parmesan, eggs, cream and flour.
Brush a 10-inch springform pan with oil. Cut dough into 10 pieces. Shape each piece into ball. Flatten one ball into disc, keeping remaining dough covered with cloth to prevent drying. Roll disc out on lightly floured surface into 15-inch round large enough to cover bottom and sides of pan. Fold in half. Fit into prepared pan and unfold. Brush lightly with oil. Repeat with 5 more pieces of dough, brushing lightly with oil between each layer; do not brush top layer. Pour in filling and smooth top with narrow spatula.
With back of moistened spoon, make 6 indentations in filling. Break 1 egg into each well (if eggs are too large, pretend you are "separating" the egg and remove some of the white). Top each egg with butter. Sprinkle evenly with remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan.
Preheat oven to 400 F. degrees. Roll remaining 4 pieces of dough out on lightly floured surface, layering in pan and brushing with olive oil as above. Trim and flute edges, save scraps. Brush top and rim with oil. Piece top of pie with toothpick, being careful not to break eggs. Roll out any scraps into a round. Cut out decorations. Affix to top of pie.
I cut the leaves with these little pie crust cutters I got from Williams Sonoma
Bake pie 1 hour (if top begins browning too quickly, cover loosely with foil). Cool slightly before serving. (Can be prepared 3-4 days ahead, wrapped and chilled. Bring to room temperature or warm gently in oven before serving).
You might also like to make Italian Easter Bread: