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« Baked Stuffed Artichokes with Leeks (and Step-by-Step Instructions on How to Trim an Artichoke) | Main | Aperol Spritz Cocktail »
Monday
Mar292010

For Easter: Italian Easter Pie, "Torta Pasqualina"

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

serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 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 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

 

Instructions:

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 the 2 tablespoons butter, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and garlic. 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:  

 

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Reader Comments (25)

You are totally going to make me cry with good memories of Torta Rustica (in my family-with lots of meat) and Torta Grano (sweet pie make with wheat grains). My Aunt Millie would make one for every family to take home with them after dinner! We would snack on it afterward: cold, hot, for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Those pies must have weighed 10 lbs each! What a wonderful memory. The common theme iin all these different versions is lots of love. Thank you for this wonderful edition to my list! Buona Pasqua a tutti.

March 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAllison

That looks so very beautiful & delicious!

March 29, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterlena

So, so Beautiful! And the photos make it seem do-able! GREG

March 29, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersippitysup

Thank you for bringing back so many wonderful memories for me. My Nonna made a pie just like this when I was growing up. I clicked on your link for the Easter bread and I almost had tears in my eyes, again, just like she made. I printed it out so I can make them for my boys. Thanks again for all the wonderful recipes. I hope someday my sons will be able to make some of these recipes for their children.

Absolutely gorgeous torta. Although I wouldn't call it "light", it's a nice change from the heavy, meat-filled ones I normally make.

March 29, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterciaochowlinda

That looks sinfully decadent and delicious!!!!
Blessed Easter!
~Garcia
http://askgarcia.blogspot.com/

March 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGarcia

You are such an amazing cook. I have an Italian cook book, extremely old, with this recipe (or very similar) and I have eyed it for a decade at least. Wow, what great photos, and explanations. I might actually go for it. Thanks for such a great website. I love your recipes.
Kathleen

March 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKathleen

This is absolutely beautiful Elaine, a work of art, I love how the egg looks tucked inside, and then with the artichokes, oh my!..
p.s. I'm making your Easter bread this week.

March 29, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermarie

That looks soooo beautiful and tempting!!
Happy easter :)

March 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCherine

Just gorgeous Elaine! Def a labor of love! Buona Pasqua a te!

March 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPaula - bell'alimento

Wow, that looks really interesting!

March 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAron

Wow, this looks really interesting. I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like it, but it's beautiful and I'm so curious what this tastes like.

April 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMarc @ NoRecipes

Wow, this looks absolutely stunning. Bravo!

April 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSara

I made this pie for Easter today! It was delicious, and everyone loved it! Although, it could have used another 1/2 hour in the oven. I can't wait to see what it's like tonight for dinner! :-)

April 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNatalia

This looks incredible, and sure worth the effort. Your detail at the top is just perfect! Hope you had a lovely Easter.

April 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJulia @ Mélanger

I forgot to leave a comment telling you I love how you made this torte. The details are exquisite and I'm sure it tasted wonderful too.

April 6, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterciaochowlinda

Wow this makes me wish I knew how to cook. Looks sooooo yummy. I might have to send this recipe along to my mom.

March 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKammie @ Sensual Appeal

A wanderful torta and delicious too. I have to give it a try. Thanks for recipe. Your blog is very interesting.

March 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTeoBucatar

What a delicious-looking torta. My family will find out because I am going to make it as part of our Easter buffet. Thanks for the inspiration and the recipe--which is beautifully explained. Wishing you and your family a Happy and Holy Easter!!

April 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDorinda Selke

I just stumpled on your website looking for a recipe for Easter Bread. I am so happy I did. I am not an italian but I married into an Italian family. I have been married 22 years now, they use to call me the "box Queen" but being around my mother in law and sister in law for so long I have become quite a cook. I am now going to try this recipe and surprise my husbands family this Easter. Wish Me luck. I will be visting this website quite often. Thank YOU!!!

April 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMaura

A wonderfully delightful recipe. I have a friend and he is always touting Italian this and Italian that because he is Italian. He is a chef with everything but the credentials. He has been chef to many functions and even to restaurants on occasion. I really need to get up the courage to prepare this for him. Easter is over but Mother's Day may be a fine time to share this.

April 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNana

Absolutely stunning!

March 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPatricia @ ButterYum

Formidable! When I was younger [83 now] I would make the effort and produce the Torta; but it's much-to-much work and food for my wife and me. But I do make a lighter version on meatless days. The work is less if you use phyllo dough. In my working life, I designed cookbooks–by the way, your photographs are excellent–and the Greek author of her cookbook showed me how to work with phyllo dough; 33 layers would not be a problem with phyllo, but 12 is more reasonable.I checked out the Easter Bread and your no-knead rustic bread. Your recipes are excellent and you are very generous in giving your time and love to your Italian Dish blog. Mille grazie; you do credit to your Neapolitan mother.

March 29, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterremocosentino@yahoo.com

I have made the filling for the pie but haven't done the dough yet. I followed the directions and didn't see anything posted for adding the garlic and 1/4 cup of water to the filling. I realized that after mixing my ingredients that the garlic was still on my counter so I mixed it in. I tried to squeeze out as much water as possible from the spinach and chard so I am not going to add the 1/4 cup of water to the filling mixture. This dish looks beautiful and I hate to point out that something was missing in the directions (kept eye-balling it thinking maybe I didn't read it right). Just asking that the instructions be edited to include the garlic and the water. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that everything will come out ok. The picture of the pie looks divine!

April 19, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVivian

From The Italian Dish:

Vivian: Oops! Thanks for pointing that out. I know what happened - I adapted the recipe from Anna Teresa Callen's original, which used fresh artichokes, which you had to clean and remove the choke and all that. I knew that would be asking a little too much from most people, so I simplified it to use frozen artichokes, but accidentally kept the water in and then forgot the garlic. I have edited the recipe now - thank you.

April 22, 2014 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

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