Torta pascualina (also known as torta pasqualina) is a traditional Easter dish of Italian origin. This delicious spinach and ricotta pie comes from the region of Liguria, in the north of Italy, where it can be traced back to the fifteenth century.
Imported into Argentina and Uruguay by Italian immigrants during the great immigration wave of the early twentieth century, torta pascualina is now part of the culinary heritage of these two countries in the same way as dulce de leche, vitel toné (vitello tonnato) or milanesa.
Torta pascualina is traditionally associated with the Easter holiday for several reasons. First, because it does not contain meat, it is often prepared during Lent. The eggs it contains are also, in the Christian tradition, one of the symbols of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Some even see in the dough a reference to the passion of Jesus, since the phyllo dough version of pascualina is supposed to include thirty-three layers of dough, in reference to the age of the latter at the time of his death. Not all the pascualina recipes require phyllo dough, however, and the one I have chosen to bake here uses shortcrust dough instead.
There are several varieties of pascualina. We have already mentioned the two possible choices of dough, but other differences also exist, whether in the recipe or the ingredients. The recipe that I chose to make uses a mix of Swiss chard and spinach, but it is possible to use either one or the other. The spices used also vary by country. The original Italian version calls for salt and pepper only, while the South American version often incorporates nutmeg. Red peppers are also optional. Finally, the cooking mode varies from one recipe to the other. In some recipes, the eggs are placed raw into the stuffing, and they bake together with the rest of the preparation. In others, like my version, the eggs are hard-boiled before cooking.
Spinach is an ingredient that has often been honored on 196 flavors, be it fried in my favorite dish, the pkaila, or blended into the famous phyllo dough based Greek pie spanakópita. Yet, this is the first time that we cook Swiss chards.
We tasted this pie a little before Easter this year, and both children and adults enjoyed it, accompanied by a green salad and fresh tomatoes. So, don’t resist the temptation.
- 2 discs shortcrust pastry (see recipe below)
- 12 oz fresh spinach
- 1 lb chard (green leaves only)
- 1 red pepper , diced
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 onion , thinly sliced
- 4 hard boiled eggs , halved
- 2 eggs
- 8 oz. grated mozzarella
- 2 oz. grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 cup butter (at room temperature)
- 1 lb flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Preheat oven at 350 F.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon of salt, then add the chard and spinach and blanch for about 3 minutes. Remove the vegetables and drain in a colander. Leave to cool, then squeeze out the excess water in your hands.
- Sauté the onions and peppers in a skillet on medium/high with two tablespoons of oil. After a few minutes, add the chard and spinach. Sauté for another 8 to 10 minutes, while stirring. Season with salt, pepper and grated nutmeg.
- In a bowl, combine the raw eggs with shredded mozzarella and parmesan.
- Remove the vegetable preparation from the heat. Add the cheese mixture to it and mix thoroughly. Allow to cool completely.
- In a mold with high edges, place the first disc of dough. The disc should extend about 1 inch from the edge of the mold. Fill with the preparation.
- Arrange each half hard-boiled egg regularly on the mixture, with the white on top.
- Cover with the second disc of dough which must also cover about an inch outside the mold. Fold and roll the edges of the two discs together and push them along the edges of the mold.
- Mix a raw egg with a tablespoon of water and brush the top of the pascualina with this preparation. Sprinkle a tablespoon of sugar over the dough.
- Bake for about 40 minutes.
- Serve hot or warm.
- Combine flour and salt in a stand mixer bowl. Add the butter and mix to obtain a crumbly dough. Add about ½ cup of water and knead until the dough comes off the edges of the bowl. Add more water if necessary.
- Split the dough into 2 equal parts. Roll each part into a circle shape on a floured work surface, cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.