Torta Pasqualina (the name is a reminder of Easter = Pasqua in Italian); is a light wrapper of puff pastry containing beets, eggs and ricotta cheese to celebrate Easter and spring. It is typical of Ligurian cuisine, but appreciated in every region of Italy.
Typical of Spring and its products: eggs, herbs, new onions, marjoram, once present in every Ligurian garden. It represents the highlight of the Easter lunch and in the past it was the apotheosis of the skill of housewives, who legendarily are said to have succeeded in superimposing up to 33 sheets of pastry to honor the years of Christ.
A variant for other periods involves the use of artichokes, peas or other vegetables, but the real Genoese Easter cake is made only with chard.
The existence of the Genoese Easter cake is documented from the 16th century. In the past, eggs and cheese, essential ingredients of Pasqualina, were foods that were consumed only great occasions. In Ventimiglia (Liguria), wild herbs are used in the filling (common nettle, lamb’s lettuce or mâche), instead of beets and borage.
The current recipe is simplified, with only 3 sheets to enclose the filling of beets or spinach and ricotta. Typical dish of Ligurian cuisine, it is prepared for Sunday and, if left over, it is preserved for the trip out of the Easter Monday.
The wrapper is not puff pastry!
One of the most common mistakes that can be made in making the Torta Pasqualina is to use the puff pastry, maybe the one bought at the supermarket and rich in hydrogenated fats. The right dough instead is made by hand and is prepared by simply mixing wheat flour, salt, water and extra virgin olive oil. The secret to obtain a crunchy and at the same time crumbly sheet is to overlap several (well just three on the bottom, and three on the top!), layers of dough, rolled with a rolling-pin and oiled, to prevent them from sticking together. In this way the casing will be consistent and fragrant.
How to prepare the Pasqualina cake
For the wrapping:
- 300 g of 00 flour,
- extra virgin olive oil,
For the filling:
- 1 kg of chard or spinach,
- 1 onion,
- 1 clove of garlic,
- 3 bunches of borage,
- parsley, marjoram,
- 8 eggs,
- 2 tablespoons of fresh cream,
- 300 g of ricotta,
- 200 g of Parmigiano Reggiano,
- 50 g of butter,
- extra virgin olive oil,
- salt, pepper.
Place the flour on the table, add a pinch of salt, two tablespoons of oil and start kneading, adding water from time to time until the dough is soft and smooth. Divide the dough into six dough pieces and let them rest for an hour, covered with a damp cloth.
Meanwhile, clean the chard, cut it into strips together with the borage, and steam them. Squeeze, add a generous handful of Parmesan, some salt, a few marjoram leaves and mix well. In a frying pan brown the chopped onion with garlic and parsley for a few minutes. In a bowl, beat 3 eggs, add a tablespoon of Parmesan, vegetables, ricotta, cream, onion, garlic and parsley. Mix well.
Grease a baking pan with oil and cover it with a piece of dough rolled out into thin sheets, leaving it to overflow. Grease the bottom and repeat the operation with two more pieces of pasta. The last do not brush it with oil but fill it with the filling of vegetables and ricotta. Make five small grooves in the dough where you will put a small piece of butter and then a whole egg, being careful not to break the yolk. Cover them with Parmesan, salt and pepper.
At this point spread the three remaining sheets over the filling with the eggs, greasing them one by one with a little oil and turning the escaping dough inside. Finish by brushing the surface of the dough with oil and pricking it with the tines of a fork, to prevent it from swelling and breaking.