Monday, 26 June 2017

Torta pascualina: an italian-argentine spinach, ricotta and egg pie

This week I made another recipe from our Argentine Grandma's cookbook, La Cocina de Lorenzo Taberna (1961), with a little help from Antonio Carluccio. Torta pascualina is a traditional Italian tart eaten at Easter, with 33 layers of pastry, one of each if Jesus's lives. The Argentine version in Grandma Antonia's book has just six layers of pastry, but if you're short on time her namesake, Don Carluccio, uses one layer of shop-bought shortcrust pastry for the base of the tart, with a lattice of cut-offs over the top. Jesus must be turning in his shroud... 

The pastry in Grandma's book is empanada pastry, so you can also use this recipe to make empanadas if you can't get pre-made sheets from Garcia's in London - here's the link to my empanada post: The pastry was much easier to make than I expected, had a really pleasant, soft texture and rolled very thin without splitting.

The key ingredients for the tart filling are ricotta, dark green leaves and whole eggs, which are baked inside the pie. Chard is a popular choice for the greenery but I can't seem to find any, and spinach works just as well. Artichokes are another traditional component, and Carliccio recommends braising them with some onions and capers, which adds a little more depth to the flavour. 

One of my favourite things about this pie is how well it keeps for leftovers, because it's delicious cold. It makes a perfect packed lunch or an interesting picnic option.

(Serves 6) 

For the pastry:
350g plain flour
150g cold, unsalted butter
2 tsp salt
1 egg
100-130ml cold water

Or use a 500g packet of ready-made shortcrust pastry, and blind-bake for 10 minutes before adding the filling.

For the filling:
280g jar artichokes in oil (mine had garlic and parley in too)
1 small onion or 2-3 shallots, finely chopped
1 tbsp capers (desalted in tap water for 15mins then drained), finely chopped
1 tbsp chopped fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
200g spinach
250g ricotta 
60g Parmesan, grated
A pinch of grated nutmeg
8 eggs
Salt & pepper


1. To make the pastry, rub the butter into the flour then add the egg and half the water. Mix until the dough comes together, adding more water if needed. Knead gently until thoroughly combined and the dough is smooth. Chill in the fridge until ready to use.

2. Add the artichokes and 2-3 tablespoons of oil from the jar to a pan with the onion, capers, and parsley. Add a little water, cover and braise on a low heat for 15 minutes, then drain.

3. Pour boiling water over the spinach in a colander to wilt then squeeze out excess water.

4. Beat 4 of the eggs with the ricotta and grated Parmesan and nutmeg. Add the artichokes and wilted spinach and mix together. Season with salt and pepper.

5. Split the pastry into 6 pieces, 2 slightly smaller than the others - save these for the top of the pie. Roll out one of the larger pieces until it's really thin and will cover a 30cm fluted, loose-bottomed tart tin. Oil the tin and line with the sheet of pastry, then brush this sheet with olive oil. 

6. Roll out the remaining 3 larger pieces of pastry and layer into the tin, oiling between each layer.

7. Add two thirds of the filling to the pastry-lined tin and make 4 wells. Break the remaining 4 eggs into the wells and grate over a little Parmesan, salt and pepper. Add the rest of the filling, being careful not to break the yolks.

8. Roll out the two smaller sheets of pastry and cover the pie with both layers, oiling in between. Seal the edges of the tart, making a pretty border (artistic skills dependent, not employed here). Brush with beaten egg and bake at 200C for 35 minutes until golden brown. 

To serve, allow to cool a little then remove the fluted ring. Slice into portions, aiming for the baked eggs if you can! 

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