Torta Pasqualina is a savory pie filled with spinach and eggs. The traditional version made for Easter is a little labor-intensive but cherished for the symbolism and history behind it. These lovely pies can be a stunning addition to any dinner table. Using premade crusts cuts down on the time making it easy to bake and serve these for dinner any day. vegetarian
This is Torta Pasqualina – the Italian Egg and Spinach Pie that is the pride of the Easter table. If you like spinach and egg quiche then you are going to love this. Essentially this is a double-crusted pie sandwiching a mix of greens, cheese, and eggs.
Symbolism in the Easter Pie
Torta Pasqualina translates to Easter Pie. The traditional way of making this pie is rife with symbolism. The crust for this torta is made with a stack of many paper-thin layers, pretty much like phyllo pastry. Traditionally 33 layers were used to symbolize Jesus’s life span! Also, the pie was filled with 12 eggs to symbolize the 12 apostles.
Did I say the traditional version was labor-intensive?
You will find similar versions of this pie in Argentina and Uruguay known as Tarta Pascualina. Like the recipe here these are usually meat-free and hence enjoyed throughout lent.
Ingredients for Torta Pasqualina
Essentially there are 2 parts to this recipe – the crust and the filling. Most of the hard work goes towards making the crust. I have included a simplified version of the crust, but it is still too much labor for an everyday dish, at least by my standards. But then again it is not an everyday dish! Scroll down and you will find shortcuts.
The filling on the other hand is fairly straightforward with 3 distinct ingredients – the greens, eggs, and cheese.
Greens can be spinach, chard, kale, or any other greens you like or a mix of all these. It can be fresh or frozen. Whichever you use make sure that there is no excess moisture in the filling.
Eggs- Few eggs are used as a binder and the rest are left whole to cook along with the torta. The whole eggs are a surprise treat that reveals itself when you slice the pie.
Cheese: I have used ricotta and parmesan in this recipe. But mozzarella and gorgonzola are other options. Use a combination you like.
Other ingredients: Garlic and nutmeg are used for flavor, and breadcrumbs are used to soak up any extra moisture. You can skip the bread crumbs if the filling looks dry enough.
Making the Easter Pie
The pie has 2 distinct parts – the crust and the filling. Making the crust from scratch the traditional way takes long. Feel free to substitute with premade crusts.
The Traditional Dough for Torta Paqualina
Traditionally the dough is made with just flour, water, salt, and a little olive oil. The dough is unleavened and comes together in under 10 minutes. Mix the flour, salt, and olive oil and knead using warm water. Use a stand mixer or knead by hand until the dough becomes soft and smooth. It is important for the dough to rest for an hour. It helps the dough relax making it easier to roll it out. Use this time to prep the rest of the ingredients.
Make the Filling
As the greens tend to have a lot of moisture it is important to remove the extra moisture. If using frozen greens, thaw them and squeeze out the extra moisture. If using fresh ones wilt them and drain excess water. Saute any other ingredients that you need to add to the filling.
Here I start by sautéing some onions, garlic, and red bell pepper. I chose red bells for their color and sweetness. This is not a traditional ingredient, so feel free to leave it out. Once they turn soft, remove them from the pan to a mixing bowl and add the fresh greens to the pan in batches. Wilt the green and squeeze to remove any excess moisture. Transfer the greens to the bowl.
Add the cheeses and nutmeg and some salt and pepper to the filling. Mix well, taste, and adjust salt and pepper. Once seasoned to taste, if you see think the filling has extra moisture add the breadcrumbs. You don’t have to add all the breadcrumbs listed in the recipe. It is there as insurance, add just enough to absorb any extra moisture.
Beat in 2 eggs to the mixture and set aside.
Make the crusts
This is the most laborious part of the recipe. As I mentioned earlier traditionally it is made with 33 layers of flaky pastry while most people now opt for much modest numbers. Here I have made it with 4 layers on each side. 6 layers on each side will be my limit.
Divide the dough into 8 to 12 sections. You can make them all the same size, but it is better to have half the sections a little larger than the other half. As the bottom crust has to be larger than the top.
Take the larger sections and roll them out into circles of about 8-inch diameter. Dust the dough and rolling pin with a little flour to help the rolling process. Spread a little oil on one of the circles an place the second circle on top and line them up, stretching either circle by hand as needed. Brush the top with oil and place the 3rd circle on it. Continue the process until all rolled-out circles are used up. Lightly dust the stack with flour and roll out into a circle large enough to cover the bottom and sides of the pan plus a little overhang. If your pan is 9-inches in diameter and has a 2-inch side, roll out the circle into 13 to 14 inches in diameter.
Brush the pan with oil and line with the rolled-out pastry. Repeat the process with the remaining smaller dough balls to make a final rolled-out circle that is a little larger than the base of the pan (9.5 inches in my case).
Other options for crusts
- Puff Pastry
- Pie crusts
- Quick puff pastry
- Phyllo pastry
Assembling the Spinach and Egg Pie
Line the inside of the pan with the larger circle and shape it along the sides. Fill with the prepared spinach filling. Make small indentations in the filling with a spoon and break eggs into it. Place the top crust and pinch both the crusts together in a decorative manner. Make a few slashes on the top for steam vents. Ensure that you are not cutting into the eggs as you make these slashes.
Beat an egg with 1 tsp of water to make an egg wash. Brush the tops of the pie with the egg wash.
Preheat the oven to 400F. Keep the oven rack in the middle. Place the pie pan on a cookie sheet before transferring it to the oven. This helps to catch any unexpected spills. Bake for 50 minutes. Check on the pie at around 30 minutes. If the tops are browning then cover with aluminum foil, reduce the temperature to 350 and add 5 minutes to the baking time.
Remove the pie from the oven and cool on a cooling rack. After about 10 minutes of cooling the pie can be easily removed from the springform pan – and this is my recommended pan.
Torta pasqualina tastes good whether you serve it warm or cold. It is great as left overs too – just reheat and serve.
Keys to Making Torta Pasqualina a Success
- The filling should not be wet
- If making traditional crusts roll out the dough as thin as you can
- Make sure to lightly brush the sheets with oil
- The crust should be smooth and even – no tearing
- Don’t forget the vents on the top
This is a stunning pastry and is very visually appealing as you cut into it. There is history and symbolism here and I can see it as a dear family tradition to many. But for someone who does not have memories tied to this dish, I would say making the crust from scratch is not worth the effort. Go ahead and use store bought puff pastry or try my quick puff pastry. That said it is still a fun project to tackle with friend or family. A quick version of this dish (steps are given below the recipe) is perfect for dinner any day.
- 9-inch Springform Pan
For the Pastry Shell
- 3 C All Purpose Flour
- 2 Tbsp Oil
- ½ Tsp Salt
- 1 C Water warm
- Extra flour and oil to roll out the pastry.
- or use pre-packaged puff pastry
- 2 Tbsp Oil
- 1 lb Spinach
- 1 lb Kale/Chard
- ½ C Bell pepper diced (optional)
- ½ C Onion diced
- 2 Cloves garlic
- 1 C Ricotta drained, use per taste
- 1 C Parmesan grated
- ½ C Bread crumbs use as needed
- 1 Tsp Black Pepper Freshly ground
- Salt to taste
- 8 Eggs
- 1 Egg
- 1 Tsp Water
Make the dough
- Mix the flour, salt, and oil and knead using warm water to make a smooth and fairly stiff dough. Use as much water as needed. Once the dough is formed lightly brush with oil and let It rest covered for about an hour at room temperature.
- Heat 2 tbsp oil in a sauté pan or Dutch oven. Add the onions and garlic and cook till it softens. Add the diced peppers and cook for a minute. Remove the vegetables into a bowl.
- If using sturdy green like chard or kale remove the ribs and stems from them. Chop into pieces. Add the chopped greens into the pan and cook in batches until they turn deep green and are wilted. Press down and on the greens to squeeze out excess water and drain. Add the greens to the onions. Repeat the process with any remaining greens removing excess moisture every time.
- Add cheeses to the vegetables and mix well. Grate about ¼ tsp nutmeg over it and season with salt and pepper. Mix well taste and adjust seasonings. If the filling seems moist add the bread crumbs 2 tbsp at a time mixing thoroughly. Add only just enough breadcrumbs to absorb extra moisture. Break 2 eggs into this mixture mix well and set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 400F. Liberally coat the insides of a springform pan or a deep-dish pie pan with oil.
- Divide the dough into 8 or 12 pieces. Half of them being a little bigger than the other half.
- Roll out 2 of the bigger pieces into 8-inch circles. Lightly oil the top of 1 circle and place the next one on top, lining them up as much as possible. Lightly brush the top with oil. Roll out the next piece and place it on top of the first stack. Repeat this process all large dough balls are used up.
- Roll out the stack into a large circle of about 14 inches in diameter (for a 9-inch springform pan with 2-inch sides) or big enough the cover the insides of the chosen pan.
- Line the bottom of the pan with the crust and press it up along the edges making sure there is a small overhang. Let it rest while you make a similar but smaller crust with the remaining pieces of dough. The top crust has to be just the same diameter as the pan.
- Transfer the filling into a lined pan, making sure that the dough stays in position. Smooth the filling and make small depressions in it with a spoon and crack the eggs into it. Place the smaller dough disc on top and press the edges together to create a decorative seem.
- Make 4 to 6 gashes on the top crust taking care to avoid the eggs in the filling.
- Beat 1 egg with 1 tsp water to make an egg wash and brush the tops of the pie.
- Transfer to the preheated oven and bake 50 minutes to an hour. Check at the 30-minute mark and cover with aluminum foil if the tops are getting dark. The pie is done when the tops are browned.
- Remove from the oven and cool for at least 10 minutes before slicing. This pie can be served warm or cold.
- Cheese and any cured meat (if you are using) will have added sodium. So do not add extra salt to the filling before these are added, and do a taste test before and after.
Important: Values are only estimates. Actuals vary depending on ingredients and serving size.
Quick everyday version
To make the best quick version of this pie is use puff pastry sheets and frozen spinach. Here are the steps
- Thaw the pastry sheets
- Thaw the spinach and squeeze the water out. Mix with sautéed onions, peppers, cheese, and spices. Add in the beaten eggs.
- Roll out the puff pastry sheet to fit the pan and line the pan.
- Fill with the stuffing.
- Make a few indentations and break the eggs into them.
- Cover with the second puff pastry sheet and pinch the ends close.
- Apply egg wash.
- Bake at 400 F for 30 to 40 minutes.