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Torta Pasqualina

(Serves 8 to 10)
Torta Pasqualina - Easter Vegetable Pie from Liguria
Torta Pasqualina is a savory vegetable Easter pie with origins in the region of Liguria in northeastern Italy.  The torta can be made with a mixture of greens.  Swiss chard is the most common, but spinach, arugula, and beet greens are all acceptable.  In Liguria, a slightly sour fresh cheese known as prescinsena is used in place of the ricotta.  After the dense filling is spread over the crust, small impressions are made in the filling to hold raw eggs, which will become hard-cooked during the baking.  Originally, the torte was made with layers of the filling, alternating with paper-thin sheets of pastry.  In fact, 33 layers of dough were used and were meant to represent each year of Christ's life.  Also, 12 eggs were added to represent the apostles.   This Torta Pasqualina is made with just 2 layers of dough forming a top and bottom crust.  It is a wonderful delicacy to be enjoyed at Easter or all year round.

2-1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup water

10-12 ounces Swiss chard, washed and trimmed
10-12 ounces spinach, washed and trimmed
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium onion, chopped
Pinch of ground cloves
6 eggs, divided
1 cup ricotta
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
Pinch of grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan
Olive oil


To make the dough:
Combine the flour and  salt  in a large bowl.  Stir in the oil and 1/2 cup water to make a smooth, non-sticky dough.  Knead just to bring the dough together.
Divide the dough into 2 pieces, one three times the size of the other.  
Wrap each piece with plastic wrap.  Allow the dough to rest for 30 minutes at room temperature.

To make the filling:
Combine the Swiss chard and 1/2 cup water in a large pot.  Cover and cook over medium heat until tender and wilted, about 10 minutes.  Add the spinach and season with salt.  Cook 5 more minutes or until spinach is wilted.  Drain the greens and allow to cool.  Squeeze out as much water as possible from the greens.  Place on a cutting board and finely chop.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter.  Add the onions and cloves.  Cover and cook over medium heat until the onions are tender, about 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat.

In a large bowl, beat 2 eggs until blended.  Add the greens, onions, ricotta, 1/2 cup Parmesan, marjoram, nutmeg, salt and pepper.  Mix well and set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Oil a 9-inch springform pan.

On a floured surface, roll out the larger piece of dough to a 15-inch circle.
Place the dough into the pan, pressing it against the bottom and up the sides. 
The ends will overhang the edge of the pan.  Add the filling to the pan and smooth the top.  Make four evenly spaced indentations in the filling. Carefully break on egg into one of the indentations.  Repeat with the remaining 3 eggs. 
Sprinkle each egg with some of the remaining tablespoon of Parmesan.

Roll out the smaller piece of dough.  Cut out a 9-inch circle, using the bottom of the pan as a guide, if desired.  Place the dough circle on top of the filling.
Trim the overhanging dough to 1-inch. Fold the dough inside the pan over the edge of the dough circle. With your fingers, crimp the rolled edge to seal.  Brush the top of the dough with olive oil.  Make several small slits in the top crust. Bake for 45 minutes, or until browned.  The top with puff up during baking but will relax when cooled.  Cool on a wire rack about 10 minutes before removing the side of the pan.  Serve hot or at room temperature.
Torta Pasqualina
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