Francesca Bruzzese grew up in East Greenwich however has been dwelling in Rome, Italy, for 10 years. She writes a weblog, pancakesandbiscotti.com, which options each American and Italian recipes, in addition to posts on her travels.
When she shouldn’t be writing and recipe growing, you could find her perfecting her selfmade pasta abilities, baking for her colleagues, or persevering with her quest to search out the most effective Bucatini all’Amatriciana in Rome.
She answered The Journal request for an Easter recipe and it got here with a narrative from Rome, in her personal phrases.
Presently simply over a yr in the past, my adopted nation of Italy was among the many first to be onerous hit by the coronavirus pandemic. On this new, surreal model of the world, I — like many others — additionally discovered solace in my kitchen.
In any case, cooking was one of many few constants that lingered from pre-pandemic life, and supplied some normalcy and luxury. I whipped up the whole lot from difficult hand-rolled trofie to selfmade ricotta, adopted by English muffins, pizza, and doughnuts, amongst different issues. As Italy’s lockdown stretched on into the spring, Easter approached; enter this Torta Pasqualina.
It’s a savory pie made with spinach, ricotta, and eggs — a traditional Easter dish right here in Italy. It interprets to one thing alongside the strains of Easter cake in Italian.
Within the midst of final yr’s lockdown, I discovered myself down what I can solely describe as a Torta Pasqualina rabbit gap. You see: the extra I examine this dish, the extra I noticed that there was nobody approach to put together it. There have been recipes that included the addition of springy artichokes or vibrant beets, and ones that swapped spinach for chard; there have been lavish, three-tiered tortes, tortes with sturdy, no-nonsense dough and nonetheless others with a richer, extra flavorful pastry, and I needed to attempt all of them.
Throughout the course of my Torta research, I additionally experimented with a not-so-traditional pie with prosciutto, and yet one more with spicy salami.
As I examined, my sister started to ask me if we might ever eat something once more for dinner apart from Torta Pasqualina? No purpose, simply questioning!
It grew to become greater than a recipe; it was a distraction, a venture, a function, even. It was a dish that stubbornly strove to be good in a yr that was turning out to be lower than, savored on what can be a peculiar and bittersweet Easter vacation.
My in depth Torta analysis led me to this recipe: a wealthy spinach and ricotta filling blended with each sharp Parmesan and punchy Pecorino cheese, with 4 entire eggs baked proper into the highest of the pie — a hoop of miniature golden suns — encased in buttery, flaky, golden brown pastry. As versatile as it’s scrumptious, it additionally makes an excellent starter or brunch dish, and gracefully steps into the position of hearty vegetarian various to lamb on the Easter desk.
The Lazio area of Italy has simply been designated a zona rossa — crimson zone — which means tight restrictions and a semi-lockdown all through this yr’s Easter, too. The distinction this time round, although? I’ve a bit extra hope, and a bit extra optimism. In any case, we all know a lot greater than we did twelve months in the past; we have now a vaccine; there’s a glimmer of sunshine on the finish of the tunnel.
This Easter will once more name for a Torta Pasqualina for 2, however I’m hopeful that by subsequent yr, I’ll be having fun with this dish within the firm of family and friends, surgical masks, extreme hand sanitizer, and elbow handshakes a factor of the previous. I could even need to bake multiple.
For the pastry
4 tablespoons (60 grams) plain full-fat yogurt
2 teaspoons (10ml) white wine vinegar or lemon juice
3 tablespoons (45 ml) very chilly water
1½ cups (195 grams) all-purpose flour
¼ plus ⅛ teaspoon (a heaping ¼ teaspoon, or about 2 grams) salt
10 tablespoons (140 grams) chilly unsalted butter, diced
1 overwhelmed egg (for egg wash)
For the filling
Somewhat greater than 1 pound (500 grams) spinach
1½ ounce piece (42 grams) Parmesan cheese
1½ ounce piece (42 grams) Pecorino cheese
1 beneficiant cup (250 grams) ricotta cheese
5 medium eggs
½ teaspoon (3 grams) salt
Pepper to style
In a small bowl, whisk collectively the yogurt, vinegar or lemon juice, and water, and put aside.
Subsequent, in a big bowl, mix the flour and salt. Add the butter and, utilizing a pastry blender or your fingertips, lower them up and into the flour combination till it resembles small pebbles. Add the yogurt combination to the butter and flour combination, and stir the whole lot along with a picket spoon till a dough begins to type. Carry the dough along with just a few kneads within the bowl, after which flip it out on to a clear, calmly floured work floor. Pat the dough right into a disc, wrap it in plastic wrap, and chill it within the fridge for not less than 1 hour and as much as 48 hours.
For the filling, put a pot of water on to boil. Salt the water in relation to a boil, then add the spinach and let it cook dinner for about 10 minutes. Drain the spinach, and set it apart to chill.
Grate your Parmesan and Pecorino cheeses utilizing the best grate in your cheese grater. Whisk collectively in a big bowl the ricotta, one egg, the grated Parmesan and Pecorino, and the salt. Season with pepper to style.
As soon as cool sufficient to deal with, dry your spinach very, very effectively — water within the spinach will result in a watery filling, so this is a crucial step. I often use my (very clear) fingers to squeeze it dry together with assistance from paper towels, however a clear tea towel can even do the trick. When you suppose your spinach is totally dry, give it just a few extra squeezes, simply in case. You’ll find yourself with what seems like a small portion of spinach – that is nice! Add it to the ricotta combination and stir very effectively.
Preheat the oven to 350 levels. Grease a 9-inch springform pan with butter and put aside. Take your chilled dough out of the fridge and divide it into two items, one barely bigger than the opposite.
On a clear, calmly floured work floor utilizing a calmly floured rolling pin, roll out the smaller piece of dough and place your springform pan on prime of it. Utilizing a pointy knife, lower across the pan to get a bit of dough of the identical dimension, and put aside. Subsequent roll out the bigger piece of dough right into a circle massive sufficient to slot in to the underside of your springform pan with some overhang.
Transport your bigger piece of dough to the springform pan, being certain that it goes all the way in which up and over the pan’s sides. Fill the crust with the ricotta and spinach combination.
Utilizing a spoon, make 4 indentations within the filling. Fastidiously crack every of the remaining eggs into every indentation. Subsequent, place the smaller piece of dough over the filling, being cautious to not transfer the eggs an excessive amount of. Shut the sides of the bigger piece of dough over the smaller piece. Trim the additional dough off the perimeters.
Brush the highest of the pastry with a overwhelmed egg, which can make it good and glossy. Reduce a slit within the prime of the pie to let any steam escape. Bake the Torta Pasqualina in your preheated oven for about 40-45 minutes, or till the crust is a light-weight golden brown and the filling is ready.
Let the Torta cool utterly earlier than slicing and serving.