The Italian spinach pie, called torta Pasqualina in Italian, is a deep pie made with spinach, ricotta and eggs, prepared in and around Easter time. This very popular Italian spinach pie recipe involves a few steps but the results will be well worth it: which you will discover as soon as you cut through the first slice! A beautiful layer of whole eggs, in a bed of creamy ricotta cheese, sits above a thick layer of green spinach, appearing almost like the clouds and the sun above a field of green, all enclosed in layers of light pastry. Try our step by step Italian spinach pie recipe and change the rules this Easter – or whenever you choose.
1 large deep pie
- 600 g flour
- 350 ml water
- Pinch of salt
- 35 ml olive oil
- 1.5 kg spinach or chard
- 500 g ricotta
- 5 eggs
- 7 eggs, yolks and whites separated
- 190 g Parmigiano Reggiano
- ½ onion
- Leaves from 3 twigs marjoram, chopped
- Pinch of grated nutmeg
- Salt and pepper
- 25 ml olive oil
According to local legend, the origins of the Italian spinach pie go back hundreds of years, with the first mention of it found in records dated in the 1600s. It is a typical deep pie found in the region of Liguria in northern Italy, especially in the city of Genoa. Called Torta Pasqualina, or Easter pie, it is a pie full of symbolism: the original recipe asks for 33 layers in the pastry and represents Jesus’ years on Earth according to the Christian religion, while the eggs are a symbol of rebirth and the start of spring. In Italy, families prepare the spinach and ricotta pie on Easter Sunday, with leftovers to be had on the following Easter Monday.
The original recipe goes that the spinach pie was to be made of 33 thin layers of pastry. Here, as with many modern, streamlined recipes, we suggest a modest two layers, which is enough to keep the robust filling in place but still deliciously flaky to eat. Take special care not to tear the pastry as you place it in the cake tin.
Another tip: in Italy, it is totally acceptable to use either spinach or chard (or a mix of both) for the filling. Try to get the best and freshest ricotta possible – it will make all the difference.
1. Prepare the pastry: you will need to prepare four layers of the pastry – two for the base and two to cover the pie. Place the flour in a large bowl. Dissolve the salt in water and add to the flour, followed by the oil.
2. Work the mixture into a dough within the bowl. Once the ingredients have come together, transfer to a well floured surface and lightly knead for a few minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.
3. Divide into four pieces: 2 larger at around 300 g each, and the other 2 smaller pieces at 180 g each. Place on a lined baking tray, cover with a clean, damp tea towel and let rest in the fridge for an hour.
4. Prepare the filling: heat a large skillet, add oil. Once hot, add the onion and cook until transparent. Add the spinach and/or chard, season with salt and pepper, and cook for a few minutes until wilted. Remove from the heat, transfer to a cutting board and chop finely.
5. Place the spinach mix to a large bowl. Add 2 eggs, 50 g of grated cheese, chopped marjoram, season with salt and pepper, and combine well.
6. In a separate bowl, place the ricotta and using a whisk, soften the cheese. Add 3 eggs to the ricotta and whisk well. Throw in 90 g of grated cheese, a grating of nutmeg, a pinch of salt, whisk to combine well.
7. Oil a 30 cm cake tin with a removable base. Take the 300 g pastry dough, place on a floured surface and roll it out into a thin sheet using a rolling pin. Carefully raise it and place it over the tin, lowering it into the base so that it is covering the entire base and up the sides of the tin. Brush the surface with oil. Repeat with the other 300 g of dough, place this second layer above the previous pastry lining. Let the excess dough hang over the sides.
8. Scoop in the spinach filling and spread evenly over the pastry. Add the ricotta filling above the spinach, smooth out the surface. Using a spoon, create 7 small wells, about the size of the egg yolks. Carefully lower the egg yolks one by one into each crevice of the ricotta layer.
9. In a medium bowl, lightly whisk the 7 egg whites with a pinch of salt until light and foamy. Pour over the yolks and ricotta. Sprinkle over the remaining grated cheese.
10. Take the 180 g dough piece and roll out thin on a floured surface. Cover the tart, letting the excess hang over the sides. Brush over with oil then repeat with the last piece of dough.
11. Now, the finishing touches: take the excess dough hanging over the cake tin of all 4 layers and, leaving about 2 cm of excess dough all around the side of the edges, cut off the rest using a sharp knife. Take the remaining dough, pinch together and bring it inside the cake tin, creating a border around the tart. You may use the tips of a fork to create rivets on the border if you like.
12. Brush all over the top with oil. Place in a pre heated, 180°C oven and bake for 55 minutes. Let cool completely inside the cake tin. The spinach pie will keep covered for 3 days in the fridge.
The humble ingredients of the Italian Easter pie may make it seem hardly worthy of a celebration. History however, reveals a much more special place of the Easter pie in the Italian culture. That’s because eggs, chard, and ricotta or prescinsêua (the latter being the typical ingredient that is found almost only in the Liguria region) were very expensive foods back in the day, saved only for the most special occasions in the year. Thankfully for us, we can easily run to the local store to grab most of these – so set some time aside this weekend and try your hands at this ultimate Italian Easter recipe.