Ligurian Easter Savory Tart
Buona Pasqua, Happy Easter, Passover and April Fool’s Day! This year it seems like we are always having something to celebrate. Spring came in on March 21 and in Florence we celebrate Tuscan New Year’s on March 25th. This year Easter is early. April fool’s day. I am wondering how many people will have some joke food for their Easter meal.
The hills are green, trees budding, birds building their nests and the days are getting longer. Spring always brings happiness with the longer days and more light. Easter is one of the big family holidays, which in Italy means a food orgy. There is a sayingNatale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi.Christmas with your family, Easter with whoever you like. Most people I know still celebrate the traditional Easter lunch, but Easter Monday,Pasquetta, is usually spent with friends, often having a picnic.
There are several things that are never missing at Easter. The grocery stores are filled with chocolate eggs of all sizes, each with a small gift inside. Artisan chocolate makers will even put a custom gift inside for you. Children seem to get so many from all the relatives, that they have chocolate for months! There is a dove shaped Easter sweet bread called aColomba.
Eggs of all sorts are traditional. Families make Easter baskets with hard boiled eggs, perhaps a giant citron and decorate the basket. The baskets are taken to Sunday mass and put on the stairs before the altar and blessed during the mass.
The first thing you eat are your blessed eggs,Uove Benedette. I always wonder if Eggs Benedict are related?
Spring to me means recipes with young tender spinach leaves mixed with fresh sheep’s milk ricotta. There are several Tuscan dishes which I adore making likeRavioli Gnudi, the “naked” ravioli, which are really more like a spinach and ricotta gnocchi, lightly poached and served with sage, butter and parmigiano. Another classic are theCrespelle alla Fiorentina菠菜和意大利乳清干酪,法式薄饼充满相同filling, but topped with a light bechamel sauce, perhaps a little tomato sauce and baked in the over. Easy to prepare and simply serve at the last minute. Did you know that they call everything “Florentine” style when it has spinach in it? Except in Florence! Apparently Catherine de’ Medici when she was married to a future French king, moved to France with her staff and Florentines us a lot of spinach, chard and other greens in everything they make. The French codified the recipes, giving them names which have become common all over the world. In Florence, it usually means you will have peas in the dish!
For Easter each region has special dishes they like to make. Some are savory and some are sweet. I chose to make a savory tart, calledTorta Pasqualina. It is typical from the region of Liguria. In the past, it was 33 layers of a simple flour and water dough as the crust for a chard and fresh cheese filling, where raw eggs were put in the tart, then covered with pastry and baked. It is lovely for a picnic, which is the tradition for Easter Monday.
This year instead of making the traditional 33 layers of dough ( the years of Christ) I bought phyllo dough at the grocery store. Modern recipes also show it made with puff pastry, but to me it is not the same effect and easy to assemble.
I lightly greased a cake pan ( 24cm) with olive oil and began layering the phyllo dough one sheet at a time. Lightly oil and spread with a brush on each layer. Also brush the sides of the pan.
Make small identations large enough to hold and egg, Break the eggs into the prepared wholes and lightly salt and pepper.
Sprinkle with grated parmigiano reggiano.
Cover with the remaining layers of Phyllo, brushing with oil.When done, you can then start to fold in the extra layers which have been on the outside of the pan, brushing lightly with olive oil, each fold.
Bake at 350 (180) for 45 minutes or until golden.
It is usually served room temperature. A lovely surprise when you cut it open. It reminds me a little of a Greek Spanakopita or other Mediterranean savory tarts.
You can use the same idea and just bake like a quiche or single portions.
I made a small portion, just for the two of us, with400 grams of cooked chardand250 of ricotta. you can use double the ricotta.
Myphyllo dough had 15 sheets in the package.
To prepare the pan, I layered 10 sheets, alternating the way I laid them down in the pan to cover the sides well too.Brushing with oil between each layer and up the sides.
Precook the chard, then drain and chop. Saute 1/2 an onion in pan with olive oil, add the chard, salt to taste. Let cool.
Add the ricotta and stir to mix in evenly. Drain off any extra liquid from the ricotta if it has lots of liquid. In Liguria they use a soft cheese calledprescinseua,that is a little tart, impossible to find outside of the area.
Stir in an egg and 1/2 cup of grated parmigiano and some chopped marjoram ( I used thyme today).
Make indentations to place the raw eggs, ( I used 4), place the eggs and sprinkle with salt and pepper and cover with more grated parmigiano.
Continue layering the phyllo dough layers, lightly brushing with oil. Press lightly. Don’t break the egg yolks.
Then begin to fold the excess sheets of phyllo from the outside of the pan to the inside, lightly brushing with oil.
Bake at 350 (180) for 45 minutes or until golden.
We are planning on taking the tart to the beach for a picnic on Sunday instead of Monday and avoiding the huge Easter lunch! We did get our chocolate egg though! Which had a surprise new way of decorating, with whole toasted hazelnuts on the inside of the shell!
And the eggs also come with a little gift on the inside, mine was a little necklace with a silver shoe.
If you are in Italy for Easter Sunday, there are so many great parades and celebrations before and after to attend! Being in Italy for a holiday is really a fun experience. Easter can be a little crazy as all the European kids seem to be on field trips here in Florence.
Have a great holiday.