Torta Pasqualina

For this version of the savory Italian Easter pie that originated in Liguria, I scaled down the traditional 33 layers of flaky olive oil crust to 12, as many modern cooks do. The filling is made with a combination of Swiss chard and baby spinach that I braise until dry -- it lets me skip the steps of blanching, squeezing and sauteing. I add a little yogurt to the ricotta to mimic the flavor and texture of tangy prescinseua cheese, often used in the torta but unavailable in the United States. Don't be afraid of the 12-layer crust! It's easier than you think and much more forgiving than regular pie dough. By Alexis Pisciotta for Food Network Kitchen
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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 7 hr (includes resting time)
  • Active: 3 hr
  • Yield: 8 to 10 servings
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Ingredients

Crust:

Filling:

Directions

  1. For the crust: Mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl and make a well in the center. Combine the oil and 1 cup water in a liquid measuring cup and pour into the well. Stir together with a fork to make a shaggy dough. Turn out on a work surface and knead until smooth and elastic, 2 to 5 minutes. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and roll each into a ball. Space the balls 1 to 2 inches apart on the worksurface or in a baking dish. Cover with a damp towel and let rest 1 hour.
  2. For the filling: Meanwhile, heat the oil and butter in a large pot over high. Add the onion, chard stems, 1/4 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper. Cook until softened and dry, stirring occasionally, 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in the chard leaves, then the spinach, adding a little of the greens at a time and letting each batch wilt before adding more. 
  3. Once all the greens are wilted, add the marjoram and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Lower the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the stems and greens are tender and all the liquid has cooked off, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer to a large cutting board to cool, about 30 minutes.  
  4. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F with a rack in the center and a large baking sheet set on the rack. Mix the ricotta, Parmigiano-Reggiano, yogurt, breadcrumbs, nutmeg and 2 of the eggs in a large bowl. Finely chop the greens and stir into the ricotta mixture.  
  5. Brush the inside of a 9-inch round cake pan (at least 2 inches deep) with olive oil. Generously dust a work surface with flour and roll out 1 dough ball to 12 inches in diameter. (Keep the other dough covered.)
  6. Drape the dough round in the pan so the edges overhang by about 1 inch. (It's ok if it doesn't completely lay across the bottom of the pan, it will stretch as you add more layers.) Brush the edges with oil first to anchor them, then brush the rest of the dough. Roll another ball in the same way, lay it on top of the first and brush with oil the same way. Continue rolling, layering and brushing with 4 more balls of dough for a total of 6 layers, leaving the last layer unbrushed with oil. Gently spread the chard filling into the crust.  
  7. Crack one egg into a ramekin. Make a 2-inch-deep-by-2-inch-wide indentation in the filling 1 inch from the edge of the pan using the back of the handle of a wooden spoon. Slide the egg into the hole. Repeat the process with 4 more eggs, spacing them evenly around the pan. Do not put an egg in the center. Sprinkle the eggs with salt and pepper. 
  8. Roll another ball of dough to 12 inches in diameter. Lay it over of the filling with a 1 1/2-inch overhang and brush with oil. Repeat with the remaining 5 balls of dough leaving the top layer unbrushed with oil. Trim the overhang to 1/2 inch. Roll the overhanging edges over each other along the rim of the torta, tucking them in and pinching to seal. Beat the remaining egg in the ramekin and generously brush the top and edges of the torta. 
  9. Place the torta on the preheated baking sheet and bake until puffed and golden brown and the internal temperature registers 150 degrees F when taken at the center, 70 to 80 minutes. (The edges will measure hotter.) Cool on a wire rack at least 4 hours. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.  

Cook’s Note

When measuring flour, we spoon it into a dry measuring cup and level off excess. (Scooping directly from the bag compacts the flour, resulting in dry baked goods.)

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