torta pasqualina

When my father died one of the things I inherited was a folder containing my old report cards, a couple of poems I wrote when I was in grade school, and for some odd reason, my Sunday school notebook.

I flipped through the folder trying to piece together bits of my younger self. It wasn’t really all that satisfying. The picture wasn’t clear. The report cards were mixed – with a variety of comments that were alternately complimentary and disparaging. I was apparently somehow quiet and courteous and yet also chatty and disruptive. Several reports mentioned the word attitude. Only one teacher seemed to use the word with any kind of flattering connotation. That was my favourite teacher ever – my high school English teacher – Jim Barringer. His only comment on my final report was, “spunky attitude.” I think he may have been projecting; he was remarkably spunky himself.

The poems were dreadful. I threw them out immediately before anyone else caught wind of them. But my favourite thing was the Sunday School notebook. There, in fat grey lead, in my unsteady six-year-old printing, I had carefully copied the question, “What is the real meaning of Easter?”

Under the question, in great big letters, I had pencilled, “The Easter bunny brings us chocolate eggs.” The words were mostly erased but still visible. The page was scrunched from my attempts to erase the wrong answer.

I can remember my constant state of confusion in Sunday School. I never knew what was going on. The teacher read us a Bible story, then we hauled out our notebooks, copied down the question from the chalkboard and were assigned to print a one-sentence answer and draw a picture. Somehow I never managed to connect the Bible stories to the questions and answers. And I always got the questions wildly wrong.

I was stunned when the teacher chose an older boy to read his answer and he said that Easter was when Christ, who had been nailed to a cross, died, was buried, and then rose again. I remember feeling a little sick. Partly because of the concept. Mostly because I was so far wrong. I took the eraser out of my pencil-case and started rubbing out my answer. The boy had drawn a picture of Christ on the cross. I had drawn a shaky little rabbit with huge big ears, a lot of circular looking flowers on stick stems, and a scattering of brightly coloured eggs.

It’s only now that I think that I actually got the answer right in my own way. It seems fitting that as a six-year-old I believed Easter was about eggs.  I think we constantly underestimate the importance of both food and ritual. Eggs are a universal symbol of fertility and rebirth. And regardless of religious beliefs, spiritual and symbolic rebirth is the message of Easter.

This year, in honour of Easter, I’ll be celebrating with flowers and chocolate and plenty of eggs. For Easter dinner, I’m making Torta Pasqualina, a classic, incredibly tasty egg and spinach Italian pie often served at Easter. Typically the dish is made with phyllo pastry but this is my adaptation and I’ve used frozen puff pastry which is faster and easier to work with and equally tasty – plus it pays homage to my British heritage. Torta Pasqualina is a great stand-alone vegetarian dish or an excellent accompaniment to a traditional Easter ham.

Torta Pasqualina

  • 5 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
  • 1 egg, uncooked and lightly beaten
  • One large tub – 312 grams or 11 oz fresh (preferably organic) spinach, washed, dried and trimmed
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 400 grams (just less than 1 lb) of ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar, grated
  • ⅓ cup parmesan, grated
  • ½ tsp salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 397 grams (or closest equivalent including 1lb) ready-made puff pastry

Preheat the oven to 400F/200C. Lightly grease a deep dish pie plate.

In a large fry pan, cook the onion in the olive oil until the onion is lightly browned. Add the spinach and cook over medium-low heat 3-4 minutes or until the spinach is just wilted. Remove from the heat and add the ricotta, cheddar, parmesan, half of the beaten egg (reserve remainder for brushing the pastry) and seasonings.

Roll out half the puff pastry to about .5cm or ¼ inch thickness and line the pie dish. Fill with half the spinach mixture. Add the hard-boiled eggs, yolks down, evenly spaced. Top with remaining spinach mixture.
torta pasqualina in progress 2

Roll out remaining pastry and top the pie, taking care to seal the edges of the pie.

Using a pastry brush, glaze the top of the pie with the remaining half beaten egg. Make several small incisions in the top of the pie to allow steam to vent.

Bake 25-30 minutes or until risen and golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool at least ten minutes before slicing and serving. Also good served at room temperature.

torta pasqualina whole pie


32 thoughts on “torta pasqualina

  1. What a beautiful story, Lindy.. You and I could have been the same little girl in Sunday school, (we called it Church School, and it was on Wednesdays).. I was scared to death in church school, and it was more of catechism teaching rather than bible stories.

    I can honestly see how Christ’s suffering and death on the cross for us could scare a small child…especially a young innocent little girl who knows that on Easter the Easter bunny brings candy and eggs…in her little mind, it would be so difficult and scary first, to comprehend the violence…but then to put the two together…violence and colorful Easter eggs.

    I love how you had the revelation, that in your innocence… your answer “The Easter bunny brings us chocolate eggs” spoke volumes… and it did.

    And on to the torta… While I’ve been typing, the recipe was printing, and is sitting patiently on my printer.. I have two dinners to attend on Sunday, and will be bringing a torta pasqualina to both… it is so beautiful..and so fitting. I love it. ❤ Happy Easter to you, my lovely.

      1. Lindy! I made the torta… actually two of them… and the verdict is….

        Absolutely delicious!!!! And so pretty.. My family went crazy over it, and I can promise it’s going to be made over and over again!! My mom and I cut a wedge of it before dinner..and we stood in the kitchen sharing it, and I don’t think we said a word the whole time, except to make “Mmmm” yummy noises!! There wasn’t a crumble left in the pie plate…

        Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful and delicious torta… I hope that others have or plan on trying this soon… I expected a huge amount of work..and was pleasantly surprised how quickly and easily it came together! I think the worst part of the whole thing was peeling the eggs! But then again, I just hate peeling eggs, especially when they’re fresh, and the shells come off in micro-pieces!

        Again, thank you. It was wonderful. A must keep recipe… ❤

  2. Another excellent post, Lindy…. Sounds delicious. I would love to see the Sunday school book sometime. I bet you were a gifted writer back then too….

  3. Lovely story of remembrance…thank you for sharing it with us! The torta sounds delicious too. I’m saving this recipe for my Mother’s Day luncheon, it sounds perfect!

  4. Often your writing makes me reflect on my own experiences…very much a church going farm girl experience here….we would always go to church and it was a kind, quiet and very traditional non denominational type of church..however Sunday School was all the drama of old and new testament stories which I really was impressed by ( my early taste of theatre)….Easter Sunday was a sunrise breakfast at church and the dads made pancakes and coffee. My sister and I would have a simple new hat and maybe some new gloves…under our hats on the kitchen table we would find an Oh Henry Easter egg…I think Mom did the hat but the Daddy Bunny placed the eggs…!

    1. I love hearing your stories – can just imagine you in your new Easter hat finding your Oh Henry egg and the hidden eggs planted by the Daddy bunny. Very sweet. Thank you so much for writing. Happy happy Easter to you! xo

  5. Thinks looks delicious. I am only now learning what a torta pascalito is. I love learning about other people’s religious symbolic foods. I just read also that normally there are 33 layers of philo dough to symbolize Jesus’s 33 years. Interesting. What a beautiful story about looking back at your old self and understanding. There is something about seeing the mind of your child self…not necessarily good, but interesting. So cute. I think for a 6 year old it’s okay if Easter is about candy and celebration.

    1. Amanda – I read that about the 33 layers – it is interesting. Symbolism and religion are so tied up together. And you’re right – it is quite amazing to be able to look back at yourself as a child. It was surprising to me when I received that folder that I wasn’t exactly who I thought I was. I pictured myself as a very composed, quiet, well-behaved little girl – but my report cards showed another side too. One not quite so sweet. I might just have been a little feisty!
      Thank you, as always, for your insightful comments.

  6. Up until today I had never heard of this torta before. I love it, the eggs, leafy greens and puff pastry. What a delicious and perfect Easter meal. I think you did get it right in your answer to the question from Sunday School, I would have given the very same answer myself. What lovely memories. A very Happy Easter to you!

    1. I love that you would have given the same answer Suzanne. Thank you for saying that. The older I get – the more I believe that it’s actually about the food… it’s always all about the food!

  7. I agree with Purdy on all fronts except I don’t remember Sunday school (even though I did attend, briefly).

    Your recollection was both serious and funny at the same time.

    I usually make lamb for Easter but think I will try this instead (perhaps alongside a small chop).

    1. Stacey – I’m way behind as always in blogging but heading over to my reader next to see what you’ve been up to. Thank you so much for dropping by and commenting – SO appreciated. xo

  8. Such a sweet story Lindy. I’m putting this pie on my imaginary chalk board! I can not seem to make and eat enough pie right now. This one is especially unique with the whole cooked eggs rather than pouring the raw eggs over the top. Bummer, if I had cheddar cheese right now I would go to the kitchen and make this..I have everything else.

    1. Seana – I would bet you could use any cheese you like. And I’m sure if you made this it would be AMAZING.
      How goes the imaginary chalkboard? Inspiring you every time you walk in your kitchen?! xo

      1. I made the pie Lindy! We loved it. I did a little search on torta pasqualina before setting out in the kitchen and found several different methods of making it. I choose to stick to yours and it was lovely! I would love to have the recipe on my blog if it is okay with you I would love to create a post…of course all credit will be given to you. 🙂 Thank you for your never ending inspiration.

  9. I loved your story but what I thought was nice was that your father had kept special mementos from your childhood. My husband makes an Easter torta but his is filled with Italian deli meats and cheese. This sounds like a delicious new dish to try.

  10. Hi Lindy, I was advised by Seana of cottagegrovehouse that you inspired her to make it, which in turn inspired me to make it. Just wanted to pass on my thanks for the delicious recipe!

    1. Thanks Ngan – I can’t think why I wasn’t following you. I am now! I’m so glad you liked this pie. It’s such a winner but then eggs and spinach are truly a perfect flavour combination.

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