Torta Pasqualina

This Ligurian specialty is perfect for Easter picnics – just transport your pie in its tin.

Photo: Ben Dearnley

Ben Dearnley
2H 25M
3H 25M

Pasqualina is a traditional dish from the port city of Genoa in Italy’s Liguria region: made with thirty-three layers of thin pastry, 23 on the top and 10 on the base, one for every year of Jesus’ life. Thankfully, our version only has three layers – but don’t sweat your first torta looking perfect, it’s really all about the filling. The silverbeet is cooked long and slow until silky, sweet and densely flavoured and the real festive prize is the whole eggs baked within; score the top so you know where to slice right through the eggs for the ultimate belissimo moment.




1.For olive oil pastry, combine flour, oil and 2 tsp salt in an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook; mix on low speed to combine. Increase speed to medium, gradually add 340ml water and knead until dough begins to clump (2-3 minutes). Turn out onto a work surface; knead for 2 minutes to form into a ball. Flatten into a disc, transfer to a bowl, cover and set aside to rest (1 hour). Dough can be made day before; remove from fridge 30 minutes before using.
2.For filling, you’ll need to cook in two large stockpots or saucepans. Heat half olive oil in each over medium heat, add half garlic cloves to each; cook until lightly golden on both sides (2 minutes). Reduce heat to low, add half onion to each, sauté until tender (6-8 minutes), add half silverbeet to each, increase heat to medium and allow heat to collapse silverbeet to make it easier to stir. Season to taste and cook, stirring occasionally, until dark, softened and excess liquid has completely evaporated (about 30 minutes). Increase heat to high in the last 5 minutes, if necessary. Place in a sieve to drain, press down with the back of a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible. Transfer to a large bowl, add cheeses, lemon zest and 7 eggs and stir to combine. Filling can be made the day before but omit eggs and add just before ready to make pie.
3.Preheat oven to 190˚C. Lightly grease and line base and sides of a 16cm x 24cm loaf tin with baking paper, allowing 5cm paper to overhang to act as handles for easy removal.
4.Divide dough into 2 x 320gm balls and 3 x 250gm balls. Take a 320gm ball, flatten with your fists to a rectangle, then roll out to a 2mm thick, 42cm x 27cm rectangle. (Dough may feel stiff to roll initially but gets easier as it gets thinner. Roll dough out from centre in every direction.) Trim rectangle, use to line long sides of tin and base, pressing into corners and lightly brush with olive oil. Take a 250gm ball, flatten with your fists to a rectangle, then roll out to a 2mm thick, 47cm x 20cm rectangle. Trim rectangle, use to line short sides of tin and base, layering on top of sheet below and pressing into corners and edges to seal, then lightly brush with oil. Repeat with remaining 320gm ball and a 250gm ball, brushing with oil between layers.
5.Fill pastry case with three-quarters of the greens mixture; make 4 deep indents in filling with back of a spoon, crack an egg into each, and cover with remaining filling.
6.Take remaining 250gm ball, flatten with your fists to a rectangle, then roll out to a 2mm thick, 22cm x 55cm rectangle. Place on top of pie, allowing sheet to fall into folds. Trim excess pastry to just under rim, then fold in edges and crimp. Brush top with beaten egg and sprinkle with salt flakes. Bake until pie is golden, puffed up and a skewer inserted into centre comes out hot to the touch (1 hour 45 minutes). Cool in tin until cool enough to touch, then lift out of tin using baking paper handles. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Related stories