Easter is a time of new beginnings. Of transformation and rebirth. So, why not give a traditional dish new life with a modern update? That’s precisely what I was thinking when I did a riff on the classic Italian Easter pie, Torta Pasqualina, to create my Savory Easter Tart. Don’t get me wrong—I love Torta Pasqualina with its layer-upon-layer olive oil pastry crust and whole cooked eggs nestled in thick swaths of ricotta and greens filling. But let’s be honest—the dish can be a bit weighty both on the stomach and the work load—so I decided to revamp it for contemporary tastes and cooks that don’t have time to preapre elaborate dishes into this lighter and more elegant appetizer for Easter lunch.
I set about deconstructing and redesigning the original pie using (more or less) the same ingredients for their magical flavor combination—only elaborated and arranged differently. Since my memory was still vivid of first spying a rarified version of torta pasqualina in an upscale Milan gastronomic shop and marveling at the carefully arranged ribbons of green, white, and pink ingredients framing whole cooked eggs inside—I wanted to achieve a pastel-colored ribbon effect in a low profile, tidy tart. So, instead of mixing all the elements together and breaking whole eggs into divets in the filling, I divide my Savory Easter Tart into stratas and beat the eggs in a creamy custard to pour over separate layers of spinach and ricotta filling, diced ham, and fontina cheese. The result is an open face, multi-layer tart that in Italy is called torta salata—or savory tart similar to French quiche.
Then, in lieu of the anywhere from six to thirty-three layers of olive oil pastry layers with top and bottom crusts in the classic version, I line my tart pan with a single sheet of rich butter and egg pastry dough that is super flaky yet sturdy enough to hold a fancy border. Once the pastry shell is filled, I roll the overhanging dough inward to create a fat cord edge then cut it diagonally with scissors to form pointy “beaks”. This border is inspired by the savory tarts of Lucca that are customarily adorned with a golden crown of pastry becchi. During baking, the pastry puffs up (thanks to the butter and eggs) into fine, golden layers, creating a satisfyingly crisp base for the creamy, tender filling.
So, there you have it—a behind the scenes look at creating a modern twist on a traditional holiday dish! I hope you like my Savory Easter Tart and will make it for your friends and family. Let me know in the comments below.
This Easter, I’m celebrating new beginnings, transformation and rebirth in cooking and beyond and wish you Happy Easter, Buona Pasqua, and buon appetito!
From my kitchen to your family table,