Argentina’s favorite spinach pie will be your new brunch obsession

With its golden crust and homey, comforting filling, a traditional Argentinian torta pascualina is both rustic and majestic. It’s an Easter Sunday favorite, but it’s also an ideal centerpiece dish for any springtime brunch.

Swaddled in puff pastry, the spinach (or Swiss chard) and ricotta pie transforms in the oven into a stunning main dish and makes quite an impression.

As many Argentinian dishes, this savory spinach, ricotta and egg pie has its roots in Liguria, Italy, where it is still enjoyed at Easter.

How to make one at home? Some years ago, The Post asked Tequesta chef Lenore Pinello to do just that. She adapted a recipe by blogger Deborah Mele and demonstrated the step-by-step process.

Here’s that recipe and tutorial.

Simple ingredients for a torta pascualina.

Torta Pascualina

Serves 6 to 8

Tools:

  • 1 tea towel, for wringing the cooked spinach

For the crust:

  • 2 sheets puff pastry, or 1 sheet long enough to line and cover the springform pan, at room temperature

For the filling:

  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh spinach (or Swiss chard), about three bunches, washed
  • 3 tablespoon bread crumbs
  • 1 pound ricotta cheese (full fat), drained at least 3 hours or overnight in a sieve placed over a bowl in the fridge
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg (optional)

For the egg wash:

Blanche the spinach to preserve its bright green color.

Prepare the filling:

1. Drop fresh spinach or chard into a pot of boiling water for about a minute until leaves wilt but are still vibrant green. Using flip flops, remove spinach and quickly drop into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. Remove spinach to sieve or colander to drain.

2. Spread a clean tea towel on a work surface. Place drained spinach in a mound on tea towel. Roll up the towel to squeeze out liquid from spinach. Squeeze over sink or bowl. Unroll towel — spinach should be dry now — and place spinach on a cutting board.

Once blanched, wrap the spinach in a tea towel and wring out liquid before chopping it.

3. Chop spinach well and place in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the spinach. Add the drained ricotta, the Parmesan and optional nutmeg, and stir well to combine.

5. In a small bowl, beat two of the eggs. Fold them into the spinach mixture. If the mixture appears too crumbly or overly dry, you can add another beaten egg to achieve a thick but not pourable consistency.

Hand pie heaven:Five favorite restaurants for tasty empanadas

Add filling ingredients to the spinach and grate a touch of nutmeg to lift the flavors.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Prepare the crust:

1. Roll out the puff pastry sheets until fairly thin — they should be large enough to cover a 10-inch springform pan, with plenty of overhang to fold back over the filling and to completely cover the filling.

2. Place the sheets side by side and layer them into the pan so that they overlap and cover the bottom and sides of the pan.

After layering puff pastry sheets into a springform pan, make sure to leave enough overhanging pastry to fully cover the torta after filling with the spinach mixture.  Otherwise, use a separate pastry sheet to cover.

Add the filling:

1. Spoon the filling into the pastry-lined pan. With a spatula, smooth it evenly.

2. Using the pointy tip of the spatula or wooden spoon, make four wells in the filling, large enough to fit the yolk of an egg.

3. Crack 4 eggs, 1 at a time, into a small dish, then for each egg into a well. (If there’s too much white in the egg, pour out some of the white before pouring the egg into well.)

With the pointy tip of a spoon or spatula, make four wells in the batter.  Fill each well with an egg, making sure to drain off excess liquid from the eggs.

Close the pie:

1. Fold the hanging edges of the pastry sheets over the top of the pie. Fold them to fit, keeping in mind that this is a rustic pie and does not require perfect pleats.

Fold the overlapping edges of the puff pastry over the filling to fully cover the torta.  The folds don't have to be perfect -- the rustic finish gives this pie its charm.

2. In a small dish, beat the egg with 1 teaspoon of water. Brush egg wash over the top of the folded puff pastry sheets.

Bake:

1. Bake pie in the center of the oven for about 1 hour. Allow the pie to cool for about 10 to 15 minutes before removing the springform side.

Bake on a center rack at 400F degrees for 1 hour.

(Make ahead: Allow pie to cool fully in springform, wrap in parchment paper, then in foil and refrigerate. When ready to serve, unwrap and bake in the center rack of a 350F oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Cool and remove springform.)

The reveal: torta pascualina.

2. The torta can be served warm, or “al tiempo,” room temperature. At brunch, pair it with a crisp Argentine white wine or a glass of prosecco. ¡Salud!

Leave a Comment