Tarta pascualina, a savory spinach pie, enjoys popularity in both Argentina and Uruguay. Italian immigrants who voyaged to South America to gamble on a new life brought with them the recipe for this tasty and filling pie. The tarta pascualina’s origins lie specifically in the region of Liguria, Italy, where the dish can be traced back to the 16th century.
Traditionally eaten during Lent, this meatless dish contains a number of eggs, a Christian symbol of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The eggs are cracked directly into the flavorful filling of spinach and ricotta cheese, and after a stint in the oven, they emerge as hardboiled eggs baked into the pie. Although associated with the period leading up to Easter, the tarta pascualina may be enjoyed at any time of year.
Note: The tarta pascualina is frequently made with swiss chard instead of spinach, so feel free to substitute one for the other.
Tarta Pascualina (Savory Easter Pie)
1 medium onion, chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 (14 oz.) bags frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and drained or 2 bunches fresh spinach, lightly steamed, drained and chopped (roughly 1 ½ packed cups of cooked spinach)
1 lb. ricotta cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
6 eggs (4 for the top of the pie, one for the filling, and one for the egg wash)
3 roasted red peppers, chopped
1/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
1 tsp. ají molido [substitute crushed red pepper]
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 (2-count) package pascualina shells or 2 pie crusts, either homemade or store-bought
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Lightly grease a deep tart pan or springform pan with baking spray.
In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Sweat the onion and garlic together in the skillet until translucent. Remove from the heat, and allow the onion and garlic to cool.
In a large bowl, stir together the onion, garlic, spinach (make sure it is thoroughly drained), ricotta, mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese, roasted peppers, nutmeg, ají molido, salt, and pepper. Taste the mixture and adjust the seasoning as needed. Add 1 egg to the mixture and mix well. Carefully line the bottom of the pan with one of the pascualina shells. Spoon the filling into the tart pan.
Smooth the top of the filling, and make four deep, evenly spaced depressions in the filling. Crack an egg into each hole (hold back a bit of the white if it looks like it will overflow). Cover the filling with the second pascualina shell, and seal the crust using a fork or by making a decorative edge. Vent the crust with a sharp knife, and then brush the crust with a beaten egg for color and shine. Bake for approximately 45 minutes, or until the pie is golden brown and the filling has set. Allow the pie to cool to room temperature (or just slightly warm) before serving.