Ligurian torta verde with spinach and asparagus

Each year, torta verde, or torta pasqualina makes a special Easter Monday appearance at family picnics throughout the Ligurian country side. Delicious warm, and even better cold, this super-greens savoury cake is a crowd favourite. I have vivid memories charging around a field with my childhood friend Fabio during pasquetta, after chomping on endless slices of his Mum’s mouth watering torta verde – a sure way of getting us to eat our greens!
Delicious slice of torta verde
This version is deep filled with spinach and asparagus, but artichokes, peas and chard are all excellent substitutions. Or if you’re feeling adventurous, add them all in.
Prep time: 40mins; cook time: 50mins. Serves 8.
For the pastry:
500g flour
200ml water
50ml olive oil
tsp fine salt
For the filling:
1/2 large white onion, finely chopped
500g spinach
2tsp marjoram
1tbsp parsley, freshly chopped
250g asparagus spears
500g ricotta
120g freshly grated parmesan
150g risotto rice
6 large eggs
a few glugs of olive oil
Start by making the pastry. Combine all the ingredients in a mixer with a dough hook, mixing on the slowest setting for 10 minutes until the pastry has a smooth doughy feel. Divide into two unequal parts; roughly a two-thirds / one-third split. Lay on a lightly floured surface, cover with a damp cloth and set aside for an hour or so.
For the filling bring a pan of water with a pinch of salt to the boil and add the rice. Follow the packet for cooking guidelines.
Meanwhile heat a few glugs of olive oil in a large deep frying or flame proof casserole dish. Add the onion and cook over a medium heat until soft. Add the spinach, marjoram and parsley and cover. Stir after a couple of minutes to make sure the spinach is evenly wilting. Once the spinach has wilted, take off the heat and allow to cool.
Bring a pan of water to the boil and cook the asparagus for 3-4 mins. Drain and set aside to cool. When cool enough to handle, chop the spears into even 4-5cm chunks, leaving 3-4 whole spears aside for later. 
Once the rice is ready, drain and run under a cold tap to stop it cooking further. Add it to a large mixing bowl along with the asparagus and spinach mix. Stir so as to spread everything evenly. Now add the ricotta, 100g of parmesan and 3 eggs. Season and give it all a good mix. Cover and set aside.
Preheat oven to 160C.
Take the two pastry portions and roll out into a large (40cm) and a smaller (30cm) disc. Brush a standard cake tin with olive oil and line with the first layer of pastry. Don’t worry about the excess pastry over the sides.
Filled torta verde
Tip the filling over the pastry and distribute evenly. Make a couple of wells in the filling, cracking an egg in each. Decorate with the remaining asparagus spears, and sprinkle with the remaining parmesan.
Cover the tin with the second layer of pastry so as the edges overlap with the first layer. Take the fringes of both layers and roll together to form a round edge.
Torta verde in the oven
Whisk up the remaining egg and egg wash the top of the cake. Finish with a sprinkle of salt, and slide in the oven for 35-40 minutes.
E adesso si mangia!
Thanks for reading
Let me know what you think! What’s your picnic favourite?

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