Monday, March 14, 2016

Pi Day - Torta Pasqualina

Today is Pi Day - March 14.

Pi is the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter, commonly approximated as 3.1415.  It was also genius scientist's Albert Einstein's birthday (March 14, 1879).  In recent years, in the United States, it has taken off as an unofficial holiday (March 14, or 3-14 as we write dates in the United States) where you are supposed to make - or eat - a pi.  Excuse me, a pie.

Pie bakeries now report that March 14 is one of the busiest days of the year for them.

I am not a pie baker but now, for the first time, I am swept up in this celebration.

My mother in law, and relatives before her, used to make two types of pies for Easter - what she called a "grass" pie, and a "pizza rustica".  These are both savory pies that are a part of my spouse's childhood and young adult memories. 

For Pi Day, I decided that my spouse would attempt the grass pie, also known as torta pasqualina.  We both follow the Weight Watchers diet (the old points plus system, not the current system) and wanted to make some kind of compromise that both we, and my mother in law, would enjoy.

There are so many versions of this pie and spouse decided to incorporate what he remembered from his childhood.  A lot of versions, for example, call for making indentations in the filling, cracking eggs and dropping the contents into the wells - this wasn't a part of the tradition he remembered.

This is what he did.  Note, the bacon is optional - we just happened to have some.  Also, for the crust of the pie, we were intending to use phyllo dough.  But, needless to say, we forgot to buy it.  So we decided to go to our local store and get some ready made frozen pizza dough, instead.  We made the pie yesterday, as we both had to work today.

(Metric folk, you are on your own. Sorry.)

1 bunch Swiss Chard
6 oz Tuscan kale (can use regular kale)
1/2 pound baby bok choy
2 oz arugula
(you can substitute other greens - traditionally this is made with swiss chard, and even early spring wild greens.)
1 teaspoon (tsp) oil of your choice - spouse used olive
2 oz thick cut local bacon (optional)
1 medium yellow onion, chopped and caramelized 
3 cloves of garlic
1 cup ricotta (we used a "small batch" part skim ricotta made in Wisconsin).
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 farm fresh eggs
1/4 tsp nutmeg (spouse uses a nutmeg and grates fresh but you don't have to)
1/3 cup parsley
1 package frozen pizza dough, thawed and cut in two equal pieces
10 inch spring form pan.

What we call Swiss chard in the United States
Chop the greens except the arugula.

and cook with enough water to cover, about 5 minutes.  Drain.

Meanwhile, saute the onion in about 1 tsp of oil with the garlic  until golden brown. then simmer on low heat to caramelize the onion.  Then add the chopped bacon and about 2 tbsp of water, mix together, cover, turn heat off, leave until cool.

When done, set aside greens and onion mixtures to cool, perhaps about 20 min. They must be cool enough to squeeze the greens out.  You can reserve this liquid for another use.

Add the onion mixture to the greens mixture, set aside.

Meantime, spouse grated the Parmesan cheese and set it aside with the ricotta.

Beat the four eggs (then set aside about three tablespoon of the beaten egg).  Make the cheese mixture by mixing the Parmesan, the ricotta, with the remaining eggs, and parsley.  Add the nutmeg and stir.
Now it is time to make the crust.  Take slightly more than 1/2 of the pizza dough, roll out. (the bottom has to be bigger than the top)
Set into the pan.

Add the greens mixture.

Add the cheese mixture.

Roll out the other half of the pizza dough, add it to the top.  There will be some dough from the bottom hanging over the side.  Take that dough and fold it over onto the top crust, then brush with the reserved egg. No need to make any vent holes.   Bake about 50 minutes at 350 degrees or until golden brown.  

Let sit at least 10 minutes.

The results?  We will have the pie tonight and I'll let you know. 

Happy Pi day!  Are you participating?


  1. That does look good! Did you calculate the points per serving?

  2. I may give this a try- without the bacon, of course...

  3. Thank you for this enjoyable post

  4. Spouse did the pie baking? Cool. I know you weren't looking forward to it.

  5. Mm, Mmm, Mmm This looks sooo good. And I'm definitely keeping the bacon in. A gluten free crust and I'll be good to go. :) I've never had this, Alana. Thank you for this fun post!

  6. That looks delicious! I've never cooked much with Swiss Chard, but this looks like a good way to start. :)


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