At home we always eat this savory pie for Easter. It is, together with pesto, the most classic and recognizable dish from Genoa and was made every year by my grandmother Maria, my father's mother. As a child I thought it was wonderful to see how the whole raw eggs, which were cracked inside the filling, would sometimes be perfectly cut in two as the knife went through the pie once baked.
Now it is one of the dishes my mother Gabriella is famous for (she made the one in the picture).
Originally the pastry was made of 33 (!) super-thin layers of dough (one for each year of Christ's life). Nowadays most people prepare a simplified version with just a few layers of dough, and sometimes even with puff pastry, which is not really what the original recipe requires.
The top layer is blown with the mouth to half a globe and quickly sealed so that it stays high and becomes crispy during baking but you can skip this step. I find it hard to describe how this happens, it is actually better to see it once it's being done. My mother still does it every time she makes this wonderful vegetarian pie. Maybe one day I'll make a little video while she prepares the pasqualina.
If you do not know how to clean small artichokes (i.e. the Italian or French ones) take a look at my video. If you can't find artichokes you can use Swiss chard, which some families in Genova prefer, or bok choy.
This recipe comes from my cookbook "Cucina di casa mia - Recepten van een Italiaanse familie".
The perfect music for this dish is by Genova's most famous (and greatest) singer, Fabrizio de André. Here he sings in Genoa's dialect.
Time: 45 minutes
Oven: 40-45 minutes
320 gr. flour (preferably of the type '00', normal flour is also fine)
6 + 6 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil + extra for greasing
5-6 small Italian artichokes, cleaned and cut into thin wedges
small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped, leaves only
500 gr. ricotta
2 + 5 eggs
150 gr. parmesan or grana cheese, grated
a big bunch of fresh marjoram, only the leaves
a good pinch of grated nutmeg
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Mix the flour with half the oil, a pinch of salt and 130 ml. of lukewarm water - added little by little - and kneed until you obtain a nice, elastic dough. If the dough is too wet you can correct this by incorporating a little extra flour. Let the dough rest in a bowl covered with plastic wrap and prepare the filling in the meantime.
Cook the artichoke wedges in the rest of the olive oil with a little salt. Stew them with the lid on the pan and add the occasional bit of warm water to keep them from drying and getting hard. Add the chopped parsley, stir and allow to cool slightly once completely cooked.
Mix the ricotta with salt and pepper to taste, the stewed artichokes, 2 eggs, the grated cheese, the marjoram leaves and a pinch of nutmeg.
Divide the dough into 3 balls and roll one portion as thin as possible using a rolling pin or pasta machine. If you use the machine you can create flaps of dough that you then stick together to get the desired size.
Grease a round, deep cake tin (Ø 24 cm.) with olive oil and line bottom and wall with 1/3 of the unrolled dough. Make sure the dough generously extends above the edge because it will be necessary to make the folded edge.
Fill with the ricotta mixture. Using a spoon make five indentations in the filling, one in the middle and four around it at equal distance. Try and avoid going till the bottom of the pie. Carefully break an egg into each "well". The raw eggs will then cook in the oven. Yummy!
Roll the two remaining parts of dough making them quite thin too and place them both on the pie, one by one. Fold the overlapping portion of the bottom layer together with the other two and roll to seal creating a nice edge. Grease the top part and the rolled up edges with olive oil and place in the oven until the pastry is crunchy and golden.
Serve lukewarm or at room temperature.