There is finally a hint of spring in the air on the East Coast after a very chilly, snowy March. The air is still unseasonably cool but you can feel...
Easter is a special day for most Italian Americans invoking deep memories of family, childhood and religious obserservance. When celebrating Easter with meals, signs of Spring are used to remind us of the significance and timing of this special day. Italians make a special tart for Easter that uses fresh ricotta, lots of eggs, young Mortadella and fresh Marjoram (or Oregano). It is the true embodiment of Easter and Spring.
This tart can be made (2) two days in advance and stored in the refrigerator. The flavors mingle and the taste improves. Remove the tart from the refrigerator several hours in advance of serving and release from the springform pan. Allow the tart to come to room temperature. This tart makes wonderful leftovers. Use freshly made Ricotta if you have time. It will make a difference.
Makes 12 servings for a served Antipasto.
Ingredients and Directions:
• 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
• 2/3 cup water
• 1/3 cup olive oil
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 5 cups (about 2 1/2 pounds) fresh ricotta
• 14 eggs (7 for filling, 6 for indentations in the torta and 1 for a final egg wash)
• 3/4 pound good quality cooked young mortadella, diced into 1/4 inch cubes
• 2 tablespoons chopped marjoram (or oregano) leaves
• 2 tablespoons salt
• 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
• Pinch of cumin seeds
• 10 or 11-inch Springform pan
• A pastry brush
1. For the pastry: I recommend you use a KitchenAid stand mixer with a dough hook. Alternatively, you can mix in a bowl with your hands. Mix together the flour, water, oil and salt. Add more water if needed to create a smooth and elastic dough that doesn't stick to your hands.
2. Transfer the dough to a clean work surface and divide into 2 pieces (one for the bottom of the torta—about 2/3s of the dough—and one for the top crust—about 1/3rd of the dough). Flatten out each piece, wrap in wax paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
3. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the larger piece of dough to roughly a 15-inch round (big enough to cover the bottom and sides of the springform pan) and about 1/8-inch thick. Transfer to the springform pan, pressing into the inner edges and leaving the dough to overhang the pan.
4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
5. For the filling: in a bowl, combine the ricotta, 7 of the eggs, mortadella, marjoram, salt and pepper. Spoon into the prepared crust. With the back of a tablespoon, create 6 fairly deep egg-shaped indentations around the surface of the ricotta mixture in the prepared crust. Carefully break each of the 6 eggs, one into each of the indentations.
6. Roll out the dough for the top crust in the same manner as the other crust. Place the crust dough over the prepared tart. Cut off the excess dough from around the springform pan. Use the tines of a fork to seal the tart all around. Now this is really important: gently tuck the pinched dough on the inside edge of the springform pan. This keeps the dough from cracking when you open the springform pan.
7. Whisk the remaining egg with one tablespoon of water. Brush the egg wash over the sealed tart and sprinkle the tart with some cumin seeds.
8. Bake the tart for at least 55 minutes or until the tart is puffed and golden brown and no longer wiggles when you move it. Depending on the temperature of the ingredients, this can take up to 90 minutes. You can use a toothpick to test the tart (done when it comes out clean).
9. Remove from oven and cool on a rack. Remove from the springform pan and let cool to serve at room temperature.
Joe and Michele Becci are a brother and sister team who love all things Italian. Together, from opposite coasts, they co-authorthe blog OurItalian Table.com.