Postcards from Italy

Torta di Pasqua

With the arrival of Easter week, outdoor wood-fired ovens across Umbria are stoked to a smoking hot baking temperature as families prepare one of the holiday’s most beloved (and delicious) dishes: torta di Pasqua.

Torta di Pasqua(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

This savory cheese bread is traditionally prepared on Holy Thursday or Friday (so to be ready for a special blessing on Holy Saturday), and made with a rich batter stuffed with eggs, Parmigiano-Reggiano, pecorino, and lard...perfect for breaking the 40 days of Lenten fast on Easter morning.

Most families use a semi-secret recipe passed down for generations, and spend the entire morning of baking day kneading together enough dough to make at least a dozen torte of varying sizes and shapes, based on the mishmash of collected baking tins (often reused industrial sized sardine cans) in which they rise and are then baked.

The Recipe(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

Adding the cheese(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

Mixing the dough(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

Into the tins and ready to rise(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

Tweetable: A seasonal treat in Umbria is traditional torta di Pasqua, a savory cheese bread baked in a wood-fired oven.

Prepping the oven(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

Once the oven has reached the perfect temperature, and the dough has double or tripled in size, the torte are placed in the oven with a large paddle and left to bake until they have risen over the sides of their tins, resembling giant cupcakes, shiny and golden on top.

into the oven(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

close them up for about 45 minutes

it's done(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

The final product yields a crumbly outside crust and a moist, savory center dotted with melted cubes of cheese—and is the perfect foil for Umbria’s flavorful charcuterie. Though best freshly baked, torte di Pasqua can also be frozen and toasted for weeks afterwards...if, of course, you manage to have leftovers!

DSC05608(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

Brian and Maria Gabriella made cheese bread this year with Maria Luisa Scolastra and her father Angelo at their restaurant Villa Roncalli in Foligno, Umbria. If you want to try this at home, Maria Luisa has adapted the recipe for a small cheese bread to be baked in a loaf pan in her cookbook Il Gusto delle Stagioni.

200g Flour
3 Eggs
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup milk
70g grated parmigiano-reggiano
70 g grated pecorino
15g baking powder
30g butter (room temperature)
Salt and black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix the flour and baking powder in a bowl, leaving a well in the center. Add the wet ingredients (eggs, milk, oil, and butter) and begin to mix. Add in the cheese, salt and pepper (be careful with the amount of salt because the cheeses are already salty) and mix until it is smooth and well combined. Pour the dough into a greased loaf pan. Bake for 25 minutes.

Contributor: Rebecca Winke

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