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Spinach Torta from Genoa…. plus a hundred years

Spinach Torta via Hoboken

4 pkgs frozen chopped spinach (10 oz each)
8 eggs (beaten)
1 cup grated Parmiggianno-Reggiano cheese
1 large 8 oz cream cheese at room temperature
salt and pepper to taste (parsley--or other fresh herbs such as marjoram are optional and always nice).

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.  Brush about 2 tablespoons olive oil on the bottom and half way up the sides of a 9x11 pan or Pyrex-type dish. 

3.  Begin with three mixing bowls:  large, medium and small.  In the largest bowl, defrost and drain spinach very well.  Expedited with heat or the microwave if you wish Place the cream cheese or (other fresh cheese) in the medium bowl.  Beat the eggs in the small bowl. 

4. Cream the cream cheese, using a hand-held electric mixer.  Add the beaten eggs, then the Parmigiano, salt, pepper and parsley. Mix well and pour half the mixture into your spinach. Evenly spread the spinach mixture into the oiled pan.  Cover the spinach with the remaining half of the liquid egg mixture. 

Bake at 350 degrees.  Depending on your oven it will be done between 35 and 50 minutes—whenever top is golden. 



I am lucky to know Mario Bosquez from the Martha Stewart Radio Channel on Sirius.  Mario is a food and wine enthusiast (and like me an animal lover), a wonderful radio host of the show Living Today, and all-around great guy.

He’s started a “weekend cooking challenge” on his facebook page, inviting people to all make the same recipe on a given weekend, then share comments and feedback.  Like Nancy’s “bake with me” events, these internet gatherings are an interesting way to defy the idea that we are all living in our atomized internet lives.  I am delighted that Mario chose my “Spinach Torta via Hoboken” for a challenge this weekend.  And to help, I’ve posted photos of every step.  Once you’ve got your cream cheese softened and your spinach cooked, this recipe will take about a half hour to assemble, then about 45 minutes to bake.  You’ll have a nice big pan of spinach pie for a simple lunch or supper.  Or you can cut it small and have it as an appetizer or side dish at a party.  It is not a fancy dish, but simple and homey.  It’s comfort food in my family.  But you can certainly add additional flavors as you wish.  And if you like a more pungent torta, you can replace a little of the parmigiano with peccorino. 

The word torta means cake.  But around Genoa, it also refers to the extremely popular institution of the vegetable pie.  There are infinite variations of torte--and you can be creative.  This recipe of my family’s has been Americanized with “filadelfia” (cream cheese) and frozen spinach.  But the spirit and taste are quite similar to what I’ve had there.  If you’d like to learn more about my quest for old Genoese recipes such as torta, I refer you to my book ”The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken.”

If you want to just make this torta, just follow the jump and see my step by step photos and instructions.  Then compare notes--if you wish--on Mario’s page.

Lucky me.  Son Number 2 (age 9) just came home from karate when I was making it. Ever enthusiastic, he offered to help.  And he’s a wonderful hand model, don’t you think?

1.  Make sure your cream cheese is soft and your spinach cooked and cooled enough to handle.  Here’s how I do it.  After cooking it in the microwave or on the stove, I put it all in a mesh strainer over a colander.  I use my potato masher to press out the water.  And then at the very end I also press down on the spinach with a clean dry dish towel.  It must be very dry!
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This next photo shows just how dry I mean!
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Doesn’t my son do a nice job of brushing oil around the pan?
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Here are you main ingredients.
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Now you cream the cream cheese.  I’m using a stand-up mixer.  Unlike what you see here, you should change from the
whisk to the paddle attachment.  Then add the eggs (which my son beat nicely as you can see).
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Then comes the grated cheese.  Did I mention that seasoning and any optional herbs? 
I use maybe a half teaspoon of salt but this will really depend on your palate and the saltiness of the cheese you’ve used.. 
And yes I taste it even with the raw eggs to decide. 
Call me dangerous.

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Pour half of your egg mixture into the nice dry spinach.  Mix it up.  Then press it down into your pain. 
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Pour the remaining egg on top and smooth out.  It should look like more or less this when you put it in the oven!
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Take it out of the oven when it’s golden brown but not too dark otherwise it will be dry. 
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Cheers!







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Wow… I can’t make this today because I have other culinary assignments. However, it seems to me a perfect dish for Easter brunch. What fun!

    –  (March 20 2010 at 4:29)



i am going to make this with fesh spinach that i bought this morning at the farmers market. i have all the rest of the ingredients so i hope the change from frozen to fresh spinach doesnt throw off the recipe. i plan on steaming the spinach first, cooling it and then chopping it so it should be pretty close in texture to the frozen spinach. i will update later.

    –  (March 20 2010 at 6:34)



This would be perfect for my Italian chit-chat group. I may make it when the group meets at my house next week - and you’re invited of course.
PS - Son #2 looks like a great helper.

    – ciaochowlinda (March 21 2010 at 12:34)



Is very pleasing to see that someone prepares traditional Genoese food across the world. In almost all ligurian homes at Easter a very similar “torta Pasqualina” will be made; is an ancient tradition that happens every year.

sergio rossi

    – sergio rossi (March 24 2010 at 4:30)



I made a half recipe of this on Thurs.  It was delicious and even better the next day.  Thanks!

    –  (March 27 2010 at 12:12)



Janet, I like the idea of using half the recipe as this is so big.  Did you use a pie plate?  Anyway, glad you liked it!

Laura

    –  (March 27 2010 at 2:06)



What a great recipe! I will try it for our next family brunch, maybe using a good pinch of nutmeg as seasoning.

    – MC (April 12 2010 at 1:32)


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