I have, perhaps, lamented the annual fall beet harvest before, where we are routinely overwhelmed with a last minute deluge of beets prompted by the first frost. But the
problem dubious blessing about growing your own beets is that you also end up with triple the volume in beet greens.
And so after we’ve had our fill of boiled beet greens, beet green goma ae, beet greens cooked with garlic, and beet greens cooked with dou ban jiang, I start to wonder what else we can do.
Pasqualina is a pie typically filled with swiss chard and eggs, Italian in origin, while also common in Argentina and Uruguay. The first time I tried it was an Argentinian variant at Latin Taste, a shop tucked in Toronto’s Kensington Market. There, they make the pie in large trays and cut into square slabs. Each piece is solidly packed with greens, flecked with finely chopped red pepper and the intermittent halved boiled egg.
What I’ve made here is a beet green version – though I think this pie is amenable to whichever green you have on hand, swiss chard and spinach especially.
The filling is a hearty composite of greens and cheese, a foolproof combination proven as such in many other savoury pastries, which evades any lingering beet green fatigue. Together with the eggs, it’s a meal in a pie.
Taking inspiration from Latin Taste, I’ve made mine in a square tray so I can cut it into hefty square servings. I had a couple dinners of it, and then several lunches. It travels well – and one piece will definitely suffice for a meal!
beet green pasqualina
Empanada dough adapted from Epicurious. I used all butter as that’s typically all I have on hand, but substitute lard or shortening as desired. Alternatives include puff pastry or pie crust – feel free to use whichever you would like! Pasqualina filling based on the recipes from 196 Flavors and The Spice Chica. If you prefer you may also make this in a round tin!
empanada dough* – see note
- 400g all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ tsp kosher salt
- 2 tbsp granulated sugar
- 160g cold butter, cut into small cubes
- 1 large egg + 1 egg yolk
- 125g ice cold water
- 450g beet greens (or swiss chard)* – see note
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt or to taste
- ground black pepper, to taste
- 180g (3/4 cup) ricotta
- 80g mozzarella, shredded
- 40g parmesan, shredded
- 1 large egg (uncooked)
- 3 large eggs, hard boiled
- 1 beaten egg, for egg wash
In a large bowl whisk together the flour, salt and sugar. Add the butter and toss to coat the cubes in flour. Use a pastry cutter or two knives to cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.
Whisk together the egg, egg yolk and cold water. Add to the flour and mix until a shaggy dough is formed, then turn out onto the counter and knead just until mostly all the flour is moistened. Pat into a rectangle and wrap tightly in plastic. Chill completely.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the beet greens and cook briefly, for about 3 minutes, or until the stems are starting to become tender. Drain the greens, rinse in cold water to cool and then squeeze out any excess liquid water. Finely chop the greens.
Heat a tbsp or two of oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and bell pepper and saute until the onion is softened. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Remove from the heat and stir in the beet greens. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in the nutmeg and season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside to cool.
Mix together the cheeses and raw egg. Add this mixture to the cooled beet greens and mix until combined. The filling is then ready to use.
Preheat the oven to 400F. Butter the inside of an 8×8 square baking tin with sides 2” high.
Divide the dough into two pieces, one bigger than the other (by weight, one should be about 450g and the remaining piece 300g).
Roll out the larger piece of dough on a lightly floured surface into a square about 1/4″ thick. Trim the edges for a square with a side length of about 14-15”. Roll the dough onto a rolling pin and use this to transfer it to the pan and drape the dough over top. Fit the dough into the edges and corners of the pan– there will be an inch or so of overhang along the edges.
Fill with the cooled filling. Make 6 indents for the boiled eggs (see photos for arrangement – that way, if you cut the pie into 9 pieces, each will intersect an egg). Peel and halve the boiled eggs and fit them into their indents.
Now roll out the second piece of dough into a square with a side length of about 10-11”. Trim the edges and transfer the square of dough to the top of the pie. Cut a square from the overhang at each corner so the corners don’t have too much excess dough. Brush the overhanging edges with a bit of water and roll the edges together to seal.
Cut a few air slits with a knife and brush the pastry with beaten egg. Place the pie in the oven and turn the temperature to 375F. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the pie is a golden brown.
Let cool before removing the tray – the easiest way is to loosen the edges with a knife, invert the pie onto a board and then invert the upside down pie onto a serving tray.
The pasqualina can be eaten warm or cold, but for the pastry’s sake, I vastly prefer it warm. Store the leftovers in the fridge and warm up individual pieces for about 5-10 minutes in a 350F oven.
- Instead of empanada dough, use a short crust or even a puff pastry.
- The amount of greens is quite negotiable – I used all the beet greens that I had but one could definitely pack in more greens!