Torte Verde is a savoury vegetable tart very typical of Ligurian cuisine. There are lots of variations, but basically it's composed of a mixture of cheese, eggs, and greens baked in a very thin olive oil crust. Chard, beet greens, and spinach are combined with dandelion or other wild bitter greens, using up whatever is in season. It's then baked in the thinnest of pastry crusts, and served up in large wedges for breakfast, lunch, and afternoon snacks all over Liguria.
We did a little of both. Starting in Riomaggiore we strolled along the Via dell Amore to Manarola. Our leisurely walk took about an hour, mostly because we stopped for cappuccino at the little cafe along the trail, it's really only a 20 minute walk.
We skipped the climb to Corniglia, proceeded on the train to Vernazza, this was the busiest of the four villages we visited. The narrow streets were crowded with tourists, but surprisingly, the waterfront was less congested. There was plenty of space on the little beach to spread out your towel and take in some rays.
Last stop, Monterosso, the largest of the five villages.
I took some liberties with this recipe for Ligurian Torte Verde, I'm using prepared filo rather than making the traditional olive oil pastry, but I made my own ricotta cheese, so feel OK about taking a shortcut with the crust.
- 500 grams dark leafy greens (I used 1/2 spinach and 1/2 chard)
- 1 small onion- finely chopped (about 100 grams)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic-finely minced
- 200 grams ricotta cheese
- 100 grams chèvre
- 50 grams finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- 2 large eggs
- Finely grated zest of half a lemon
- 5 or 6 gratings fresh nutmeg
- 5 sheets filo pastry
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
Trim the thick stalks from your greens, and discard. Chop the greens into small pieces, the thicker the leaves, the finer the chop.
In a large frying pan, sautée the onion in the olive oil over medium heat until soft and lightly browned on the edges. Stir in the garlic and sautée briefly, just a few seconds, then start adding the greens. They will wilt quickly and reduce dramatically in size, so just keep adding handfuls until everything gets wilted. Remove from heat, and let cool. Use your hands to squeeze all of the excess moisture from the greens before adding the rest of the ingredients.
In a small bowl, gently beat the eggs, add cheeses, lemon zest, and nutmeg and stir to combine. Add the greens and stir until everything is incorporated.
Stack the sheets of filo pastry on a layer of plastic wrap, and cover with another layer to prevent the dough from drying out. Brush the first sheet of filo with melted butter, and drape it over a 9 inch pie plate. Continue with the next layer of pastry, brush with some melted butter, and drape over the first sheet of filo, rotating the pastry a quarter turn. Repeat with the next three layers of filo.
Spoon the filling into the center of the pastry, and spread evenly. One corner at a time, loosely drape the filo over the filling, crumpling it toward the center.
Bake in the center of a preheated 375F oven for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown.