Just in time for lent: tarta pascualina, Argentina’s Eastertime pie

“What’s for dinner, Mom? ¿Que vamos a cenar?” Is there any question more hated by moms than this? In a house with six children constantly calling this out to you on a seemingly well-timed rotation from the minute they walk through the front door? As if you have nothing else to do with your day. Those five words are undoubtedly a setup for most any home cook. There is no right answer given most everyday meals don’t come with a hundred percent approval rating. Growing up, on day’s my mom found herself unprepared and had clearly had enough—God bless her—she narrowed her response to the following: “Caca.” That was a telltale sign to stop where you are, shut your mouth, back up slowly and steer clear until dinnertime or summoned. Unless your hormones had you feeling extra sassy that day and you dared ask—“Just asking, Mom, but will that sh** come on a stick or will it be neatly tucked away and baked into a golden-crusted tarta?”

Not all tarta is created equally. Argentines will put just about anything between two pie crusts and call it a day: butternut squash and ricotta, ham and cheese with morrones, eggs, corn or tuna. Name any ingredient and there’s probably a layered tarta it calls home. But Argentina’s Eastertime tart, tarta pascualina, is the crowned queen among them. Traditionally eaten during Lent and Easter, this savory pie is immensely popular in Argentina and eaten year-round, despite its moniker. From her envious filling—sautéed swiss chard, onion, ricotta, pâté de foie and hardboiled-eggs—to her double-decker flakey pie crusts, she’s la Madre María de tartas. Our Mother Mary of savory pies. A testament to how the simplest of ingredients can be combined to create the most unforgettable first bite—one that can fortify you with the strength to rise up, dust off your pants and move on.

My abuela Dorita’s tarta pascualina was inches thick and, true to our family’s carnivorous nature, contained just a touch of pâté de foie to ground its earthy parts and add a depth of flavor. Chalk full of onions, swiss chard and—after a stint in the oven—eggs that hard boil and bake right into the pie, it was comfort food par excellence. Tarta Pascualina is likened to Argentina’s resurrection pie—its “Eastertime Tart.” Italian immigrants who voyaged to South America to gamble on a new life brought the recipe for this tasty and filling pie. Its origins lie specifically in the region of Liguria, Italy, where the dish can be traced back to the sixteenth century.The traditional recipe calls for thirty-three layers of phyllo pastry, representing the number of years of Christ’s life—Argentina’s mythical first Lady, Evita’s, too. Like Jesus, Evita was just thirty-three when she sat down to her last supper, but fifty-some years later, her presence still lives on.

If you’d like to treat your loved ones to a Lent-friendly, meatless version of Abuela Dorita’s tarta pascualinarecipe this Lent, I promise you won’t be disappointed, especially if quarantining has you down in the dumps and the only place you can go is up. You can get this recipe, among many more, today! Simply pre-order my culinary memoir, Sobremesa: A Memoir of Food and Love in Thirteen Courses HERE, and we’ll send you a complimentary Advance Reader Copy today, along with a digital copy of the recipe. You’ll then receive the final hard copy of Sobremesa in May, just in time for Mother’s Day. Simply send a copy of your receipt and address to this email with “Preorder and ARC” in the subject line. (While supplies last.)

Let me know if you give this recipe a try. I’d love to hear from you. Just email me. I’d also love to hear if you bought the book and what you think. Your support means the world to me!