There are a number of delicious pies in Maltese home cooking: meat pies, fish pies, vegetable pies, rice and pumpkin pies. But perhaps the one most frequently cooked and eaten is the much loved Ricotta Pie, or Torta ta L-Irkotta.
Every family has its own version. Actually in my family there were several variations on the ricotta pie.
I loved it all ways but my absolute favourite was the spring one with fresh broad beans in it. Broad beans (fava beans) are forever evocative of the end of winter for me, they herald the arrival of new life, new growth, the new season, so celebrating Spring with a ricotta and broad bean pie is still a pleasure-filled annual ritual of mine.
Pies are home food, family food in Malta, not something you are likely to find on a restaurant menu. In my family, the ricotta pie filling at its simplest was just ricotta, eggs, parsley and grated cheese, usually a Pecorino with black pepper corns in it in my childhood.
My mother used to sprinkle sesame seeds on top of this “plain” ricotta pie, a great addition. Then there was the basic filling but incorporating some fresh Malta Goze cheeselets with the ricotta, or else using the dried version of the cheeselets grated instead of the Pecorino, it was extra tasty made this way!
And then sometimes there were peas, fresh or frozen, at other times broad beans, always fresh, in the filling.
Best of all, on a rare occasions a few delicious bits of the wonderful Malta cooked ham on the bone, which is bought by weight and always hand sliced into thick slices, got diced into the filling – for me by far the best version, even if a little far from tradition.
On the smaller Maltese island of Gozo, the ricotta pie has raisins in it, making an unusual savoury/ sweet pie. Though my mother had spent many years in Gozo and often made Gozo style dishes, our Torta Ta L-Irkotta never had raisins, so I am guessing that my father must have put his foot downon that one at a time before I was old enough to remember.
The pastry too can vary, it can be short crust or puff pastry. The pie is special if it is made with your own home made short crust pastry but nowadays I mostly use shop bought chilled puff pastry.
I made a version of the Maltese Ricotta Pie here in Bologna recently. No Gozo cheeselets but great ricotta and fresh vegetables and of course excellent Parmigiano.
I was pretty pleased with the result and so were the Italian friends I shared it with. I hope the pictures inspire you to make it too! It doesn’t just look good, it tastes great!
I hope you enjoy this wonderful Maltese Pie.