Italian Easter Pie
Italian Easter Pie holds a special place in the time-honored food traditions of Easter celebrations for Italians and many non-Italians alike. Year after year, this dish has embraced the heart of Easter, the holiest of all Christian celebrations. It is simply DELICIOUS!
Italian Easter Pie is known by several other names such as : Torta Pasqualina, Pizza Rustica, Pizzachino, and Pizza Piena to name a few. Each version represents local twists of ingredients and the regional linguistic dialect to identify this holiday dish, depending on the region in Italy.
Regardless of the different names of “Pizza Rustica” in Italy, one thing is certain, Easter is called Pasqua and Buona Pasqua means Happy Easter in Italy… no matter where you go!
This is a classic Italian Easter pie. It’s absolutely delicious and meant to be a dish, not only to celebrate Easter, but also to celebrate the end of Lent, a 40 day religious fast, that takes place just prior to Easter Sunday. A great part of the fast is giving up meat from one’s diet. Consequently, the meat and the calories of this recipe are very much a part of the complete celebration, especially if you’re trying to stay in tune with the full tradition behind the concept of this recipe.
Pizza Rustica, to simply explain it, is basically an enclosed quiche, packed with some of the most delicious Italian salami, ham, and sausage, mixed together with several Italian cheeses and bound together with eggs. The whole thing is then enclosed with a pastry top, festively decorated, egg-washed and baked in a preheated moderate oven.
Yes, some try to make this without the meats and lean more toward a vegetarian dish, adding: broccoli,cauliflower, spinach, etc., instead of the meats.
I do not suggest trying to turn this into a low fat, low calorie dish. Don’t start substituting low-fat cheeses for the Italian cheeses the recipe calls for, don’t start pulling back on the eggs, just using the egg whites, or omitting the eggs all together. Then there is really no point in making the dish. Certain things just shouldn’t be made low-calorie and this is definitely one of them.
Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present to you the one…the only…Italian Easter Pie…..Pizza Rustica!
(Yields: 8-10 portions)
Preheat oven to 375°F
Yeast Dough Crust:
- 3 1/4 cups Flour
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Leaf Lard* or 1 1/2 tablespoons Butter
- 1/8 teaspoon Salt
- 1/8 teaspoon Pepper (ground)
- 1 (1/4 ounce) Yeast (active dry)
- 1 cup warm Water
- In a cup, mix yeast and warm water together. Set aside.
- If making by hand, place flour on a pastry board and make a well. Add leaf lard (or butter), salt, pepper and yeast/water mixture.
- If using a mixer, place flour in the bowl. Add the leaf lard (or butter), salt, pepper and yeast/water mixture.
- Work together well until dough forms, continue working the dough until it is elastic and smooth.
- Place dough in a deep dish, cover and allow it to rise in a warm place for 2 hours, or until doubled in volume.
- When dough has risen, cut into 2 pieces.
- Stretch one piece to fit into a greased 9-inch round springform pan. Reserve the other piece in the refrigerator for later to make top and decorations.
Tip: Place lined cake mold in the refrigerator while making the filling.
- 2 lbs sweet Italian sausage links ( I personally like a mildly-spicy Calabrese sausage, but this is your personal choice)
- 2 Tablespoons Water
- 1/4 lb Prosciutto di Parma– chopped, medium dice
- 1/2 lb Capicola, thinly sliced
- 1/3 lb Pepperoni, medium dice
- 1/3 lb Genoa Salami, medium dice.
- 1/2lb Ham regular boiled deli ham, medium dice
- 2 lbs Ricotta cheese, strained from it’s liquid if too wet
- 12 ounces Mozzarella cheese, medium dice
- 6 Eggs– room temperature
- Egg wash- 1 Egg + 1 Tablespoon Water
- 1 Tablespoon Italian Flat Leaf Parsley, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup Romano cheese or 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated. (I use a combination of both to equal the 1/4 cup.)
- 1/4 teaspoon Salt
- 15-20 turns Ground black pepper
- Cut sausage into small pieces (or remove from casings and crumble). Place in frying pan and brown lightly in 2 Tablespoons of water to render the fat. Drain and cool.
- In a large bowl, combine ricotta, mozzarella, salt and pepper; add eggs one at a time, beating with a wooden spoon after each addition.
- Add cooked sausage, prosciutto, salami, pepperoni, ham, chopped parsley and grated cheese to ricotta mixture and blend well.
- Line the pastry crust with a single layer of the sliced capicola, all around including the edges. Any left over can be placed on top of the ricotta and meat mixture before sealing the top with pastry.
- Once the pie is lined with the capicola, fill with the ricotta and diced meat mixture.
- After filling the dough-lined pan, stretch second piece of dough and place over the filling, pressing the edges closed. Be careful not to tear the dough. The top must be sealed.
- If there is a lot of excess dough left on the edge, carefully trim some, but leave enough to flute the sealed edge. At this point any extra dough can be used to decorate the top of your pizza rustica.
- This is fun for the kids! Make some flowers, bunny rabbits, Easter egg shapes, etc. Use your Easter imagination!
- I like to brush the crust and the decorations with a bit of beaten egg wash before baking, to give it a beautiful glossy finish.
- Bake the pie in preheated 375°F oven for 45-50 minutes. Test with a knife or wooden skewer . Pierce the pie after 45 min, midway down it’s center, hold there for a minutes, remove the knife or skewer, and touch the back of you hand, if it feels hot, it is done, if it is just slightly warm or semi-cool it still needs at least 10 minutes more.
- Once done, remove pie from oven and let set for about 10 minutes before slicing, if serving warm. Otherwise, let pie cool completely and refrigerate.
Pizza Rustica, can be served warm or cold. I personally like it warmed up to be able to enjoy all the flavors of the delicious meats and cheese better. Warming it up, wakes up the flavors tremendously!
Happy Easter to All ~Buona Pasqua a Tutti!
Click here for more on Italian Easter, foods and traditions.
Check this link to learn more about leaf lard.