Italian Easter Pie holds a solid place in the time-honored food traditions of Easter celebrations for many Italians and 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 also known by several other names such as: Torta Pasqualina, Pizza Rustica, Pizzachino, and Pizza Piena to name a few. Italy, as most know, is a country where names of certain dishes change drastically from region to region.
Pizza Rustica, to simply explain it, is basically a 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 pie is enclosed with a pastry top, festively decorated. Yes, one can make this without the meats and lean more toward a vegetarian dish, adding: broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, etc., instead of the meats.
However, I DO NOT SUGGEST trying to turn this into a low-fat, low-calorie dish. Certain things just shouldn't be made low-calorie and a Pizza Rustica is definitely one of them.
Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present to you my Italian Easter Pie... Pizza Rustica!
(Yields: 8-10 portions)
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees 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 water
Assemble the dough:
- In a cup, mix yeast and warm water together.
- 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 cake pan. Reserve the other piece in the refrigerator for later to make top.
- 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.
Closing with the pastry top:
- 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 degrees 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 settle 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. The warming up, wakes up the flavors tremendously!
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