Easter traditions are as different as the people who celebrate the holiday. My husband’s family is of Italian heritage and mine is Irish. My husband’s favorite Easter food memories are of his mother’s Pizza Gaina which is also known by many other names…Pizza Rustica, Pizza Chena, Pizza Piena, and Tarta Pascualina just to name a few.
Ask any Italian you know about their version of this tradition Easter pie and you will get a different recipe from each one of them. It can be made with a bread dough or a pastry dough. You might think it is similar to a calzone or maybe a quiche depending on who makes it and for how many people it is serving.
It is a rich pie made with a variety of Italian cheeses and deli meats. The pie is meant as a celebration and indulgence after the fasting of Lent when no meat was eaten. My husband’s mother made hers with a bread dough in a large roasting pan layered with ricotta, cubes of Italian cheeses and deli meats. It was cut into squares and fed a crowd.
Many people will make a pie crust large enough to line and come up the sides of a spring form pan that is then filled and topped with another crust. My husband has adapted his mother’s huge recipe into a delicious pie for just the two of us. His is made into a familiar two crust savory pie that is perfect as a starter to our Easter meal. The filling will be enough to fill two traditional pie plates. If the second pie is not needed on Easter, it can be wrapped well and frozen.
Start with your favorite pie crust recipe and double it. For each pie made, you can use the following basic recipe. 14 Tbsp. butter, 2 1/4 c. flour, 1/2 tsp. salt, 5 – 7 Tbsp. ice water, 1 Tbsp. vinegar.
- 1 large container (15 oz.) ricotta, approximately 2 cups
- 4 eggs, beaten
- 4 Tbsp. grated cheese (Pecorino Romano)
- 4 oz. slice of provolone cheese, cubed
- 1 ball of fresh mozzarella cheese, shredded
- 3 to 4 oz. slices of the following deli meats cut into cubes: prosciutto, capicolla, ham, and dry Italian salami
- 1 tsp. dried basil
- 1 tsp. black pepper
- 1 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, add the ricotta, eggs, grated cheese and mix well. Then add all other ingredients and stir to combined.
Place a pastry crust in the bottom of a pie plate, add one half of the filling, top with a second crust, crimp the edges to seal and brush with a little milk. Repeat with the rest of the filling. Place the pies in the oven and bake for 45 o 60 minutes until the crust is golden brown. Cover the edges of the crust with foil if they are starting getting too brown. Remove from the oven and let cool.
Memories of my Easter meal always included a simple baked ham. Afterwards the bone would be cooked with navy beans for a second meal, usually served with a pan of cornbread.
The way my husband and I celebrate New Year’s day by combining our families traditions, is the way we prepare with our Easter meal. One year we will have a baked ham and the next it will be lamb but there will aways be an Easter pie. If we are invited to a friend’s home for Easter, we like to take the pie to introduce them to a dish they may have never heard of or tried.
Whatever your traditions are for Easter, I hope you will enjoy and celebrate the day with family and friends.