Easter Traditions

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.

Italian Easter Pie

Pizza Gaina

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.

A Slice Of Traditional Easter Pie...Pizza Gaina

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.

Baked Ham
Baked Ham With Chutney, Asparagus And Baked Squash

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.


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168 thoughts on “Easter Traditions

    1. Thank you Mad Dog, for your nice compliment. I had not seen the pie either. When I married my husband, I learned to share and enjoy so many new foods that are a part of his family’s traditions.

  1. One slice of that Italian Pie and I would have to take a nap and forget about eating anything else on the menu! Looks great! Of course, a big ol’ ham dinner would do the same! I’m from West Virginia and am making roasted Chinese Five Spice chicken thighs for dinner! Life is global now a days (and so much more interesting).

    1. Hi Knany, Thank you for stopping by for a visit and your nice comment. The Italian pie is rich…I usually have just a small slice. I love the flavor of five spice and I know your roasted chicken thighs will be delicious.

  2. What a lovely looking pie! I love that everyone has such different Easter traditions. Our new one when we are at home just the two of us is an orzo dish with lemon, asparagus and ham. However, I could be swayed with this pie! Happy Easter Karen!

    1. Hi Betsy, Thank you so much for your compliment. The pie is a nice way of keeping an Easter transition that has been in my husbands family for many years. Your orzo sounds good. We have a lot of ham and that would be a good way to use some of it. Happy Easter.

    1. Thank you Jane, I hope you have a great Easter day as well. I think combining traditions is what keeps life interesting. And the Italian pie is really delicious.

  3. What a gorgeous pie and imaginative way to combine your two traditions into a new one for your family. Gaina in Romanian (my mother tongue which shares its Latinate base with Italian) means ‘chicken’ so I was expecting chicken in your pie but this combination of deli meats and cheese is extra-ordinary. The beautifully shaped and presented pie makes me green with envy and faint with hunger. 🙂

    And the baked ham … so golden and shiny with that faint touch of char … I can imagine taking out a crusty roll, slicing it open, slathering on some smooth peanut butter (try it just ONCE, you’ll be amazed at the taste) and placing a moist slice of ham on top.

    My lamb chops marinated in lemon zest, juice, olive oil, oregano, and rosemary have a lot to live up to after seeing these pictures. (I haven’t decided on the method of preparation for the potatoes yet as it’s only 1 pm here.)

    Happy Easter to one and all.

    1. Happy Easter Boleyn. Thank you for your compliment about the meal we enjoy having for Easter. The pie with the Italian cheeses and deli meats is great and gets better the next day. Peanut butter goes very well with so many things…I will try combining it with a bite of ham. I know your lamb chops will be delicious…especially with your nice marinade.

      1. Could you clarify this?
        “3 to 4 oz. slices” – do you mean 3 or 4 oz of EACH of the deli meats, which you have sliced and then dice. Or could you just get a chunk and dice it?

        Also, I’ve seen variations using pizza dough instead of pie crust. Have you ever tried that? Or puff pastry?

        Once again … a gorgeous pie, a real feast for the eyes, and I’m sure, for the tummy. 🙂

      2. I will be happy to clarify, Boleyn. You ask your butcher for thick slices (each slice should weigh about 3 to 4 oz.) of EACH of deli meats that I have listed. You take each slice and cut it into cubes. Some people make pizza gaina with bread dough but I have never heard of Italians making pizza gaina with puff pastry. I’m happy that you are always so interested in my recipes.

      3. Thank you for the clarification. I usually get my deli meats pre-‘sliced’ thinly for sandwiches so I guess I’ll just have ask the deli person to slice off a chunk. 🙂 I was pretty sure it was 3-4 oz of each but wanted to make sure.

  4. Can’t wait to give this a try down here in sunny Mexico. BTW…just added a link to your blog to mine. I need to learn more about incorporating photos into mine. Your blog is so well done!

    1. Thank you Sawsan for your nice compliment. This is definitely a recipe that you can change by what is available at your market and what you enjoy.

  5. What a lovely pie – had never heard of this but I will now be closely questioning my dad to find out why we never had it! At least now I can make it for us 😉 Hope you have had a wonderful day…

  6. HOW have I not had this “pizza” before. Crust, cheese and deli meats…Oh La La!!
    AND HAM…oh boy do I love a ham dinner.
    Sounds like a great day! Since it was just three of us and one of us is a strict vegetarian (mom) I kept it really light with spinach salad and sweet potato biscuits – yummy but no ham dinner! No Italian pie!

    1. Hi Carol, I’m sure your spinach salad and sweet potato biscuits were delicious and very much appreciated by your mom. You will have to try making the pie…it is very good. Of course, you don’t have to just have it on Easter, any day would be good.

  7. I was happy just reading about the Easter Pie. It sounds so wonderful and just right for an Easter dinner or brunch. Then I saw the Ham…the beautiful, juicy ham….ahhhh. Two great offerings. Thanks.

    1. Thank you Teresa, for your nice compliment. Our Easter meal is a favorite. What is nice is that we have lots to nibble on during the week.

  8. Wow, look at all that gorgeous food! I love a good pie, but I think I’d pass just for a few slices of that gorgeously glazed ham! Having said that, I have access to wonderful deli offcuts, which would be perfect in that pie, so I might have to give it a go – thank you! 🙂

    1. Hi Celia, Thank you so much for your nice comment. The deli offcuts are what so many people use to make this pie. I think you would really enjoy it. It is just as good the next day if not better.

  9. Karen, not pie girl .. but that looks really the business and your ham good enough to die for – what a wonderful color it has. it’s the pastry that I don’t like about pies. Love puff pastry! Wouldn’t mine the recipe to your salsa???

    1. Hi Viveka, Thank you for your nice comment. The ham had a glaze for the first hour of pineapple juice. For the last 30 minutes, a brown sugar, mustard and orange marmalade gave it the wonderful color. I’ll be sure to post the chutney (salsa) recipe for the ham.

      1. Pineapple juice – very interesting – the mustard I guested, orange marmalade great idea. Because orange and ham goes very well together. Will put this on file. No rush with the chutney.

    1. Hi Renu, Thank you for stopping by and your nice compliment. I’m glad you enjoyed the post and hope to have you stop by again. Happy Easter.

  10. What a lovely pie – so deep and filled with wonderful ingredients. I’ve never heard of it before! It sure beats the masses of chocolate I eat every year, haha 😀

    1. Hi Charles, Thank you for your nice compliment…this is my husband’s favorite part of the food we have on Easter. I’m laughing…thinking about the masses of chocolate I have eaten over the years as well.

  11. Wow, Karen! Now that’s a pie! This dish was not one of my family’s traditions but I am familiar with it and your recipe sounds delicious! This is the first year in several that I didn’t bake a ham for Easter. (Not so coincidentally, this will be the first year in several that Max doesn’t find a way to eat part of said Easter ham.) I save the bone for split pea soup. Whether navy bean or spit pea, I’m sure each soup is equally enjoyed. I hope you and your DH had a wonderful Easter, Karen!

    1. Hi John, Yes…it is some pie. My husband had a slice while it was warm yesterday, a slice this morning and I’m sure there will be another one in his future later today. Did I mention that he loves this pie. When I cook the ham bone, it will make a large pot of ham broth. I freeze it in containers and one will certainly be made into split pea soup. I hope you have had a wonderful Easter.

  12. Oh yum! The squash casserole – baked squash looked so good. Can’t wait to have some this year – about June. The ham and Easter Pie looked wonderful too!

    1. Thank you Kelli, for your nice comment. The meal was delicious. I oven roasted the squash before mixing it with the other ingredients in the casserole. It really was good.

  13. Wow. That pie looks amazing. I’m usually in for ANY kind of pie. ITALIAN pie pretty much makes that a guarantee. Isn’t it nice when we inherit tasty traditions?

    1. Hi Little Sis, Thank you for stopping by and you nice comment. If you get a chance to make this pie, I think you will enjoy it. And yes, inheriting traditions as tasty as the pie is a good thing.

  14. I did baked ham today with an orange glaze. Someday, I will make an Easter Pie! Hope you had a lovely holiday!

    1. Thank you TW, my husband and I did have a lovely Easter, and I hope you did as well. I hope you do get to make the Easter pie…it’s delicious.

  15. Happy Easter Karen! We too always had a ham for Easter. Yours looks divine. I would love to try this pie though. Perhaps next Easter… (or sooner). 🙂

  16. What a lovely way to combine different family traditions! Everything you have presented looks fabulous. This year we have completely abandoned the European cuisine and had almost only Japanese food 🙂 Wines were the only representatives of Europe.
    I hope you are having wonderful Easter!

  17. Salami and cheese in pie form! I’ll have to make this someday — preferably for a potluck or a day when we have lots of company. It looks delicious. We have done away with Easter dinner around here: I had carrot soup and toast and Mom had a slice of quiche (We generally don’t cook on Sundays). I hope you enjoyed your Easter celebrations.

  18. It is interesting how varied Easter food traditions are. My wife Liz typically ham, yet demands that we have on it on Easter…though we go round and round about how to cook it. 🙂 Great pie!

    1. Hi Katerina, Thank you for your nice comment. It is a rich pie to end the fasting. I hope you, your family and friends have a Happy Easter.

  19. I think I will be “adopting” your tradition for next year’s Easter dinner.. wow, two layered pie!! How gorgeous is that!! I hope you had a wonderful Easter.. it sure looks like you did!! xo Smidge

    1. Thank you, Smidge. We did have a lovely Easter…I hope you did as well. The Italian pie is a great tradition to keep and is one that my husband looks forward to every year.

    1. Thank you Beth, for your very nice comment. It is a great pie to have anytime of the year. Since it is rich and you serve smaller slices, it is great when having a get together with friends or family.

  20. That pie looks outstanding and I believe I’d just sit down to table with it and a fork for my complete easter dinner. Your crust looks just like the ones my pie baking mom would make.

    1. Hi Larry, Thank you for your very nice compliment. I think my husband might agree with you. LOL. You know the saying about men not eating quiche. Even though I know lots of men that like quiche, this is definitely a man’s pie.

  21. Your ham and pizza looks so delicious. I had Ham myself yesterday.. with kale and macaroni and cheese.. and other bad for you stuff lol. I hope you had a great Easter

    1. Thank you Kay, for your nice compliment. Yes, we did have a wonderful Easter. I think we all probably ate more than we should have but it was delicious.

  22. Hi Karen

    My husband was born in Calabria, Italy, and I am of Irish/Ukrainian background. I’ve tried to learn to make all his favorite family recipes over the years. His mother never made Pizza Rustica, as I believe it is more Neapolitan than Calabrian in origin, but I’ve made it at times in the past for Easter and we’ve enjoyed it both warm and cold. I like the smaller size you made.

    Hope you had a wonderful Easter!

    1. Hi Pat, Thank you for your very interesting comment. My husband’s mother was Neapolitan and didn’t make this. She learned this dish from her sisters-in-law that were from Abruzzo. It is just like it’s many names, their so many spellings and so many way of preparing it. The smaller size is perfect for us since it makes two pies…one of which is now in the freezer.

    1. Hi Caroline, We did have a wonderful Easter, I hope you did as well. The glaze really made the ham great this year. Thank you for your very nice comment as usual.

  23. My husband and I also combine traditions. I think I was 16 before I knew that not everyone started every holiday with pasta. I do love that every family seems to have their own recipe. It’s the same with the Neopolitan Wheat Pie. How it happened that my cousins and I – all from the same grandparents – wound up with different recipes for Pizza du Grane is beyond me!

    1. Hi Claudia, I really enjoyed your comment and had to laugh about pasta. A big plate of pasta before a Thanksgiving turkey was new to me when I first shared a holiday meal with my husband’s family. It really is funny that your recipe for Pizza du Grane is different within your family. Maybe it gets changed a little over years because of what someone in a family likes and dislikes.

    1. Thank you Tania, I’m so happy that you enjoyed the post. This is something that I’m sure your teenager would enjoy as much as my husband does. We had a great Easter, as I hope you did as well.

  24. Looks like you had some great food for your Easter celebration. Nice to come here and find out a little bit more on the italian tradition during Easter. I have never had the dish, but it does look delicious. The ham is more what we have, in fact I like to have this for more than one holiday! We all start out with our parents tradtions and some get changed and some get kept-who does not like creating their own traditions!

    1. I’m so happy that you enjoyed learning a little of the traditions that my husband and I share from our families past. When we have families of our own, it is fun to make new traditions but also try to keep some from our past. Hopefully the next generation will appreciate and hopefully carry on some of them.

    1. Hi Ducky, The Pizza Giana is a great pie…so full of flavor. One of the nicest things about blogging is to see how people from all over the world celebrate their holidays through food. It is the one thing that binds us all…no matter where we live.

  25. What a great spread. I lovet he pie… I made mine this year without the double crust… everything is superb!

    1. Hi Pegasus, Thank you for stopping by for a visit and your nice comment. I have not had the pie without the double crust…I’m sure it is very good.

  26. I’ve never heard of this kind of pizza before! Thanks for the wonderful introduction. Yours looks absolutely amazing. And your crust! It looks so flaky!

    Would you mind me asking what kind of fat you used? Butter? Lard? Both?

    I can just imagine how good this is. What a wonderful way to celebrate the end of Lent!

    1. Hi Daisy, Thank you so much for your nice compliment. I use butter because I always have it available. A combination of butter and lard makes a very flaky crust if you happen to have it.

      1. Thank you again Daisy. The color was great…the pie was baked at 350 degrees which is lower than for a lot of my pie recipes. I think that contributed to the even golden color on the pie. That is so funny about the Peeps pizza rustica.

  27. Beautiful pie! Traditions are an interesting thing about folks! I like to switch them(traditions) up and keep everyone guessing but some of my husbands family members don’t like that one bit! This year we only hosted my mom and she’s on board!

    1. Hi Linda, As much as my husband and I love innovative food, dishes that are fusions with other cuisines, we still enjoy keeping some traditions alive. No one else in my husband’s family make the traditional dishes.

    1. Thank you BJ, we did have a great Easter. I hope you did as well. I am happy that you are planning on making the Easter Pie next year.

  28. Somehow my majorly Italian family has evaded the pizza rustica tradition, though we do have it on occasion. We’re all about the Italian easter bread instead!

    1. Hi Liz, Thank you for your lovely compliment. Pizza rustica has so much flavor…I still remember the first bite of the one my lovely mother-in-law made. I love the version that we have now as it is a manageable size.

    1. Thank you Mandy, for your very nice compliment. It is a great pie to have at other times of the year as well. The other pie is wrapped and in the freezer and will be on our table again next month.

  29. The crust is the best part, Karen! 🙂 Love your Easter pie and plan to make it for the next brunch I serve!
    Your photos are wonderful and it looks like you had a wonderful Easter.

    1. Thank you so very much for your nice compliment, Barbara. I hope you will enjoy the pie. We did have a great Easter. I hope yours was wonderful as well.

  30. love your pizza Gaina. you are right, there are infinite variations and every region, and even town, has its own. your husband is lucky!

    1. Thank you very much Barbara, for your nice compliment. I’m glad that you liked this post. So many variations…even within families when it comes to Italian cooking. I think much of that is because of using the local ingredients that are available.

  31. I love that pie, as you know i love everything in pastry, then eggs as well, this is a pie i will certainly make. thank you husband for letting us in on his family secret!! And your ham looks divine. c

  32. I didn’t realize that this was a traditional Easter dish for Italians. I do know that we have enjoyed it many times–especially as picnic fare. My husband is from a Polish background and my relatives came on the next boat after the Mayflower (it has been said they were late and missed that boat). Growing up in the south, I always enjoyed an Easter ham with at least seven vegetable side dishes as well as several desserts. For us, we’ve done many different dishes through the years–always willing to add and subtract for the tastes of those we share the meal with.


    1. Hi Bonnie, Thank you for your nice comment. I’m sure you will find Pizza Rustica on menus throughout the year but yes, it is a traditional Easter dish for many Italians. I know what you mean about ham and the sides…the more choices of side dishes the better at many a southern table.

  33. So interesting this pie…like the idea of using ricotta…it sure looks that you had a great Easter 🙂
    Thanks for the recipe and hope you are having a great week Karen!

    1. Thank you very much Juliana, we did have a lovely Easter. The ricotta is delicious in this pie…almost like a cheesecake in texture.

  34. I hope you had a wonderful Easter–I’m familiar with pizza rustica, but not this dish. It looks spectacular–who can resist a pie filled with good cheeses and meats?

  35. It’s so hard not to drool on the computer screen over the ham photo! Oh, my….now I am hungry for ham, cheese, pie, chutney, asparagus, etc etc…yikes! Thanks for stopping by our blog. Glad we found yours, too!

    1. Thank you Susan, for your very nice compliment. I’m happy that you visited by blog and enjoyed it. It’s nice to have new blogging friends.

  36. Oh My god, I love your Easter tradition meal!! I bet non-one can resist your yummy ham and pie!!! I start to wonder how is your new year meal look like? will definitely follow you to figure it out!!

    1. Thank you Judy, for stopping by and your nice compliment. I’m happy that you enjoyed my blog and I hope to see you in the future.

    1. Hi Susan, Thank you so much for your very kind comment. I think keeping traditions alive is important and I’m glad you like the recipes.

  37. Your Easter dishes sound wonderful. For as many Italians that I know I am surprised that I have never had this pie – it sounds amazing and your crust looks nice and flaky. That filling sounds quite decadent!

    1. I really is a decadent pie, Becki. I don’t know why more Italian cooks don’t prepare this dish. It probably has to do with the area of Italy their families originally came from.

  38. Looks great, I love hearing about other Easter traditions. In Ireland it is always roast lamb, since it is the only meat we traditionally had with the mountains and bogs.

    1. Hi Lacey, The Easter pie is an Italian tradition that my husband enjoys keeping. Most years, we have leg of lamb as well. We butterfly it, stuff it with fresh rosemary, parsley, thyme and garlic. This year we made the ham that I grew up eating when I was young and lived in Texas. Easter traditions are wonderful. Thank you for your nice comment.

  39. My old friend baked a Easter Pie with all the Italian things listed above but everything was layered not cubed the eggs scrambled. It was so delicious I lost the recipe but I really want to make it that way does anyone have a recipe prepared this way?

    1. Hi Theresa, Thank you for stopping by for a visit. My husband has had the Easter pie that you are referring to but we don’t have a recipe for it. Have a Happy Easter.

  40. Karen, I make a rustic-style vegetarian pie, but I don’t think it’s nearly a decadent as this one with all of those delicious deli meats inside of it! I’m so glad you linked recipe this to your lasagna post. Adding this Easter Pie to a menu very soon too! 🙂

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