Right after graduating from college, I had the privilege to work with a wonderful Italian woman named Jean. She was a fabulous cook and her specialties included, of course, traditional Italian dishes. It was Jean who turned me onto the tradition of the Italian Easter Pie!
Now, I am married to a wonderful Sicilian man whose mother was one of the best cooks on the planet, but the Italian Easter Pie, thanks to Jean, was a recipe that I was able to introduce to them. In fact, in contains all of their “favorite ingredients”, but what is the history behind it?
Since Easter is preceded by Lent, which is a time of fasting, particularly from meat on Fridays, Easter Sunday is a time to celebrate and indulge. For Italians, the celebration includes the rich, cheesy, quiche-like Italian Easter pie filled with eggs, cheese and Italian meats. Depending on the region, Easter Pie has many different names and recipes. In Naples they call it “pastiera” and it is made with ricotta and whole grains to symbolize rebirth.
Sicilians make it with macaroni, pork, cheese and eggs. Calabrians prefer ham, sausage, hard cooked eggs, mozzarella and ricotta. “Pasqualina” as they call it in Liguria contains spinach, ricotta, cheese and eggs. From Umbria to Marches, the pie is really more of a bread.
No matter what you call it, where and when you eat it or the combination of ingredients you choose to fold into it, Italian Easter Pie is a delicious addition to any brunch, lunch or holiday celebration.
For the crust:
• 2 cups all purpose flour
• ¾ teaspoon salt
• 2 sticks butter
• 2 eggs
For the filling:
• 6 eggs
• salt and pepper to taste
• 8 oz. ricotta cheese
• 2 oz. shredded mozzarella or provolone cheese
• 3 oz. diced ham, I prefer capicola
• 3 oz. diced salami, I prefer sorpresssata
• 3 oz. diced pepperoni
To make the crust, mix the flour and salt and place it in the bowl of a food processor. Cut the butter into cubes and add them one at a time to the dough. Pulse the food processor just enough to work in the butter into the consistency of a coarse meal. Add the eggs and pulse the dough until it comes together in a ball. Cut the dough in half so that one half is a little bigger than the other. The smaller half will be the top crust. Wrap each in plastic wrap and rest the dough for an hour in the fridge.
For the filling, beat the eggs with the salt and pepper. Then blend the cheese into the eggs. Dice or julienne the meat, or put it in the food processor for a finer textured pie and add this to the egg/cheese mixture. I usually add 2 tablespoons of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
Roll out the larger piece of dough on a floured board until it will fill a 9-inch pie shell. Add the filling. Then roll out the smaller piece of dough until it will cover the top. Crimp it around the edge to seal it. Brush with a beaten egg wash and poke some holes or slits in the top crust to allow the steam to vent. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.