Pizza Rustica.....The Easter Pie. In my family it is served on Holy Saturday afternoon as it breaks the Lenten fast of no meat on Good Friday and the morning of Holy Saturday. This cheese & meat pie is a treat to celebrate the end of the season of penance. I must give equal top-billing to two sisters...Joan Marie and Paula Christine in the preparing of this special dish. They both make an amazing pie taught to them by Mom, of course. Both decorate the top of the pie with a Cross, the symbol of Christianity. Seeing them place this specialty pie on our holiday table and the love they have for our traditions fills me with pride.
One of my favorite Easter photos...my dad, Paul, in the kitchen dicing up the required meats that go into this pie. It's a tedious job and Dad had the patience to do this for the weary female cooks. My second favorite photo of Dad is color-dying Easter eggs at the age of 80! What a good sport. I say this because he believed that anything done in a kitchen was "woman's work" and he wanted no part of it. Since he was a great provider...working three jobs at a certain point in his life....Mom was fine with it. What he did know was good food and never hesitated to tell his bride of almost 55 years that her cooking was the "bee's-knees".
This delectable masterpiece is not a difficult pie just time consuming with all the dicing of the meats. The crust is not like a fruit pie crust and not like a savory quiche crust..it's unique...dry, firm and flaky. My sisters know the feel of it..the perfect texture that makes this crust a winner. The crust should bake to a golden brown and never beyond that. Three cheeses are used in Pizza Rustica. Toma is a soft or semi-hard, Italian cow's milk cheese first written about in 1477 and produced in the Piedmont region of Italy. A substitute for Toma cheese is Basket cheese ( Formagetto). Basket cheese is a salty, soft white cheese shaped from small wicker-textured baskets. And an Italian pie wouldn't be worth the baking without Ricotta and Mozzarella cheese. The filling is creamy and salty and has a wonderful mouth-feel.
I was amazed at the various recipes for Pizza Rustica. There are those with 15 hard-boiled eggs, 12 beaten eggs, diced tomatoes, spinach, pepperoni, even crab. The recipe below is a Naples favorite and the only Pizza Rustica I know. And my Easter isn't Easter without it. Buona Pasqua!
Crust: 2 Cups Flour
2/3 teaspoon of baking powder
1/3 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoon of Crisco shortening
1/2 cup ice cold water
1 egg white, beaten
Mix all ingredients and roll out into 2 circles. Line a 10" deep pie pan with 1 pastry. Prick dough with fork, sprinkle bottom with a little flour. Pour mixture into line pie pan and cover with top crust; trim; but leave 1/2 " over-hang. Fold dough under and back to flute thickly. Cut slits in pie to allow steam to escape. Last 10 minutes brush top with egg white.
Filling: 1 lb. ricotta
1/2 lb mozzarella, diced
6 oz fresh Basket cheese or Toma cheese, diced
1/4 lb sopressata, diced small
1/4 lb hard salami, diced
1/2 Italian sweet sausage, browned lightly in 1 tbsp. water, diced
1 hard-boiled egg, diced
Combine ricotta with beaten eggs. Add cooked sausage, sopressata, salami, mozzarella, Basket or Toma cheese and hard-boiled egg. Blend and mix well. Fill prepared pie pan as above.
Bake in preheated 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes. Lower temperature to 325 degrees and bake 50-60 minutes being sure bottom is browned, too. Remove from oven and cool 5 minutes. Can be served hot or cold.
Remember To Make Memories At The Table