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Pizza Rustica, Italian Easter Pie by Franco Lania

Category: Brunch  |  Permalink

Published: Tuesday, April 19, 2011

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 city to city, region to region, and village to village. Each one laying claim to the dish with local twists of ingredients and it's regional linguistic dialect to the name of the dish. Ultimately, leading to the competitive regional differences in recipes and names for "national celebratory dishes" throughout all Italy.

This may be confusing or strange to those on the outside of Italy looking in, but I rest ashore you to Italians, this all makes perfect sense and is the true "essence of being Italian." Regionalism, is a major part of Italian life, and it most definitely carries over to Italian food as well.

Regardless, to the point made on the different names of "Pizza Rustica" in Italy, one thing is certain, Easter is called Pasqua and Buona Pasqua means Happy Easter in Italy no matter where you go!

This is a classic Italian Easter dish, it's absolutely delicious and meant to be a dish to not only to celebrate Easter, but also celebrate the ending of a "40 day religious fast", that takes place prior to "Easter Sunday." A great part of the fast is giving up meat from one's diet. Therefore the meat and the calories of this recipe are very much apart of the "complete celebration, "especially if you're trying to stay in tune with the full religious tradition behind the concept of this dish.

Pizza Rustica : to simply explain what it is, is basically an enclosed 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 thing is then enclosed with a pastry top, festively decorated, egg-washed and baked in a moderately pre-heated oven.

Yes, one can make this with out the meats and lean more toward a vegetarian dish, adding: broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, etc, instead of the meats.

I DO NOT SUGGEST to turn this into a low fat, low calorie dish. Don't start substituting low fat cheeses for the time honored Italian cheeses the recipe calls for, don't start pulling back on the eggs, just using the egg whites, or omitting the eggs all together. Then there is really no point in making the dish. Certain things just shouldn't be made low-calorie and this is definitely one.

Easter is a time of "Uplifting and Inspiration," in the religious context as well as in nature. It is no coincidence that this inspirational religious message of Easter's "rebirth" takes place in a time of the year (springtime) where the exact same inspirational rebirth is taking place in "NATURE!" The birds and the bees, flowers and the trees are all very much so connected to this rebuilding and up-lifting energy this time of the year and SO SHOULD WE, regardless of one's religious denomination

Only good and positive can come from this realization. I'm simply trying to bring it to awareness, and invite those with interest to open up to the "Miracle of Easter" and Easter time celebrations. The sacrifices that take place in order for" Hope" and "New Life" to begin in a re-birth kind of way, are brought to light with Easter and it is deservedly celebrated each year at the beginning of Spring. It is no coincidence that Easter is celebrated yearly at the beginning of spring; it's a monumental time that marks new beginnings for Christians and Mother Nature!

Inspirational Cooking is my "forte" and what I stand for as a culinary professional. There is no better time to express and share this passion than at Easter time and spring!

This is a time of year for all to enjoy the "new life" that is unfolding all around us, during this very special time of the year. Being aware and tapping into the up-lifting energy and message of it all will lead us to the overall possibilities of positive change it can bring to our lives, via being connected to the spirit of Easter and spring, full-heartedly, Amen!

Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present to you the one, the only, Italian Easter Pie, Pizza Rustica!

Italian Easter Pie, Pizza Rustica.

Pizza Rustica

(Yield: 8-10 portions)

Ingredients: (filling)

2 lbs- sweet Italian sausage links ( I personally like a mild/spicy Calabrese sausage, but this is your personal choice)

1//4 lb-prosciutto di Parmachopped (medium dice)

1/2 lb- capacolla, thin sliced

1/3 lb- pepperoni  medium dice

1/3 lb-Genoa salami medium dice.

1/2lb- ham  regular boiled deli ham (med dice)

2 lbs- ricotta cheese- Strained from its liquid if to wet.

12 ounces- mozzarella cheese (medium diced)

6 eggs- room temperature

1-egg+ 1Tablespoon of water -(for egg wash)

1 tablespoon-Italian flat leaf parsley- chopped fine

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.

Ingredients: (Dough)

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 dough:

In a cup, mix yeast and warm water together.

Place flour on a pastry board, add 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.

Place lined cake mold in the refrigerator while now making the filling

Assemble Filling:

Cut sausage into small pieces (or remove from casings and crumble), place in frying pan and brown lightly in 2 Tablespoons of water. (Reserve 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 nice single layer of the sliced capacolla, all around including the edges.

Any left over, place on the top of the ricotta and meat mixture before sealing the top with pastry.

Once the pie is lined with the capacolla, fill the dough lined pan 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 gloss finish.

To Bake:

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Bake the pie in oven for 45-50 minutes, test with a knife or wooden skewer . Peirce the pie after 45 min, mid way 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 needs a good 10 min. more.

Once done, remove pie from oven and let settle for about 10 min. 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!

Easter Bunny.

Happy Easter! ~ Buona Pasqua a Tutti!

Savor Life, One Bite At a Time

by: Franco Lania

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