This one’s for the start of the meal – only on Easter!

Easter 2012 Update!

I put together a 4-course Easter dinner menu with wine pairings that your family and friends will love. Pizza Rustica is the opening act and Pastiera Napoletana is the closer. Check out the menu post that includes my video demonstrations and text recipes for each course.

This year for Easter I’ll be in Virginia with my sister Lucia and brother-in-law Carlo, my nieces and nephews, their spouses, and my great nieces and nephews. It’s a three-generation cooking branch of the family. We’ll all be in the kitchen making the pizza rustica and pastiera napoletana, probably on Good Friday. But, we won’t eat them until Easter Sunday.

Serve the pizza rustica as part of the antipasti course and the Pastiera as your dolce (dessert).

The pastry crust recipes are  basically the same for both except I leave out the sugar and lemon rind in the torta rustica crust. These are very versatile pastry crusts that can be used in many applications.

Buona Pasqua! Happy Easter! Buona Primavera! Happy Spring!

Pizza Rustica

This savory pie is also called torta rustica, pizza ripiena, pizza chiena or in Neapolitan-English slang, pizza gain.

Pastry Crust

Ingredients

  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 7 tablespoons very cold unsalted butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 or 4 tablespoons icy water as needed

Cooking Directions

  1. Put the flour and salt in a food processor bowl fitted with the metal blade. Pulse to mix the dry ingredients.
  2. Cut the butter into 1/2 inch cubes and drop them onto the flour and pulse the machine in short bursts about 10 times. The mixture should be crumbly.
  3. Put in the eggs and pulse a few times to mix the eggs into the dry ingredients.
  4. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of water on top of the dough. Pulse 6 times for just a second or two. The dough should resemble cottage cheese. Pick up some dough and press it together. If it doesn’t hold together, add another teaspoon of water until dough clusters form.
  5. Scrape the dough clusters onto a floured board and need them together just to form a smooth, tight dough.
  6. Form a flat disc and wrap the dough in plastic. Refrigerate for a few hours before using.

Filling

Ingredients

  • 32 oz. ricotta, drained
  • 2 eggs
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup grated pecorino
  • 8 oz. fresh mozzarella cut in a ½ inch dice
  • 4 oz. thinly sliced prosciutto di Parma
  • 4 oz. sopressata cut in a ½ inch dice
  • 1 roasted sweet Italian sausage link (4 oz.) cut in a ½ inch cubes (I forgot to put this in the pizza rustica in the demo. You can leave it out too if you want.)

Cooking Directions

  1. In a large bowl combine the ricotta, pecorino, pepper and eggs.
  2. Add the mozzarella, prosciutto, sopressata and sausage and mix well into the cheese mixture.

To Assemble the Pizza Rustica

Ingredients

  • Not Applicable

Cooking Directions

  1. Butter and flour a 9 inch springform pan.
  2. Cut about 1/3 of dough and set aside.
  3. With a rolling pin, roll out the remaining pastry dough to about 15 inches in diameter. It will be about 1/8 inch thick. Flour the board and top of the dough sticks to avoid the dough sticking to either the board or the rolling pin.
  4. Place the dough in the pan to fully cover the bottom and sides.
  5. Cut off any excess dough from the pan rim. If the dough breaks just patch it. This is a very forgiving dough.
  6. Pour in the ricotta mixture.
  7. Tap the pan on the board to ensure the filling is well settled.
  8. Roll out the reserved dough into a 9 by 12 inch rectangle (the dough should be about an 1/8 inch thick) and cut 2 inch lattice strips on a diagonal. Flour the board and top of the dough sticks to avoid the dough sticking to either the board or the rolling pin.
  9. Loosely place the lattice on top of the ricotta mixture. (You can brush a beaten egg wash on the lattice and rim crust to get a more golden color.)
  10. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes or until the ricotta filling is well set and a skewer place in the center comes out dry. Turn the pastiera once to ensure even baking.
  11. Serve at room temperature.

Pastiera Napoletana

This is probably the most famous Neapolitan pastry and it is one of my absolute favs. But, I still only make it once a year at Easter. Here in America, Pastiera is sometimes called pizza grano, Easter sweet pie, ricotta cheese cake, pizza or torta dolce.

Pastry Crust

Ingredients

  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 7 tablespoons very cold unsalted butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
  • 3 or 4 tablespoons icy water as needed

Cooking Directions

  1. Put the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor bowl fitted with the metal blade. Pulse to mix the dry ingredients.
  2. Cut the butter into 1/2 inch cubes and drop them along with the lemon zest onto the flour and pulse the machine in short bursts about 10 times. The mixture should be crumbly.
  3. Put in the eggs and pulse a few times to mix the eggs into the dry ingredients.
  4. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of water on top of the dough. Pulse 6 times for just a second or two. The dough should resemble cottage cheese. Pick up some dough and press it together. If it doesn’t hold together, add another teaspoon of water until dough clusters form.
  5. Scrape the dough clusters onto a floured board and need them together just to form a smooth, tight dough.
  6. Form a flat disc and wrap the dough in plastic. Refrigerate for a few hours before using.

Filling

Ingredients

  • 32 oz. ricotta, drained
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon orange flower water (or orange flower oil)
  • 1/2 cup minced candied citron, lemon peel and orange peel
  • 1/3 cup hulled wheat berries soaked overnight and boiled in lightly salted water for about 30 minutes or until tender. (Use pearl barley or cooked rice if you can’t get the wheat berries.)

Cooking Directions

  1. Put the ricotta, eggs, sugar and orange flower water in a large bowl and mix the ingredients well.
  2. Mix in the candied fruit and wheat berries.

To Assemble the Pastiera Napoletana

Ingredients

  • Not Applicable

Cooking Directions

  1. Butter and flour a 9 inch springform pan.
  2. Cut about 1/3 of dough and set aside.
  3. With a rolling pin, roll out the remaining pastry dough to about 15 inches in diameter. It will be about 1/8 inch thick. Flour the board and top of the dough sticks to avoid the dough sticking to either the board or the rolling pin.
  4. Place the dough in the pan to fully cover the bottom and sides.
  5. Cut off any excess dough from the pan rim. If the dough breaks just patch it. This is a very forgiving dough.
  6. Pour in the ricotta mixture.
  7. Tap the pan on the board to ensure the filling is well settled.
  8. Roll out the reserved dough into a 9×12 inch rectangle (the pastry should be about an 1/8 inch thick) and cut 1/2 inch lattice strips on a diagonal. Flour the board and top of the crust sticks to avoid the crust sticking to either the board or the rolling pin.
  9. Loosely place the lattice on top of the ricotta mixture. (You can brush a beaten egg wash on the lattice and rim crust to get a more golden color.)
  10. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes or until the ricotta filling is well set and a skewer place in the center comes out dry. Turn the pastiera once to ensure even baking.
  11. Dust the top with confectioners sugar. Serve at room temperature.