Pizza rustica (Easter Cheese and Salumi Pie)

Pizza rustica

Today is Pasquetta, or ‘Little Easter’, known in English as Easter Monday. A holiday in Italy and much of Europe, folks traditionally take to the roads to drive out to the countryside and enjoy a fresh air picnic. In Campania and elsewhere, one favorite item in the Pasquetta picnic basket is the pizza rustica, literally ‘rustic pie’, a savory concoction of flake pastry crust with a filling of eggs, cheese and cured meats. It’s a kind of simple country cousin to the more elaborate casatiello, the ne plus ultra of Easter pies. The pizza rustica is much better known abroad, and is much appreciated by Italian-Americans.

The only part of this recipe that’s a bit tricky, at least for non-bakers like myself, is the crust. This version of the pizza rustica uses a crust made from a pasta sfoglia, usually translated into English as puff pastry, made from flour and lard, mixed with just enough water to bring things together. It needs careful handling—not too much kneading, which would develop the glutens and produce a tough crust. And the high fat content means the dough needs to be kept cold or it will quickly become unworkable. Having said that, it’s not as difficult as it may sound. Hey, if I can do it, you can.

Ingredients

For the crust:

  • 5oog (1 lb) flour (see Notes)
  • 250g (1/2 lb) lard (or butter)
  • Salt, to taste
  • 100 ml (1/2 cup) tepid water, or enough to form a ball

For the filling:

  • 350g (12 oz) ricotta 
  • 5 medium eggs
  • 350g (12 oz) mozzarella, cut into small cubes (see Notes)
  • 150g (5 oz) prosciutto and/or salami, cut into small cubes (see Notes)
  • 100 g (3-1/2 oz) grated Parmesan cheese (or a mixture of Parmesan and pecorino)
  • Salt and pepper

1 egg, plus a few drops of water (optional)

Directions

Step 1: Making the pasta sfoglia:  Place the flour and the lard in a large bowl. Mix them together with your hands, squeezing the lard through your fingers until it is well incorporated into the flour, forming little grains that will look a bit like moist sand:

 Pizza rustica (prep 1)

Now begin to add the water, mixing this time with a spatula, until the flour has come together. Use your hands to form the dough into a ball:

 Pizza rustica (prep 2)

Wrap the dough ball with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge to chill for about an hour.

Step 2: Making the filling: Put the ricotta and eggs into another large bowl. Mix them well until you have achieved a smooth custard-like mixture:

 Pizza rustica (prep 7)

Now add the other cheeses and cured meats, mixing them into the ricotta and egg mixture with a spatula until the mixture is homogeneous. The mixture will have stiffened up quite a bit:

 Pizza rustica (prep 8)

If you’re still waiting for the dough to chill, place the filling in the fridge too, covered with plastic wrap to keep it moist. (Both dough and filling can wait for several hours, or even overnight, if you like.)

 Step 3: Assembling the pizza rustica: When the dough ball is well chilled, take it from the fridge and unwrap it. Flour your working surface (if possible, it should be marble or granite) and your dough ball, too, to prevent sticking. Take about 2/3 of the dough, flour it well on all sides and form it again into a ball, and flatten the dough ball out a bit with a rolling pin:

 Pizza rustica (prep 3)

Now take the rolling pin and roll out the dough into a fairly thin (but not paper thin) disk, turning the dough with each roll to ensure it comes out as evenly round as you can manage. (No need for perfection here…)

 Pizza rustica (prep 4)

Now you need to place the dough into a pie plate—but whatever you do, don’t try to move this delicate dough with your hands! Instead, roll up the dough with your rolling pin:

 Pizza rustica (prep 5)

Now, using your rolling pin, transfer the dough onto a pie plate and unfurl it on top of the plate, making sure it covers the entire plate by a good measure. Press the dough down into the plate to make a shell, like so:

 Pizza rustica (prep 6)

Cut off the excess dough that hangs over the edges of the plate. Now place all the stuffing into the shell:

 Pizza rustica (prep 9)

Now you have two choices: you can roll out the remaining dough into another disk, to use as a cover for the pie OR, as I like, you can take a little more time and effort to make a lattice top. For the latter, roll the remaining dough out into a long, rectangular shape, then using a pastry wheel, cut the dough into long strips. If you’re hand isn’t too steady (like mine) you can use the rolling pin as a guide:

 Pizza rustica (prep 10)

Now lay the strips over the filling in a cross-hatch pattern. Take up all the remaining dough and roll it out into one long strip. Twist that last strip so it resembles a cord and use it to create a trim all around the edge of the pice plate. You  should wind up with a pie like this:

 Pizza rustica (prep 11)

Finally, if you like, take one more egg, add a few drops of water and beat them together well with a fork. Then brush this egg wash all over the surface of the pie. This will help the surface to brown and develop an attractive sheen.

Step 4: Baking: Place the pizza rustica into a moderately hot over, say about 190C/375F for an hour or so, until the filling is cooked through and the top is nicely brown. If you like a browner crust, you can raise the temperature for the last 15 minutes or so, using the convection setting if you have one.

Let the pie cool for 20-30 minutes before eating. The pie can also be eaten at room temperature which, to my taste, makes it even better. When eaten warm, the filling will be rather creamy and your slices a bit messy, if very tasty:

Pizza rustica (hot slice)

When eaten cold, the filling will firm up quite a bit and the pie can be sliced very neatly, perfect for an Easter Monday picnic:

Pizza rustica (cold slice)

Notes

The crust given here is my personal favorite. It is savory and flaky and delicious. It is not really true puff pastry, however, which involves incorporating the fat into layers of dough to produce a truly ‘puffy’ result. It is more like a more homely pie crust. Another version of the dish, however, is made with a dough made from flour and egg with only a bit of butter or lard for enrichment. It makes a firmer but less friable crust, better some say for eating cold although I would disagree. Some recipes also call for adding sugar to the crust, which, of course, makes it sweet. The contrast of sweet crust and savory filling intrigues me (some pasta timbales are made that way as well) but, not having much of a sweet tooth, I haven’t tried it.

The filling always begins with the egg and ricotta mixture, but from there you can add the cheeses and cured meats you like. Smoked provola is a common addition and provolone (not too aged) would also be nice. Older recipes, including the first written recipe for pizza rustica, from Il Cuoco Galante, an 18th century Neapolitan cookbook by the illustrious Vincenzo Corrado, calls for fresh sausage, cooked and sliced.

Besides it role in a picnic, you can serve pizza rustica as part of an antipasto spread for Easter dinner itself, just like we did…

Antipasti (ensemble)

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38 Responses to “Pizza rustica (Easter Cheese and Salumi Pie)”

  1. Kalliope
    7 April 2014 at 06:45 #

    Είναι μόλις λίγες μέρες που σας ανακάλυψα και φυσικά σας ακολουθώ!
    Με αφορμή το Πάσχα είδα αυτή τη συνταγή ,η οποία μου θυμίζει πολύ ένα είδος τυρόπιτας που έφτιαχνε ο παππούς μου!
    Στη γέμιση έβαζε γλυκιά μυζήθρα (μαλακό άσπρο τυρί)και αυγά και στο τελείωμα περνούσε την επιφάνεια με αραιωμένο αυγό και πασπάλιζε πάντα με κανέλα και σουσάμι!!!
    Ήταν μοναδικές και χαρακτηριστικές της πατρίδας του (Λέρος- Δωδεκάνησα)!
    Μετανιώνω που δεν κάθισα ποτέ μαζί του ,να τις φτιάξουμε μαζί,γιατί ποτέ δεν τις έχω κάνει ίδιες με εκείνον!
    Σας εύχομαι Καλό Πάσχα!

  2. 29 April 2013 at 15:01 #

    Love this quiche! I will have to try it!

  3. 5 April 2013 at 11:30 #

    P.S. but this is soooo rich! Can someone really have it as an appetizer and then still eat lunch? ;-)))

    • 7 April 2013 at 09:18 #

      On Easter you can. By some magical force one’s stomach expands to accommodate vast portions. It’s a proven fact… ;=)

  4. 3 April 2013 at 12:50 #

    Looks so beautiful!! Hope you had a wonderful Easter!

  5. 3 April 2013 at 04:53 #

    Bravissimo!

  6. 2 April 2013 at 23:51 #

    What a beautiful creation! And your step by step demo is fab. Bravo!!! I hope you had a wonderful Easter, Frank.

  7. 2 April 2013 at 10:38 #

    I love this love rustic pizza look amazing!

  8. HolliDe
    1 April 2013 at 20:07 #

    I JUST made this in San Diego, packed it in a box and carried it on the plane all the way to our relatives in Buffalo, NY for Easter. Mine was very similar to yours, but I also had cubed Soppresatta and 1 cubed roasted Italian sausage. It disappeared within minutes! :)

    • 7 April 2013 at 09:20 #

      I can imagine! With all those goodies inside, who could resist?!

  9. 1 April 2013 at 19:19 #

    Check out Judy Rodger’s rough puff pastry recipe in her book, Zuni Cafe. It makes a great rustic puff pastry, but in difficulty it is closer to a pie crust than true puff. But I now have to try your pizza rustica recipe with that crust! I had covered an easter frittata on my blog recently, I would call the original a crustless version of this. But I love a good, flaky tender crust!

    • 7 April 2013 at 09:22 #

      Well, so do I. I’ll have to checkout Judy Rodger’s recipe soon!

  10. 1 April 2013 at 18:04 #

    Pizza Rustica – wow looks amazing I want to head into the Italian countryside and eat this :-)

    • 7 April 2013 at 09:22 #

      Best place to enjoy a nice slice of pizza rustica, Rebecca!

  11. 1 April 2013 at 17:11 #

    Frank – I haven’t made pizza rustica in years. It seems to get lost in the shuffle of all the other Easter foods and I’m too full and/or tired to make it the day after for Pasquetta. But looking at your beautiful creation makes me sorry I didn’t do it this year. I’ll have to put it on the table for next year for sure. Those traditions should stay alive.

  12. 1 April 2013 at 14:59 #

    Questa Pasquetta il tempo , almeno nella mia zona, non è stato clemente e non c’è stata la possibilità di fare un picnic. Conservo la ricetta per quando finalmente la primavera permetterà una bella scampagnata , grazie ! un abbraccio !

  13. 1 April 2013 at 14:57 #

    It isn’t Easter in our house if my husband doesn’t have a slice of pizza rustica. I like the lattice top on yours…make it so pretty. What is nice is that is freezes well.

    • 7 April 2013 at 09:24 #

      At our house it disappears too fast to freeze, lol! But that’s good to know for times when you want to make it ahead.

  14. rozpaige
    1 April 2013 at 14:18 #

    You make this look so easy to prepare Frank. What a wonderful tradition in Italian cuisine for the season of Easter.
    Ciao,
    Roz

    • 7 April 2013 at 09:25 #

      Thanks, Roz! In fact, it isn’t all that hard if you takes things step by step. Like a lot of things…

  15. 1 April 2013 at 13:25 #

    I had never heard of Pizza Rustica, but it looks amazing! It would be a wonderful picnic treat!

  16. Stacey French
    1 April 2013 at 13:24 #

    I remember eating this but never gave thought to who made it. Dad is probably right “the little pie maker” most likely made it….I was wondering though, is that nana’s rolling pin she used to keep behind the washing machine in her kitchen. And what ever happened to the big board she made ravioli on – also kept behind the washing machine…

    • 7 April 2013 at 09:26 #

      Alas, no. It is one I bought some time ago. Wonder where that old rolling pin is now…

  17. Stacey French
    1 April 2013 at 13:03 #

    I remember eating it too…no matter who made it.. I was just wondering was that nana’s rolling pin she kept behind the washing machine in her kitchen. And what do you suppose happened to that large board she made the ravioli on – also found behind the washing machine.

  18. 1 April 2013 at 12:57 #

    I went against tradition and made a polenta pie instead of pizza rustica. Big mistake. It means I still need to make pizza rustica – and I will be trying your “homely” crust – because they are somehow the most beautiful. (And add spinach – family tradition.)

    • 7 April 2013 at 09:28 #

      I’ve seen recipes where spinach gets added to the mix. I like the idea—and healthy, too! Well, sort of…. but it does sound delicious.

  19. 1 April 2013 at 12:45 #

    Wow, looks amazing, Frank!

  20. Frank Fariello
    1 April 2013 at 12:16 #

    Frank,

    I don’t remember Nana making this but, we did enjoy it at Easter. I think zia angelina made it. It looks delish.

    I just mentioned to mom how, as kids, we looked forward to the end of lent when we could eat candy again and especially the pizza dolce that Nana made. Have you ever tried it? There is a restaurant in Naples where the owner’s wife makes a pizza dolce that is very close to Nana’s.

    By the way mom’s corn casserole and snow hut cake were the hit of the party last night.

    L,

    Dad

    • 7 April 2013 at 09:29 #

      Of course! You can find the recipe link at the bottom of the post.

  21. 1 April 2013 at 11:47 #

    Found this on my FB wall and followed here – I am so glad I did; obviously won’t now be making for Easter Monday but most definitely for next weekend! Looks heavenly – thank you for taking the time to post up this recipe.

    • 7 April 2013 at 09:29 #

      And thank you, Stephanie, for taking the time to leave a comment! If you do make it, let us know how you liked it.

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