Pizza rustica has nothing to do with pizza. Also known as torta pasqualina or Easter pie, it is a southern Italian specialty. Creamy ricotta (or basket cheese) and salty salami in a flaky crust, that’s pizza rustica.
“Pizza rustica is so old-fashioned it’s cool again,” says David DiBari, chef/owner of The Cookery in Dobbs Ferry, New York, where Easter pie stays on the menu year round. “Growing up, I remember friends or family usually brought one to our house during Easter.”
Like other festive foods in the Italian canon, pizza rustica could be made in advance and carried to someone else’s home during a religious holiday. Both filling and crust are rich with eggs, symbolic of rebirth during the Easter season.
Individual tart pans or a springform pan are showier options, but I just use a deep-dish pie plate. Though pizza rustica is traditionally eaten at room temperature, as a snack, The Cookery serves theirs warm, as an appetizer.
No one ever brought my family a pizza rustica–no use whining, I didn’t grow up in an Italian-American household. But I did have the good fortune to see how pizza rustica is made in The Cookery kitchen, and here are the recipes for pie and crust.
- 1/3 pound hot soppressata in one piece
- 1/3 pound sweet soppressata in one piece
- 1/3 Genoa salami in one piece
- 1-½ pounds whole-milk or part-skim ricotta preferably a high-quality brand such as Montena Taranto or Calabro
- 2 eggs plus 2 yolks
- 1 cup grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- 1/3 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
- All-purpose flour as needed
- 1 pound Rich Parmigiano Pastry Dough recipe follows or other pie dough
This is a recipe of Chef David DiBari of The Cookery in Dobbs Ferry, New York.
- 2-1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padana cheese
- 1 teaspoon whole fennel seed
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
- 1 pinch ground hot red pepper optional
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter cut in small cubes
- 1 whole egg plus 1 yolk
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
Combine the flour, cheese, fennel seed, salt and (if using) hot red pepper in a food processor bowl; pulse until well blended. Add the butter and continue pulsing until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
Through the funnel, add the egg and yolk, pulsing until incorporated. Gradually pour in the cream, continuing to pulse until a ball of dough forms. If the mixture fails to form a ball, add water a tablespoon at a time (up to ½ cup) until it does.
Gather the dough with one hand, sprinkle with flour and knead briefly on a board or the countertop; form a ball, flatten it, and cover or wrap.
Let the dough stand for at least half an hour before proceeding. It will be quite moist, but not to worry. You’ll be using plenty of flour when rolling it out and I think you’ll find this dough quite easy to work with. It can be held for several days in refrigerator, or frozen indefinitely. Before using, let the dough come to cool room temperature.