Pizza Rustica

pizzachina-002Pizza Rustica is a savory Italian pie traditionally made at Eastertime.  The ingredients vary by region and family tradition, but the base of the filling is ricotta cheese and eggs, and usually incorporates various types of meat and vegetables. 

My family always called this dish “pizzachina”, which translated literally means “filled pizza”.  Therefore, I’d always used the two terms interchangeably.  One time I had the opportunity to meet Nick Malgieri, baker extrordinaire and author of several baking books including my favorite How to Bake.  I was eager to tell him that his recipe for pizza rustica was the one that most closely approximated my grandmother’s lost recipe.  I also mentioned how we called it “pizzachina”.  He informed me that pizza rustica and pizzachina are in fact two very separate dishes, and being that he is an expert on such things (and Italian to boot), I’m inclined to take his word for it.  I’m not sure how this dish became known as pizzachina in my family, but it is what it is. 

In addition to being a tradition at Eastertime, there is another reason make this dish once a year:  it is incredibly labor intensive!  You start with a special “pasta frolla” (sweetened pie dough), which for those of us who don’t love working with flaky crusts, can be tricky.  The filling is a mixture of ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, eggs, and in my family, prosciutto.  Other versions include sausage, ham, or even spinach. Since we do not have my grandmother’s original recipe, this is a recipe I adapted slightly from Nick Malgieri’s very similar recipe.  As I said, it takes some time, but the results are wonderful.  Buona Pasqua!

Pizzachina

(Adapted from an original recipe for Pizza Rustica by Nick Malgieri)

Serves 8-10

For the crust:

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 t salt

1/2 t baking powder

6 T cold, unsalted butter (cut into 1 T pieces)

1 egg plus one egg white

For the filling:

1 lb ricotta cheese (whole milk is best)

3 eggs

1/4 c grated Pecorino Romano cheese

8 oz mozzarella cheese, grated

1/4- 1/2 lb prosciutto, shredded

1/4 c flat leaf parsley

Egg wash: 1 egg, beaten with 1 t water

1- 9 inch round cake pan

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and put the rack in the middle position.

First make the dough by combining the dry ingredients in a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse to mix. Toss the butter pieces around the bowl and pulse until a powdery consistency is reached. Add egg/egg white and continue to pulse until dough forms a ball on the blade. Remove dough and divide into two pieces (1/3 and 2/3 of dough). Press into separate discs, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate.

To make the filling, place the ricotta into the work bowl of the food processor and pulse until smooth. Transfer to a bowl, add eggs, and stir in remaining ingredients, one at a time. Set adide.

Roll the larger of the chilled dough discs into a large, 12 inch circle (like a pie crust), to about 1/4 inch thick. Lay in the bottom of the baking pan and gently press to form to the sides (you will have some overhang). Pour the filling inside the crust.

Roll out the remaining 1/3 crust and cut into long strips. Form a lattice pattern over the pie, pressing the ends into the edge of the bottom crust. Fold over the edges, forming a thicker edge, and press to seal.

Bake about 45 minutes until the filling is set and the crust is golden and baked through. Cool on a rack.

Gently unmold by inverting onto a platter. Serve at room temperature. Keep refrigerated after the first day of baking.

Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.

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2 Responses to “Pizza Rustica”

  1. paula Says:

    I have heard of pizza china. I think it is two words. Also, people should know that it is pronounced pizza keena.
    The recipe is a great one and should stir up old family memories in many people.
    Thanks for a public service!!

  2. Tracy Says:

    Thank you, Paula—YES—pizza china is, in fact, pronounced “pizza keena”. I should have mentioned it in the post!

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