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 | By Candace Bryant-Lester, assistant editor, FAITH Catholic

Breaking our Lenten fast with Easter pie

Our grandparents and great-grandparents who immigrated to the United States from southern Italy brought with them a decadent Easter brunch dish that we now call pizza rustica. While this name might paint a picture of, well, “rustic pizza,” it’s quite the opposite, and does not really resemble pizza at all! This deep-dish pie is more like a quiche, stuffed with cheese and meats and enclosed in a hearty dough strong enough to hold many layers.

Pizza rustica dates back to the Naples area in the 17th century; it was traditionally prepared on Good Friday and then not eaten until after noon on Easter Saturday or on Easter Sunday. The idea was that the pie was filled with rich ingredients from which people had abstained during the 40 days of fasting. Ingredients for pizza rustica vary widely between regions and families, but many versions of this delicious recipe contain ham, prosciutto, salami and Italian cheeses such as ricotta and parmesan.

This Easter pie has multiple variations, including one called Torta Pasqualina. According to legend, the dough that made up this pie contained 33 layers, representing the years of Christ’s life on earth. This version often includes ham, cheese, hardboiled eggs and greens.

Regardless of where your ancestors might hail from, the tradition associated with making this Easter pie makes it a tempting way to break your Lenten fast. Despite our shortcomings, as God’s children, we enter the Easter season joyously celebrating Christ’s resurrection because he suffered and sacrificed himself for us. In the same way that pizza rustica is completely filled with Italian cured meats and cheeses, we ask God to fill us with his graces so we may live our lives in full communion with him.

He is risen, alleluia!

Pizza Rustica

Recipe By Tina Folkertsma

  • 2 store-bought pie pastry rolls for 9” pan or larger, room temperature
  • 16 oz. ricotta cheese, drained
  • 8 oz. low-moisture mozzarella, large shreds or cubed
  • 2 oz. Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
  • 1 t. pepper
  • 7 eggs, beaten
  • 12 oz. cooked Italian sausage, blotted and crumbled
  • 6 oz. smoked ham or prosciutto, cubed or sliced
  • 6 oz. pepperoni or salami slices, diced
  • 1 egg + 1 t. water

Whisk ricotta into beaten eggs. Stir in meats, pepper until coated. Gently fold in shredded cheeses until combined. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 450º. Brush a 9” springform pan with olive oil, dust with flour. Unroll first pre-made pastry on floured surface, using a rolling pin to slightly enlarge dough. Roll onto rolling pin and transfer to pan. Tuck dough into pan evenly.

Transfer filling into pan, pressing firmly to prevent air pockets. Unroll second pastry on top of pan, patting it flat over filling. Press firmly against inside pastry edge to seal.

Mix single egg and water, brush egg wash on top of dough to moisten entire surface. Trim dough extending past pan edge. Fold dough edges down onto top crust, crimp edges with fingertips until fully sealed. Brush once more with egg wash.

Place pan in oven, reduce heat to 350º. Bake until top crust is a beautiful golden brown, 75 minutes. Remove from oven, cool for 15-30 minutes. Remove ring, cool 15 minutes minimum before slicing.