pizza rustica (caution: this ain’t pizza)

For as long as I can remember, my family has had big Sunday dinners. Singing, dancing, and plenty of eating are a common theme. Lots of antipasti are served, including this ricotta cheese pie (known as pizza rustica in Italy). The fillings are interchangeable and you can leave some of the meats out if you don’t have access to them all. The dough is a little bit sweet, which makes for a great foil to the intensely salty meats and cheeses in the filling.

This pie is very traditional for the two days buttressing lent — “Carnevale” (the day before Ash Wednesday) and Easter Sunday. I imagine that good Catholic Italians stay away from it during lent because it doesn’t exactly speak to “sacrifice.” We enjoy it year-round. C’est la vie. It’s wonderful warm, room temperature, or even chilled.

A trick for those who are pie-averse because of the dough: just buy 9-inch deep dish pre-made pie shells. My supermarket even sells them in a sweet variety, which mimics the sweetness of this dough. However, I encourage you to try the homemade version here — you don’t have to roll it out, you just press it into a greased cake pan. What (other than the pre-made shells) could be easier?

Pie Dough
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
6 tablespoons unsalted butter or lard
1 egg + 1 egg yolk, beaten

2 pounds ricotta (part-skim works better than whole milk, it’s drier)
6 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano
1 pound mozzarella, coarsely grated
1/2 pound sweet dried sausage, peeled and diced
1/2 pound prosciutto, shredded
1/2 cup chopped parsley

2 9-inch cake pans, well buttered

  1. For the Pie Dough, combine dry ingredients in bowl of food processor and pulse several times to mix. Cut butter into 8 pieces and distribute evenly over dry ingredients in work bowl. Pulse until very finely powdered. Add eggs and continue to pulse until dough forms a ball that revolves on blade. Remove dough, press into a disk, wrap and chill.
  2. For the Filling, place ricotta in a mixing bowl and stir in eggs one at a time; stir in remaining filling ingredients in order.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and set a rack in the lower third. Divide the Pie Dough into 2 pieces. Press each piece into the buttered cake pans, trying to make sure the dough is evenly distributed along the bottom and sides (about 1.5 inches up). Split the filling between the two pans.
  4. Bake until the filling is set and the dough is baked through, about 45 minutes. Cool in the pan on a rack. To unmold, place a platter on top and invert, removing pan. Replace pan with another platter and invert again, removing top platter. Serve at room temperature. Refrigerate any leftovers (microwave individual slices if you want to reheat).

2 thoughts on “pizza rustica (caution: this ain’t pizza)”

  1. so maybe your pies are better than mine : ) I’m still getting used to spending this much time in the kitchen : ) Love the family pictures!

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