Baking With Mom, Part 1: Pizza Rustica

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Today is Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter and the beginning of Holy Week for Christians everywhere. Holy Week is the final week of Lent. It commemorates the events of our Lord’s last week before His death.
It’s hard to believe that we’re already about to celebrate Easter! It is said that as we get older, time appears to pass much more quickly. I guess I can attest to that. Though I still have quite a way to go before I’m eligible for AARP discounts, there’s no denying that I am getting older – and time seems to be whizzing by me at warp speed!
The Easter season is one of my favorite times of the year. Yes, I enjoy the hustle and bustle (and the cookies!) of Christmas time. I love the carolers and the beautifully decorated houses, and even the inflatable lawn ornaments. I espcially love perpetuating my family traditions through cooking and baking, and learning about the cherished traditions of others. But the reality is, that Christmas has become a multi-billion dollar marketing bonanza controlled by the retailers, where bigger, brighter and grander is always better. They tell us what to want and how much of it we need to make our lives complete. Sorry, but I don’t need some corporate honcho in an ivory tower defining my wants and needs!
To me, Holy Week and Easter are about reflection, quiet joy and renewal. The promise of rebirth and hope. Perhaps it is no coincidence that Easter usually falls in the early Spring. To me, Spring is also about rebirth, renewal and hope. The best part of it is that no one is shoving any video iPod Nanos and XBox 360 Consoles down my throat!
One of the things that my family looks forward to each year as Easter approaches, is enjoying the many traditional Italian baked goods associated with the holiday. They’re not fancy. There’s no Swiss meringue, chocolate ganache, puff pastry towers or spun sugar decorations in the lot. Just simple, rustic goodness made by loving hands and warm hearts.

In my family, my Mom was always in charge of the Easter baking. Since she did such a great job, the rest of us didn’t interfere much, except when it came to taste-testing! Actually, that’s a big, fat lie. We were just all too lazy or busy doing our own thing and couldn’t be bothered with baking Easter pies. Then, a few years ago, my father got sick and everything changed. Mom didn’t have the drive to do it anymore. All of her energy was wrapped up in taking care of him. In an attempt to keep some normalcy in our lives, I sucked it up, stepped in and took charge of the Easter baking. Some recipes I kept the same and some I tweaked, because well, sometimes I can be a contrary, royal pain in the a$$!
This year, I was able to talk Mom into baking with me. It didn’t take too much conning…uh, I mean encouragement. After the French bread fiasco, I guess she was ready to get her hands back in some dough. We made two kinds of Pizza Grana, Easter Bread (easy, easy, easy – you will love it!), Zeppoli and the recipe I’m sharing with you today, Pizza Rustica. How about that? In one afternoon, I ended up with a week’s worth of post material! Anyway, I don’t want you to exhaust yourselves from reading about all of our exploits in one sitting, so I’ll be spreading it out over the course of the week. In addition to some great recipes, you’ll hear all about the good, the bad and the ugly of baking with Mom!
Pizza Rustica is a traditional Italian Easter pie with a ricotta base, which is then filled with a variety of dried meats and cheeses. The name literally means “rustic pie”. My Pizza Rustica is big, cheesy, creamy and gooey hunk of a pie stuffed to the gills with six, count ‘em, SIX different kinds of dried and fresh MEAT! Though many recipes for Pizza Rustica specify that the meat, cheese and other filling ingredients be layered, I like to make mine, Napolitano style, so I cut or chunk them up and add them to the ricotta filling. It makes it a lot easier to cut the pie into slices. I also like to mix a little sugar and lemon zest into my crust. Mom absolutely insists that you must add a pinch of freshly ground black pepper to the crust too. She’s been making this pie since before I was born. Who am I to argue?

(Look at all that meat!!!)

The original recipe calls for something called dry “basket cheese”. Basket cheese is a is very mild and lightly salted cheese made from cow’s milk. It get its name from the way it is formed – inside a basket. It can be difficult to find unless you live close to a large Italian community. In the cultural wasteland that is the Gulf Coast of Florida, I can rarely find it. You can easily substitute dry mozzarella. Also, I use a rich, dense homemade ricotta that I am actually able to get here. If you can find some, use it. If not, drain your ricotta for a while in some cheese cloth to get rid of any extra liquid. It makes for a richer filling. This is a pretty versatile recipe. If you don’t care for any of the meats or cheeses that I’ve used here, choose something else.
Pizza Rustica is best eaten when it is completely cooled. You can even eat it right out of the fridge. Although it is traditionally enjoyed at Easter time, it makes a great meal anytime.

Since Pizza Rustica is such a quintessential Italian holiday dish, I’ve decided to submit it as my entry to Festa Italiana, a new blog event sponsored by Maria of Proud Italian Cook and Maryann of Finding La Dolce Vita.

I can’t wait to see what everyone else has come up with!

For more recipes like this, check out:

51 responses to Baking With Mom, Part 1: Pizza Rustica

  1. On March 16, 2008 at 6:50pm, culinography said...

    Look at all that meat, indeed! I’m drooling over here. YUM!

  2. On March 16, 2008 at 7:20pm, Bellini Valli said...

    I will have 2 slices please at the Festa Italiana. This type of pie is just amazing and a welcome additon to the event:D I also know what you mean about time flying by..when we were young we couldn’t wait to be older and now we’d just like time to stand still.

  3. On March 16, 2008 at 7:21pm, RecipeGirl said...

    This is so fabulous and impressive!! I just love the pictures you were able to capture too. I don’t think I could create that masterpiece quite like you did!

  4. On March 16, 2008 at 7:23pm, Peter M said...

    I saw this being made on a Cdn. food show and I’m every bit in awe of your Pizza Rustica.

    Meat lovers unite!

  5. On March 16, 2008 at 9:09pm, Gretchen Noelle said...

    My goodness, doesn’t that just look scrumptious! I may not know what all of those meats are exactly, but I could sure play! Tell me, is basket cheese a bit like queso fresco? I have seen it done in a basket, super mild flavor.

  6. On March 16, 2008 at 9:37pm, StickyGooeyCreamyChewy said...

    Culinography- Yup. Meat is a beautiful thing! ;)

    Valli- Thank you so much! If you can eat 2 pieces, you can have 2. This pie weighs about 10 pounds!

    Recipegirl- Thank you! I’m so glad you like it. If I could do it, you could certainly do it too.

    Peter- Thank you so much! That is really sweet. I’m glad you like it.

    Gretchen- I’m not an expert, but I think that queso fresco has a texture more like feta. Fresh basket cheese is more like ricotta and dry basket cheese would be more like mozzarella or oaxaca. If your queso fresco is really moist, I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. If you try it, let me know. Also, any variety of hams or cured meats can be used.

  7. On March 17, 2008 at 1:17am, Pixie said...

    Absolutely wonderful- I came across this twice this week and I’m sure that’s a sign that I must attempt to make this one day! It looks so delicious!!!!!!!

  8. On March 17, 2008 at 3:47am, african vanielje said...

    This looks like a lovely dish and since my fling with ricotta is developing into a full fledged love affair I may just give it a try.

  9. On March 17, 2008 at 4:41am, Aran said...

    Look at all that meat!!! My goodness!!! That’s a wayt to celebrate the end of lent!!!

  10. On March 17, 2008 at 5:03am, running42k said...

    That looks incredible. I am definitely making this for Saturday.

  11. On March 17, 2008 at 6:14am, Mike of Mike's Table said...

    Ok, that looks like an awesome pizza. I read the post title, saw the photo, and forgot it was pizza. Then I saw all the meats, and like Pavlov’s dog, just started drooling. I absolutely have to try this soon!

    and lol, “cultural wasteland” is definitely the best term…very fitting for central FL as well, at least where I am.

  12. On March 17, 2008 at 6:19am, Maryann said...

    This is a wonderful dish and a beautiful contribution to our Festa Italiana. Thanks for joining us :)

  13. On March 17, 2008 at 7:01am, StickyGooeyCreamyChewy said...

    Pixie- Thanks! Glad you like it. It is definitely a meat lovers dish! Let me know how it turns out.

    African Vanielje- Thank you! Do give it a try and report back.

    Aran- Lol! This is not the dish to make if you’re shy about meat!

    Running42k- Thanks! Let me know how you like it.

    Mike- You’re too funny! If you decide to make it, you can get just about everything at Publix. Mine carries Boar’s Head products and they have all of these meats.

    It is definitely better here than it was 20 years ago, but still has a long way to go. I get so jealous when I read about the resources available in other places!

    Maryann- Thank you! It is my pleasure!

  14. On March 17, 2008 at 7:19am, bleeding espresso said...

    Yes this is definitely one of those regional Italian treats–I never had it at home and no one makes it here in my village either…guess it’s time to start a new tradition ;)

  15. On March 17, 2008 at 7:58am, Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

    It looks gorgeous and must taste wonderful! Yummy!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  16. On March 17, 2008 at 8:21am, Marianna said...

    This looks really good, I also didnt know it was a typical Easter dish in Italy- so I also learned something new :-)
    In our family the staple Easter dish is lamb (we are Greek Orthodox) and our Easter will be on April 27th this year.

  17. On March 17, 2008 at 8:31am, Proud Italian Cook said...

    Wow! I can tell this dish was made with loving hands, I’m sure you made your family proud! What a great addition to our Festa Italiana table. I can’t wait to try this rustic goodness!! thanks again!

  18. On March 17, 2008 at 8:48am, LyB said...

    That is some gorgeous piece of pie! Wow, all of those ingredients together look delicious! Thanks so much for posting the recipe!

  19. On March 17, 2008 at 9:42am, Judy @ No Fear Entertaining said...

    Ooooh! That looks sooo good. I think dh would love this. Maybe I should surprise him with it. Ah heck. Maybe I can have him make it for me???

  20. On March 17, 2008 at 10:02am, Patricia Scarpin said...

    Susan, make sure you cut my slice pretty large, ok?? ;)

  21. On March 17, 2008 at 10:34am, Cakespy said...

    Shh–don’t tell MY mom–but I’d take this over her pizza any day! (shhhhh!)

  22. On March 17, 2008 at 11:30am, Susan from Food Blogga said...

    Hi Susan,
    How I enjoyed every single word of this post. You know I adore these family stories and recipes, and your pizza rustica is so similar to my pizza chena. Most books I have found use the terms interchangeably. I saw yourshas mortadella in it too–Jeff’s favorite! Well, thanks for sharing the beautiful story and superb pie. I just love your blog.
    -Susan

  23. On March 17, 2008 at 11:31am, Susan from Food Blogga said...

    Oops! I forgot to say thank you for the link. Thank you!:)

  24. On March 17, 2008 at 11:54am, StickyGooeyCreamyChewy said...

    Michelle- Yes, with all of the wonderful ingredients you have access to, you definitely must try it. With a tossed salad, it is a meal.

    Rosa- Thank you! It really does taste great.

    Marianna- Thanks! Apparently, different regions have different versions.
    I’m crazy about Greek food!

    Maria- Thank you so much! Glad you like it. I’m really happy I was able to participate in la Festa.

    LyB- You’re so welcome! I’m glad you like it.

    Judy- That’s the ticket! Let the Husband make it for you. Mine can’t boil water!

    Patricia- As big as you want! ;)

    Cakespy- Don’t worry. Your secret is safe with me! ;)

    Susan- Aww! You’re making me blush. I’m so glad you like it. You know, I never quite know what I am going to write until I sit down to do it. Somehow, the words come spilling out.

    You’re welcome for the link, and I love your blog too! Often, as I’m reading your posts, I’m sitting here nodding, because I know just what you mean!:)

  25. On March 17, 2008 at 2:17pm, Jessy and her dog Winnie said...

    Beautiful picture! It looks really great!

  26. On March 17, 2008 at 4:52pm, michelle @ TNS said...

    meeeeeeat.

    i *love* pizza rustica. love. how could you not?

    truly, we italians are gifted in the ways of food, and of pork in particular.

  27. On March 17, 2008 at 6:01pm, Kevin said...

    That looks so good! A pie with lots of tasty meats, cheese and eggs…mmm…

  28. On March 17, 2008 at 6:36pm, Food Rockz Man said...

    Wow . . . beautiful photos . . . looks and sounds incredibly delicious!

  29. On March 17, 2008 at 8:10pm, Mandy said...

    I share your sentiment about Christmas. Who needs others to tell them that Christmas is not complete without Xbox/Ipod! Love the pizza rustica, and all the cured meats!

  30. On March 17, 2008 at 9:12pm, Cookie baker Lynn said...

    That is an amazing pie. Not like the meats and cheeses you chose??? Delicious!

    Have a wonderful Easter!

  31. On March 17, 2008 at 10:03pm, Obsessive Foodie or Food Addict....You Decide said...

    My husband would be in HOG HEAVEN (no pun intended hehehe) w/this pie. You would need to carry around a defibrilator in your purse for weeks after eating this. Just in case…………

  32. On March 17, 2008 at 10:10pm, StickyGooeyCreamyChewy said...

    Jessy- Thanks! Glad you like it!

    Michelle- So glad you like it! You are so right. Not only food, but all things creative!

    Kevin- Thanks! What could be better than that combinaton?

    Food Rockz Man- Thank you! You flatter me. ;)

    Mandy- Yeah. It is getting ridiculous. This year, the stores skipped right over Thanksgiving. They went from Halloween straight to Christmas. I’m glad yo like the pie. :)

    Lynn- Thanks so much! Happy Easter to you too. :)

  33. On March 17, 2008 at 10:14pm, StickyGooeyCreamyChewy said...

    Obsessive- Hog Heaven! Lol! Very clever. ;) You just made me realize that it’s a good thing that one of my closest friends is a cardiologist! By the way, he ate 2 pieces!

  34. On March 18, 2008 at 10:23am, JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

    That is just gorgeous Susan! You can tell that a lot of love went into that pie! Such a great thing to do with mom! :)

  35. On March 18, 2008 at 11:50am, Ryley said...

    OH MY GOSH!!!!!! I totally want to make this.. i wonder if I can do it! Do you think you could use “american” pizza toppings? Maybe some veggies and such??

    I’m totally going to give this one a spin.. I’m worried about you saying to bake in on a low rack at 375 for 1 1/2 hours! wont it burn?????????

  36. On March 18, 2008 at 12:24pm, The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

    *sigh* This blog makes me think of lost things.

    In second grade my class put together a class cookbook made up of family recipes. My mother contributed my great-grandmother’s easter pie recipe. She had a battered, hand-written copy of it in her files. For the cookbook, they typed it out neatly, so Mom got rid of the original version and various other family members relied on their class cookbook copies for the recipe.

    Years passed. Grandmothers stopped hosting Easter. Mom stopped hosting Easter. The cookbooks were cheaply printed on regular paper. They were easy to forget about and throw away. Our copies were the only things that still had the family recipe. It was lost forver.

    I’ve been looking to replicate Nonni’s recipe ever since. I love seeing people’s Easter pie recipes because of this.

  37. On March 18, 2008 at 6:03pm, StickyGooeyCreamyChewy said...

    Jenn- Thank you! We had a good time, even though we argued a lot! ;) I’m still waiting for her to write down her recipes so I can post about the other things we made.

    Ryley- You could put whatever you want into this pie. Veggies would probably be great. Almost like a quiche.

    You need to judge according to your oven. Mine is electric and isn’t always too accurate. My Mom’s oven is gas and everything bakes faster in it. Check the pie after about 50 minutes. When a toothpick comes out clean, it’s done.

    Short (dis)Order Cook- Oh my! I’m sorry! I too have lost some precious recipes in the same way. My grandmother couldn’t read, so she never wrote anything down. There are so many thing that she used to make that no one can remember how to do.

    Perhaps, if you know what region her she is from, you can search online and come up with a recipe that is close to hers.

  38. On March 19, 2008 at 12:09am, Obsessive Foodie or Food Addict....You Decide said...

    That cardiologist is MY kind of Doc!!!! Take 2 viagra w/a bacon chaser……or is that Lipitor??? I never can keep them straight. I guess a side of bacon goes well with either hehehehe.

  39. On March 19, 2008 at 7:50am, Cakelaw said...

    Susan, you have outdone yourself – this looks absolutely delicious. Can I trade some fig crostata for a slice??

  40. On March 19, 2008 at 1:20pm, CookiePie said...

    This looks so decadently amazing!

  41. On March 20, 2008 at 10:07am, StickyGooeyCreamyChewy said...

    Obsessive- Um…I think it’s Lipitor.;) Lol!

    Cakelaw- Thank you very much! I love fig crostada!

    Cookiepie- Thanks! I’m glad you like it. :)

  42. On March 21, 2008 at 11:04pm, Elise said...

    What a gorgeous meat pie, so tall and majestic. I’ve never even heard of Pizza Rustica (obviously not Italian) but I can imagine that it is absolutely fabulous.

  43. On March 22, 2008 at 4:54pm, StickyGooeyCreamyChewy said...

    Elise- Welcome! I’m so glad you liked the pie. Pizza Rustica is what my family has always called it. I know that there are other names too. One thing that everyone calls it is delicious!

  44. On March 24, 2008 at 9:06pm, familiabencomo said...

    Oh, yumm! I can’t wait to try this. I have dreams from my college days in Roma eating pizza rustica daily (& not gaining weight!) Thank you for sharing.

    xoxox Amy

  45. On March 25, 2008 at 6:26am, Gloria said...

    When I saw this Pizza Rustica Im in love!!!!!!! love it, I have to make!!! Really congrats is beauty and yummy!!! Gloria

  46. On March 25, 2008 at 9:14am, Laurie said...

    Beautiful Pizza and beautiful post!

  47. On March 06, 2009 at 8:36pm, Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

    This looks so amazing! I’d love to try making one for Easter. My Italian in-laws never made one, and I have yet to attmept making one, but it looks so good. I’ll have to check out all your other Easter treats too!

  48. On April 03, 2009 at 5:52pm, Bellababe said...

    I made one last year that was SO close to my Nonna’s and didn’t save the recipe and have been searching and searching for one that was similar …….. thanks so much!!!!!
    I can’t wait to get cooking!!!

  49. On April 03, 2009 at 9:19pm, StickyGooeyCreamyChewy said...

    Bellababe- So happy you found this! I’m glad you liked it. Let me know how it turns out. :)

  50. On April 08, 2009 at 8:25am, erpeer said...

    Yum! This sounds a lot like a caciathia my grandma (from Italy) makes at easter time. Her are individual loaves rather than a whole pie. I will have to try this…
    Thanks, and Happy Easter!!

  51. On November 29, 2011 at 1:11am, alison said...

    I found this recipe last year a week before Easter and decided to give it a shot. My mother is/was the one to always make the rustica however I opted to give it a shot. Your recipe is AMAZING! Wer’e foodies and very critical and hard to please and I made two and could barely get a leftover slice. The dough is amazing and bakes up beautifully too! This will always be my go to recipe for pizza rustica. SIMPLY DELISH! BRAVO!

2 pings to Baking With Mom, Part 1: Pizza Rustica

  1. On March 30, 2012 at 3:22am, 10 Easter recipes from around the world - Food | Getaway Travel Blog pinged...

    [...] Pizza rustica recipe [...]

  2. On April 17, 2014 at 11:17am, Italian Easter Pie: „Fragone” – Pizza Rustica | Recipes Home pinged...

    […] Read all the instructions at stickygooeycreamychewy.com […]

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Hello and welcome to SGCC! I’m Susan, a professional writer, food columnist, recipe developer, wife, mother, daughter and sister, who used to be a lawyer in a previous life. My love of food comes from a long line of wonderful and creative Italian home cooks who didn’t always have a lot, but knew how to make a lot out of what they had. I hope that you enjoy yourself while you’re here, and visit often! read more >>

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