Pizza Rustica is not a pizza; it is more like an Italian quiche, and my mother and granny always made it for Easter. I remember the crust was always golden brown and flaked in concentric circles on top.
The only meat my mother added to this pie was prosciutto, but thanks to the internet, I have learned that Pizza Rustica is made all over Italy usually at Easter time, and often it contains cooked sausage, hard salami, ham, or mortadella. Italians add whatever meat they wish. Vegetarians can ignore adding meat and just add vegetables like fried peppers, fried zucchini, or whatever seems good at the time.(Picture above is an unbaked pizza rustica.)
What every pizza rustica does have in common is a good flaky crust and a ricotta filling made with eggs, mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Serve this Saturday night before Easter with a big caesar salad, if you have family staying with you. It serves a crowd and tastes wonderfully crisp, creamy, salty, crusty all at the same time. So good.
2 cups flour
2 tbsp solid leaf lard or Crisco shortening
1 whole egg and 1 egg yolk
1/2 cup warm water
pinch of salt
Place the flour, shortening or lard and salt in a food processor and pulse enough for the shortening to disperse throughout. Add the egg and yolk and pulse again until incorporated. Add the water and pulse just until the dough, when you press it together, will stay together. Gather it up into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 min. or more. Take out the chilled dough and cut in half with the top crust a bit larger than the bottom. Roll out the bottom crust and place into a 9″ non-stick spring form pan. Cover with waxed paper so it won’t dry out.
Roll out the top crust. Brush all over with melted lard or shortening. Roll up using the longest edge into a tube. Cut down the middle of the tube with a serrated knife, making sure you don’t go all the way through. Coil the dough like a garden hose. Place on a pice of floured wax paper. Use another piece of floured wax paper on top of the dough. Smack it a few times with your rolling pin to loosen it up. Roll it out, cut side up, until it is one or two inches larger than the 9″ pie pan. Cover with wax paper so it won’t dry out while you make your filling.
If you absolutely can’t face making your own pie dough, you could use a prepared pie crust, roll out and fill pie pan for bottom crust. Then, for the top crust, roll it out, and then brush with melted shortening, roll up lengthwise, cut lengthwise and coil like a garden hose for the top crust. Roll it out again keeping the cut side up and save covered with wax paper while making your filling.
I have been told that a prepared crust rolled out this way comes out as flaky as the homemade one, and this was from my mom’s sister, who told me not to tell. Well she and mom are together in Heaven now, so Auntie probably has already confessed. Onward to the filling.
Above one filling is with prosciutto, and the other is with sweet Italian sausage.
1 lb whole milk mozzarella (Like Polly O)
3/4 lb thin sliced prosciutto sliced lengthwise and then cut crosswise into slivers.
1/2 – 1 cup grated parmesan cheese (Reggiano)
3 cups fresh whole milk ricotta cheese
fresh ground pepper
taste for salt before adding a pinch
4 – 5 whole eggs
Cube the mozarella cheese. Cut up the prosciutto as suggested above. Place the ricotta, mozarella, parmesan, eggs, prosciutto, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Mix together using a large wooden spoon.
To make the filling with sausage: Use 4 links of sweet Italian sausage with fennel. Brown the sausage, cut in half, then cut crosswise and add to the filling instead of prosciutto or along with prosciutto. Mix your filling as it says above. Pour the filling into the pie pan on top of the bottom crust.
Top with the top crust that you have rolled out, rolled up and cut as above pictures, and placed on top of the filling. Crimp edges as shown below.
You can then either wrap in plastic and then in foil and freeze until ready to serve, or you can bake it because you plan to eat it when it is done.
To Bake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Unwrap pie and remove plastic and foil. You can place an aluminum pie ring around the crust to prevent it from burning. Bake the pie for one hour and see if it seems done. I bake it for 1 and 1/2 hours. I test at one hour but it is usually not done in the middle and not brown enough on top. When top is a deep golden brown and internal temp is hot, remove to a rack to cool. Cool for ten minutes. Then cover with foil. It will keep warm up to an hour in case you are not yet ready to serve it.
Last year when I removed the spring form sides, the pie was gorgeous – a rich golden brown all over. The crust edges were very deep brown and I feared they would taste burnt, but they tasted wonderful. The top of the pie flaked in that special way and I was thrilled. It was worth all the time and anxiety. Everyone raved and I basked in the glory.