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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

SGCC Encore: Italian Easter Pies

Easterpies5

It's hard to believe that we're already about to celebrate Easter again! It is said that as we get older, time seems to pass much more quickly. I can attest to that. Though I've still got a long way to go before I'm eligible for AARP discounts, time does seem to be whizzing by me at warp speed!

One of the things that my family looks forward to each year as Easter approaches, is enjoying the various 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.

Last year around this time, I posted a series of articles about my Easter baking adventures with my mother. We made Easter Bread, Italian Rice Pies, Easter Wheat Pies and Mr. SGCC's all-time favorite, Pizza Rustica.

Since Easter Sunday is just a few days away, I thought it would be nice to give you a little round-up of these classic Italian Easter specialties, in the hope that I might inspire you to try one, two or all of them!

Easter Bread is a rich and slightly sweet yeast bread, that is braided and baked with colored eggs entwined in it. It is very similar to challah. Although it is a very popular Italian specialty, many other European cultures also boast their own version of it too.

EasterBread6

This particular Easter Bread was made using the master recipe for brioche dough from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, by Zoe Francois and Jeff Hertzberg. This was the first time I'd made Easter Bread using Zoe and Jeff's method, and it was a smashing success! The loaves were beautifully burnished on the outside, and soft and pillowy on the inside. I don't think I'll ever make it any other way again!

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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! 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 hearty and satisfying meal anytime.

pizzarustica3

Pastiera di Grano or Torta di Grano, and are said to have originated in a convent in Naples, Italy. They are dense and moist ricotta based dessert pies filled filled with cooked grains and delicately flavored with the essence of oranges. The traditional preparation uses wheat berries, but over the years many different evolutions of this dish have emerged, using a variety of different grains, such as barley and rice. I think this is probably because wheat berries are not always readily available. The grains are the key component of these pies, because they represent Spring, rebirth and the Resurrection. In my family, we always enjoyed them after Mass on Easter Sunday.

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My mother and I make very different versions of this Italian classic, although both are very delicious. My Torta di Risi is made with arborio rice and a phyllo dough crust. I also like to add some mascarpone cheese to the ricotta in my filling, making it extra rich and creamy.

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Mom's Pastiera di Grano features a traditional rolled pie crust and a ricotta/barley filling. She also separates her eggs and whips up the whites for a lighter and fluffier pie.

All of the recipes for these fabulous pies, along with much more information, can be found by clicking on the links in each section. I hope that you'll take a few minutes to check them out. If you decide to give any a try, please let me know what you think.

NOTE: I know that today is TWD day. I actually do have an awesome Banana Cream Pie to tell you about too. Unfortunately, I was taken out by a pesky stomach bug last Sunday, (while I was making the pie), and I had to put it on hold for a few days. I have all of the components ready. I just need to assemble the pie and photograph it. So, hopefully by tomorrow I'll be able to look at food again without retching and I can get that post up!

38 comments:

Eli said...

This DESERT was truly amazing! One of the best recipes that my wife and I have ever indulged ourselves with! It was easy and fun to cook, plus extremely tasty when we served with BBQ Blazed Chicken – found in 2009 Taste of Home Annual Recipes. Best home cooked combination ever!

THANKS!

Helene said...

What a beautiful pizza rustica. I've never tasted it but I'm sure it's really good.

Lisa@The Cutting Edge of Ordinary said...

You are bringing back so many memories for me. My Nonna always made the bread and pies! I really wanted to make the bread this Easter, but so far I haven't gotten that far. I'm so happy to see them all here!

City Girl said...

That Pizza Rustica has my name written all over it - YUM. I am going to make that at some point soon :)

Feel better.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

These look just like the pies I see in shop windows in Boston's North End during Easter season!

Meg said...

Look at that Pizza Rustica! AMAZING! Hope you have a wonderful Easter!

vibi said...

(Drool) I'm keeping that pizaa rustica not too far! Wow...

Ciao Chow Linda said...

All these wonderful specialties say "Easter" in Italian to me. I just can't seem to keep up with all the eating.

Cathy said...

Your pizza rustica looks amazing! I've tasted one once, many years ago and your post brought back some fond memories of that day (and uh...the young love involved). ;)

MaryBeth said...

Every last one looks simply delish and absolutely perfect!

Maris said...

This looks SO GOOD! And I love the idea of an Easter dessert. There are so many seasonal desserts for the winter holidays, but so few for Easter/spring!

Elyse said...

Oh my goodness! All of these Easter recipes sound delicious. I especially love the pizza rustica. It looks completely fantastic. I'm saving this page! What a great post before Easter.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

What gorgeous creations! That Pizza Pie is on my to-do list! Fantastic and so scrumptious looking!

Cheers,

Rosa

Colleen said...

Oooooh, would you look at those??? All fabulous looking and sounding.....well done Susan..I do hope you are feeling better now...Tummy bugs are blech!!! Hugs xxx

Jeff said...

staring at my bowl of oatmeal and your bread I feel like I got hosed going for the oatmeal this morning. Awesome job!

Mary said...

Your pies look amazing! (and I hope you feel better soon!)

Maria said...

Great Easter ideas, so many wonderful thing to make for one holiday. I hope you have a great Easter.

StickyGooeyCreamyChewy said...

Thanks, everyone! I'm glad you're enjoying my Easter pies! Actually, none of them are very difficult to make. The crusts are the hardest part, except for the phyllo crust, which is a snap to do.

It seems that the Pizza Rustica is the favorite by a mile! I hope that some of you decide to try it. It really is something special. And, if pressed for time, you can use store bought crust to make it. I promise not to tell! ;)

Lisa- I know it's hard to find the time, but using the Artisan Bread recipe really cuts the time in half.

Jeff- Lol! Sorry about that! ;)

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

This Easter for the first time in years I am making my great-grandmother's traditional Easter Pie recipe. The recipe was retired and probably lost years ago when my mother grew tired of having the extra baking chore every Easter and started buying them. I was making them myself using a Julia Child recipe, but my original family recipe was recovered and that's what I'm making.

My version only has two meats. I'm thinking six would be so much better.

Joan Nova said...

We also do Pizza Rustica and Pizza Gran'. My sister adds chocolate chips to the wheat pie. Yours look fabulous.Happy Easter!

Ingrid said...

After the all the pie photos going on here and everywhere else this week, I'm crazy for pie and unfortunately I have questionable pie crust making skills!

Hope you're feeling better!
~ingrid

Proud Italian Cook said...

These are all winners Susan! Happy Easter to you and your family.
xox, Marie

onlinepastrychef said...

Hope you're feeling better soon, Susan! I love this cavalcade of Easter Delights! All of it looks wonderful; kinda makes me wish I'd been raised w/a strong baking tradition. Sigh. At least I can bake for myself now:) I can understand why your husband is such a fan of the pizza rustica--I'm with him!

sunita said...

Everything looks so tempting...especially the pizza rustica, need to try it :-)

Tangled Noodle said...

Wow! These are tremendous - they beat chocolate eggs any time!

Jackie @PhamFatale.com said...

oh wow your rustic "tourte" looks amazingly delicious. It brings me back in time, fond childhood memories... Thanks for sharing.

Nicole said...

Susan, are you speaking to me about the whole time thing? I mean I know it keeps getting faster each year. I have seen it happening but since entering this 4th decade, MAN is is whizzing by!!! Freaky actually. That Easter bread may be just pretty enough to stop time though!

The Food Hunter said...

I love all these Easter pies. I'll be making a bunch of different ones this weekend too. Happy Easter

Nicisme said...

Hope you feel better soon!
Your pies look fabulous, I love that photo showing the inside of the Pizza Rustica.

Bellini Valli said...

I hope you have a fantastic Easter with your your family with plenty of excellent foods like these to keep the traditions alive:D

Kevin said...

Great looking Easter pies! Happy Easter!

Manggy said...

Ooh! I hope you recover from your stomach bug soon! :(
Thanks so much for your support, Susan-- I wrote you an e-mail :) And happy Easter to you and your family! I can't wait to see what sweet treats you've prepared this year! :)

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

These are ALL favorites of mine, especially the torta di risi. I'm not able to do these kinds of treats this year, as I wanted my mom to choose the Easter menu and she chose a very un-traditional beef tenderloin, asparagus, baked potatoes and chocolate torte. I'm so delighted to be able to have her here, though, so it's all good!

Buona Pasqua!

Lori Lynn said...

Bravo, such lovely looking pies.
Wishing you and your family a very Happy Easter.
LL

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

Pizza Rustica is excellent any time of the year, especially for summer picnics if kept cold in a cooler, so I'm going to love to try your recipe. Thanks!

Hope you're all better by now and got to enjoy Easter!

Peter M said...

Everyone wants an encore...nice reprise Susan and I'm sure your Easter was a wonderful feast!

Lola said...

Ha, look I posted Easter savory pies too! I love pizza rustica... Did you read my Torta Pasqualina entry?
http://agliooliopeperoncino.blogspot.com/2009/04/pasquetta-or-power-of-pic-nic.html
Ciao and happy belated Pasqua and Pasquetta!!!

Mermaid Sweets said...

Oh wow, these all look sooo delicious, I wish I could try them right now!