PIZZA RUSTICA ALLA NAPOLETANA – ALSO CALLED TORTA RUSTICA

(a two-crust Neapolitan ricotta and meat pie)

"EASTER PIE"

 
Liliana d’Ambrosio, from whom the author received this recipe, is a Neapolitan woman whose version of pizza rustica is amazingly versatile. Cut it in small squares and it serves as an appetizer or part of a buffet. It can be the centerpiece of a brunch, a light lunch, or Sunday night supper. In Italy, it is often served at Easter. Liliana always bakes it the day before she plans to serve it and leaves it at room temperature. She has even been known to make calzoncini (mini calzones) with this pastry, shaping tiny little envelopes of dough that enclose the same filling, frying them until they are golden, and then serving them with smoked mozzarella and fine strands of fresh basil.Our listener, Linda, requested this old-fashioned Italian recipe which was served by her Grandmother as an Easter tradition. The pie may have originated in San Felese, east of Naples, Italy. It may be called “San Felese Easter Pie” - and it is also known as “Pizza Gaina” in Italian, (or “full pie” in English - although no one seems to be sure of the Italian spelling) and is sometimes called “Torta Rustica” in Italian-American households. I found several recipes (Linda explained that her family version had LOTS of extra additions) and have included the other possibilities in the “Variations” note below this recipe. [I should mention that I have recently heard of this pie being made with cheese, Swiss chard and onions, but NO meat at all.] One word of caution from the author: be careful not to overbake the pizza rustica lest the filling become soggy.

SERVES 6
for the pastry dough:
2 cups (10 ounces), unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon, sea salt or kosher salt
1/2 cup, olive oil or peanut oil
1/2 cup, cold water
 for the filling:
2 1/2 cups (20 ounces), ricotta cheese – drained (if necessary)
3 eggs
3 tablespoons, grated aged pecorino romano cheese
3 tablespoons, freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
a few gratings of nutmeg
salt
freshly ground pepper
1 cup (5 ounces), cubed mortadella
1 cup (5 ounces), cubed salami (preferably soppressata) for the glaze:
1 egg yolk – beaten with 3/4 teaspoon corn or olive oil

To Make the Dough: Combine the flour and salt in a bowl. Make a well in the center and add the oil. Blend until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle the mixture with the water and mix with a fork until the dough comes together. Cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 30 minutes.

To Make the Filling: Press the ricotta cheese through a sieve or whirl it in a processor to aerate (lighten) the cheese. Beat in the eggs. Stir in the grated cheeses and nutmeg, the salt and pepper, and then the mortadella and salami. Taste for salt and pepper; the mixture should be piquant.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly oil a 9- or 10-inch springform pan or a deep baking dish or deep pie pan.

To Prepare the Pie: Divide the pastry into 2 pieces, one slightly larger than the other. Roll the larger piece out to form a 15-inch round; it should be as fine as the dough for thin pasta. Lift the dough on a rolling pin and lay it inside the prepared pan or baking dish so that it completely covers the bottom and sides. Fill with the cheese mixture and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Roll the second piece of dough to form a 10-inch round and lay it over the filling. Trim the edges, and crimp them together well to seal the pizza rustica. Brush the top with the egg glaze and pierce the crust with a fork to allow steam to escape.

To Bake the Pie: Bake for about 60 minutes in the preheated oven, until the top is golden brown. Serve at room temperature.

Variations:
Other suggested meats, to add or substitute include:
Italian dry salami – cubed
Italian sausage – either mild (sweet) or spicy (hot) – browned
Prosciutto, capicola or other ham – cubed

Other suggested additions to the filling include:
Chopped mint (fresh or dried) use spearmint, not peppermint
Chopped fresh parsley
Sugar (about 1/2 cup)
Mozzarella cheese – diced
Formaggieto cheese – diced
2 Hard boiled eggs – diced

Recipes adapted from: In Nonna’s Kitchen by Carol Field (Harper Collins).