Over the years, my mother’s recipe for pizza rustica has been published here and there, in print and online. I included a version of it in my second book, Big Night In ~ it’s a celebration food, for sure ~ and I wrote about it years ago for The Washington Post. Most recently, I posted about it on my sister site, American Food Roots.
Somehow, though, I neglected to include the recipe right here on my own site. That seems wrong. After all, it is my mamma’s recipe, one of my favorites of hers. Even though I’m thrilled that it’s out in the world, where great recipes belong, I sort of felt like I needed to bring it home.
The filling is an exceedingly rich mix of six different cheeses bound together with egg and studded with diced cured meats (proscuitto, mortadella, soppressata). The savory pastry is buttery and flaky and slightly tart from a hit of lemon juice.
I thought you might like to see the inspired cook who shared the recipe with me so that I might share it with you. Here she is, my mamma Gabriella. A few weeks ago my mom celebrated a milestone birthday. I can’t say which one or she would be molto incazzata con me. But we spent it together which made us both happy.
We both wish you a Happy Easter and hope you are spending it with the ones you love. Buona Pasqua a tutti.
This rich, savory torte, filled with a mixture of cheeses and diced cured meats, is what countless Italian and Italian-American families slice into to break the Lenten fast. There are many variations and this is my mother's. I like it best slightly warm, so that it oozes just a little when you cut into your slice. On the other hand, a thin cold slice, straight from the fridge, makes a great snack (should you be fortunate enough to have leftovers).
- For the pastry
- 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
- 2 large eggs
- 4 or 5 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- For the filling
- 1 pound fresh, unsalted cheese such as basket cheese*
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, diced
- 1 pound fresh ricotta
- 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded sharp aged provolone cheese, such as Auricchio
- 1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated pecorino Romano
- 4 ounces mortadella, cut into small dice (about 2/3 cup)
- 4 ounces prosciutto, cut into small dice (about 2/3 cup)
- 4 ounces sopressata, cut into small dice (about 2/3 cup)
- Kosher or sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/4 cup half-and-half or whole milk
- To assemble
- Butter for the pan
- Unbleached all-purpose flour for the work surface
- 1 egg, lightly beaten with 2 tablespoons water
In the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, combine the flour, butter and salt and pulse briefly until combined. Add the eggs and the lemon juice and pulse just until a ball of dough begins to form, fewer than 10 seconds.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Gently pat the dough into a disk. Do not knead or overmix. Wrap the disk tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed. The dough may be frozen for up to 1 month. Bring it to slightly cooler than room temperature before using.**
Using a wooden spoon, a fork, or your fingers, crumble the basket cheese into a large bowl. Add the mozzarella, ricotta, provolone, Parmigiano and pecorino cheeses. Fold everything together with a wooden spoon or sturdy spatula. Add the mortadella, prosciutto and sopressata and mix again. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary.
Pour the beaten eggs over the mixture and stir until thoroughly combined. The filling should be dense and thick enough to stand a spatula or wooden spoon in, but it should not be so thick that you can’t incorporate the ingredients. Add the half-and-half or milk and mix well. Cover the filling with plastic wrap and set aside.***
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Generously butter a 9-by-13-inch pan or a 10-inch round springform pan with sides at least 2 1/2 inches deep.
Cut the dough into 2 portions, one slightly larger than the other. Rewrap the smaller portion and set aside. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the larger portion of dough into a rectangle or circle, depending on the shape of your pan, so that it is large enough to cover the bottom and sides of the pan with some overhang. The dough should be about 1/4-inch thick. Place your rolling pin on the edge of the dough closest to you and gently wrap the dough around the rolling pin. Lift the dough over the pan, then carefully unroll it. Gently press the dough into the pan. Spoon the filling into the pan and smooth out the top.
Roll out the remaining portion of dough and drape it over the filling. Gently press it directly against the surface of the filling. Trim the top and bottom crusts so that only 1 inch of overhang remains, then press them together to seal. Roll the overhang in toward the center of the dough to form an edge. Continue to roll the edge until you have gone all the way around the pan. Press down on the rolled edge with the tines of a fork to seal and form a decorative crust. If desired, use leftover dough to cut out shapes (I use cookie cutters to make baby chicks and eggs at Easter) and arrange them on top of the pie, using a little of the egg mixed with water to help them adhere. Using a sharp knife, cut several slits in the top of the pizza. Lightly brush the top crust surface with egg wash.
Bake for about 1 hour, until the top is deeply golden. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for 20 to 30 minutes. If using a rectangular pan, carefully invert the pizza onto a platter or cutting board, and then re-invert it onto the rack. Let cool completely. If using a springform pan, remove the sides and carefully move the pie to the rack or a large plate or platter. If serving immediately, cut the cooled pizza into slices or large bite-size pieces and arrange on a platter. Serve warm, at room temperature or cold.****
*Basket cheese is usually sold in 2-pound plastic baskets. It is a fresh cheese that is used as a stand-in for sheep's milk ricotta or for primosale, a drained and lightly salted fresh cow's milk cheese. Basket cheese can be hard to find but is usually available at Easter time at Italian delis and gourmet markets. If you can’t find it, use imported Greek feta or ricotta salata instead. In this case you will most likely not need to add salt.
**The pastry dough may be made and stored, tightly wrapped in plastic, in the refrigerator, a day in advance, or frozen for up to 1 month. Bring the dough to slightly cooler than room temperature before rolling it out. T
***The filling may be made up to a day in advance and kept, in a tightly lidded container, in the refrigerator.
****The pizza rustica may be baked in advance, wrapped tightly in plastic, and stored in the refrigerator for 1 day, or frozen for up to 1 month. Reheat it, uncovered, in a moderate oven (350 degrees) until completely warmed through.