For this week’s inspiration, I decided to search through my grandmother’s old recipes and melded it with one of my favorite traditional meals by my mother. Thus, the Italian Easter Pie with lasagna ingredients was born. My mother’s lasagna brings the whole family around the table during two holidays: Christmas and Easter. The mixture of heat and sweet from the two different sausages, the saltiness of the Locatelli cheese (brand of Pecorino Romano), the creamy fresh ricotta that is lighter than air, the mozzarella that gives the dish its melty stringy quality, and perfectly cooked fresh noodles keep it all together.
Even though my family isn’t overly religious, we still take advantage of spending time together around some holidays. We made our own traditions, and worshiped these holidays because of the food and family. Ever since I was a little kid, one of my favorite holidays was Easter. I still remember waking up early on Easter morning and running downstairs like it was a second Christmas. The huge table that my father had built back in New York was covered with large Easter baskets, each filled to the brim with Easter candies and little presents. There was also the mixture of hardoiled eggs and goody-filled plastic eggs for the egg hunt. Each year, my mom would try harder and harder to trick me, and would sometimes succeed! My father usually included more Cadbury eggs and peeps, and my mom was a jelly bean fan. Personally, I was always into the Reese’s eggs and Crunch anything… but I digress (man, really miss being a kid). My family made every holiday feel like Christmas, it gave them a guilt-free opportunity to spoil me and my sister.
Though the little things, like the egg hunt, don’t happen anymore, a lot of other traditions thankfully still do! Christmas and Easter had two things in common: 1. I was always spoiled with gifts, and 2. it was the only two times of the year my mom would grace us with her lasagna. As we’ve gotten older, this dish has been enjoyed a little less frequently, but we still cherish it when served. I really don’t enjoy the heart burn after the fact, but it’s all worth it. Burn baby burn! Lasagna is usually only served for Christmas dinner, which is probably best for our waistlines. This year, I decided to bring a little of the magic to a dish inspired by my grandmother’s recipes.
I searched through her recipe cards for anything labeled Easter, in the beautifully designed binders scanned in and printed by my girlfriend and her parents a couple years ago. I lucked out when I found a recipe for an Italian Easter Pie. The only problem was, I couldn’t read my grandmother’s chicken scratch. I had a title though, so I decided to do a little research.
Italian Easter Pie, Pizza Rustica, Pizza Gain, Torta Pasqualina or whatever you want to call it, is a savory pie that has many varieties. It’s a delicious pie that is traditionally served at Easter in Italian households as a way to “break Lent,” hence giving it the name Easter Pie.
There are actually many different variations of Easter Pie – some with 33 layers of crust (one for each year that Christ lived) called Torte Pasqualina and that is made with greens, ham, cheese and hard boiled eggs inside. Ours is a meat and cheese version called Pizza Giana (Giana means “God is gracious” in Italian) – and in fact, there are actually a number of names and variations for this type of meat and cheese Easter pie – all depending on what region of the country your Italian family comes from. -A Family Feast
After having my mother decipher her mother’s handwriting, we actually realized that the recipe she had was for a sweet pie. It didn’t matter, though, because I was inspired. The version of the pie called Pizza Giana, reminded me of the lasagna that my mother makes. So I decided to make my own variety of the Easter Pie with my family’s influences to create a whole new tradition for this holiday. I hope you enjoy, and have a fantastic Easter weekend however you celebrate it! Bon Appetit and Happy Easter!
A meal, whether a family recipe or from Pintrest, is only going to be as good as the ingredients used to make it. My mother’s lasagna is set apart because of the fresh ingredients she finds from the best Italian markets in town. So, naturally, when making this pie recipe, I wanted to make sure that it comes as close to the taste of my mom’s lasagna as possible. We have been to a lot of different Italian markets and restaurants around Vegas over the years. Some started with some great products, but then most of their quality decreased over time. Our current market of choice is:
Sienna Italian Authentic Trattoria and Deli
9500 W Sahara Ave.
Las Vegas, Nevada 89117
Italian Easter Pie (Pizza Giana)
For the Yeast Dough crust
In a bowl mix together yeast and warm water
Place flour, butter/lard, salt, pepper and yeast in a bowl
Mix together by hand. Work together until dough forms, continue until the dough is elastic and smooth.
Wrap the bowl with plastic and let it sit outside in a warm place. Allow the dough to rise for 2 hours, or until it has doubled in size.
When the dough has finished rising, cut it in half.
Using a floured work surface and a rolling pin, roll the dough until it is completely flat and can cover a 9 inch x 3 inch greased spring form pan.
Making the filling
Press 5 cloves of garlic with a garlic press and saute over medium heat. Brown the garlic, but do not let it burn.
Add in the sausage.
Saute the sausage on high heat until browned, remove the fat as you go.
Add in a can of tomatoes and cook the mixture over medium low heat until fully incorporated and some of the fat has cooked down.
Assembling the Pie
Start with a layer of the ricotta cheese
Next add a layer of the mozzarella cheese slices
Then add a layer of the sausage mixture
Top with a layer of the Locatelli cheese
Repeat this process until you have reached the top
Roll out the other half of the dough and top the pie. Cut off the excess dough and crimp the edges.
You can take the extra dough re-roll it and make a design on top if you like. A lot of the traditional pies would have a cross on top. This one has our blog’s initials 🙂
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place the pie on a sheet pan and in the middle rack of the oven. Bake the pie for 30 minutes. Take the pie out, brush it with butter, sprinkle with locatelli cheese, and place back in the oven and bake for another 10-15 minutes until golden brown.
Let the pie cool and set for at least 10 minutes before removing from the pan and slicing it. Serve hot and enjoy!