Traditional Italian Easter Pie

Italian Easter pie is a traditional dessert served in the Campania region during this spring holiday.  This deep dish pie is filled with cooked wheat, candied citrus, and ricotta cheese.  You will be able to find most of these ingredients at an Italian market or specialty foods store.  The better the ingredients, the more delicious the Easter pie.

Origins and tradition

The modern pastiera was probably invented in a Neapolitan convent. An unknown nun wanted that cake, symbol of the Resurrection, to have the perfume of the flowers of the orange trees which grew in the convent’s gardens. She mixed a handful of wheat to the white ricotta cheese, then she added some eggs, symbol of the new life, some water which had the fragrance of the flowers of the spring time, candied citron and aromatic Asian spices.

We know for certain that the nuns of the ancient convent of San Gregorio Armeno were considered to be geniuses in the complex preparation of the Pastiera. They used to prepare a great quantity for the rich families during Easter time.

There are two different ways of preparing pastiera: in the older, the ricotta is mixed with the eggs; in the newer, thick pastry cream is added, making the pastiera softer. This innovation was introduced by Starace, a Neapolitan confectioner with a shop in a corner in Municipio Square.

The Pastiera has to be cooked some days in advance, no later than Maundy Thursday or Good Friday, in order to allow the fragrances to mix properly and result in that unique flavor. The Pastiera is not only cooked but also sold and served in appropriate pans called “ruoti” because it is very fragile, so it would easily crumble up if removed from the “ruoto”.

Recipe: Traditional Italian Easter Pie


Ingredients: (filling)

  • 2 lbs- sweet Italian sausage links- ( I personally like a mildly-spicy Calabrese sausage, but this is your personal choice)
  • 1/4 lb-prosciutto di Parma- chopped (medium dice)
  • 1/2 lb- capicola- thinly sliced
  • 1/3 lb- pepperoni – medium dice
  • 1/3 lb-Genoa salami- medium dice.
  • 1/2lb- ham – regular boiled deli ham ( med dice)
  • 2 lbs- ricotta cheese- Strained from it’s liquid if too wet.
  • 12 ounces- mozzarella cheese- (medium diced)
  • 6- eggs- room temperature
  • 1-egg+ 1Tablespoon of water -(for egg wash)
  • 1 tablespoon-Italian flat leaf parsley- chopped fine
  • 1/4 cup- Romano cheese or 1/4 cup- Parmesan cheese ( freshly grated) Or a combination of both to equal the 1/4 cup.
  • 1/4 teaspoon- salt
  • 15-20 turns- ground black pepper.

Yeast Dough Crust

  • 3 1/4 cups- Flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons- Butter
  • 1/8 teaspoon- Salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon- Pepper (ground)
  • 1 (1/4 ounce) -Yeast(active dry)
  • 1 cup- Water


Assemble dough:

  1. In a cup, mix yeast and warm water together.
  2. Place flour on a pastry board, add leaf lard (or butter), salt, pepper and yeast/water mixture.
  3. Work together well until dough forms, continue working the dough until it is elastic and smooth.
  4. Place dough in a deep dish, cover and allow it to rise in a warm place for 2 hours, or until doubled in volume.
  5. When dough has risen, cut into 2 pieces.
  6. Stretch one piece to fit into a greased 9-inch round cake pan. Reserve other for later to make top.
  7. Place lined cake mold in the refrigerator while making the filling.

Assemble Filling:

  1. Cut sausage into small pieces (or remove from casings and crumble), place in frying pan and brown lightly in 2 Tablespoons of water. (Reserve and cool)
  2. In a large bowl, combine ricotta, mozzarella, salt and pepper; add eggs one at a time, beating with a wooden spoon after each addition.
  3. Add cooked sausage, prosciutto, salami, pepperoni, ham, chopped parsley and grated cheese to ricotta mixture and blend well.
  4. Line the pastry crust with a nice single layer of the sliced capicola, all around including the edges. Any left over, place on the top of the ricotta and meat mixture before sealing the top with pastry.
  5. Once the pie is lined with the capicola, fill the dough-lined pan with the ricotta and diced meat mixture.

Closing with the pastry top:

  1. After filling the dough lined pan, stretch second piece of dough and place over the filling, pressing the edges closed. Be careful not to tear the dough. The top must be sealed.
  2. If there is a lot of excess dough left on the edge, carefully trim some, but leave enough to flute the sealed edge. At this point any extra dough can be used to decorate the top of your pizza rustica.
  3. This is fun for the kids! Make some flowers, bunny rabbits, Easter egg shapes, etc.; use your Easter imagination!
  4. I like to brush the crust and the decorations with a bit of beaten egg wash before baking, to give it a beautiful glossy finish.

To Bake:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Bake the pie in oven for 45-50 minutes, test with a knife or wooden skewer . Pierce the pie after 45 min, midway down it’s center, hold there for a minutes, remove the knife or skewer, and touch the back of you hand, if it feels hot, it is done, if it is just slightly warm or semi-cool it needs a good 10 minutes more.
  3. Once done, remove pie from oven and let settle for about 10 min. before slicing, if serving warm. Otherwise, let pie cool completely and refrigerate.

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