Italian Easter Pie

Italian Easter Pie

Last year, I was going through a stack of my grandma’s old recipes when a newspaper clipping fell out from among the myriad of handwritten note cards that she used to write 95% of her recipes. The yellowed clipping was from 1994 and included a feature on a local ricotta cheese company, as well as a recipe for Italian Easter Pie. I didn’t recall my grandma ever making it, but I took one look at the ingredients – over a pound of Italian meats and nearly three pounds of cheeses – and knew that everyone in my family would love it. I tucked the clipping away in a safe spot and earmarked it for Easter this year. I finally tested the recipe last week and, not surprisingly, we all devoured the pie. It’s an Easter tradition I wouldn’t mind starting!

Italian Easter Pie

This pie is an Italian-Catholic recipe and is traditionally made the day before Easter and served at noon to signify the end of Lent and to break the fast. Nothing says breaking a fast like pie crust and the biggest collection of Italian meats and cheeses I’ve ever seen in one recipe!

Speaking of cheese, Italian Easter Pie contains one special ingredient: basket cheese. It’s a specialty item that most stores only carry around the Easter holiday. The cheese is made and then formed inside of a plastic basket, which is how it gets its name. It’s a soft cheese and very mild in flavor, tasting like a cross between ricotta and mozzarella. I bought mine at a local Italian grocery, however the next day, I saw an entire display of basket cheese in the cheese counter section of my local grocery store. If your supermarket is on the large size, you will probably be able to find it there, otherwise you can substitute any other soft, mild cheese of your liking.

Italian Easter Pie {Basket Cheese}

As you might imagine, this recipe yields a lot of filling. The recipe didn’t mention a specific pie plate size, so I used a regular 9-inch, but it was bursting at the seams. When I make this again, I will definitely use a 9-inch deep dish or a 10-inch regular pie plate, and I’ve specified that in the recipe below. You can get away with a regular 9-inch but you could have some spillage in the oven.

I’ve loved unearthing old recipes of my grandma’s and making them in my kitchen. My mom said this is one that my grandma only made a handful of times; while everyone loved it, she had her own “standard” Easter baking that probably took up most of her time. What are some of your favorite traditional Easter recipes?

Italian Easter Pie

One year ago: Homemade Fudge Pops
Two years ago: Salmon Pierogies
Five years ago: Slow Cooker Beef Burgundy

Italian Easter Pie

Yield: 10 to 12 servings

Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 50 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours

This meat-and-cheese pie is traditionally served by many Italian Catholics at noon the day before Easter to mark the end of Lent.

Ingredients:

For the Pie Dough:
2½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
13 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into ¼-inch cubes
7 tablespoons vegetable shortening, cold, cut into pieces
4 to 5 tablespoons ice water

For the Pie Filling:
8 ounces sweet Italian sausage
1 small sweet onion, finely chopped
4 ounces pepperoni, chopped
4 ounces hard salami, chopped
4 ounces prosciutto, chopped
1 pound fresh basket cheese, drained and cut into bite-size pieces
1 pound ricotta cheese, drained
4 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
4 ounces provolone cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 eggs, lightly beaten with a fork
Freshly grated black pepper

For the Egg Wash:
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon heavy cream

Directions:

1. Make the Pie Crust: Add the flour, salt and sugar to the work bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Scatter the butter pieces over flour mixture, tossing to coat butter with some flour. Cut the butter into the flour with five 1-second pulses. Add the shortening and continue pulsing (about four more 1-second pulses) until the flour is pale yellow and resembles coarse cornmeal with butter bits no larger than small peas. Turn the mixture into medium bowl.

2. Sprinkle 4 tablespoons of ice water over the flour mixture. Use a rubber spatula to mix; press down on the dough with the broad side of the spatula until the dough sticks together, adding up to 1 tablespoon more ice water if the dough will not come together. Shape the dough into two balls with your hands, one slightly larger than the other. Flatten into 4-inch-wide disks. Dust lightly with flour, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 30 minutes before rolling out.

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

4. Prepare the Filling: While the dough is chilling, prepare the pie filling. Brown the sausage over medium heat in a large sauté pan, breaking it up into bite-size pieces as it cooks. Cook until the sausage is no longer pink in the middle, adding the onions during the last few minutes of cooking.

5. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage and onions to a large mixing bowl. Add all the remaining ingredients and mix well until thoroughly combined.

6. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the smaller piece of pie dough into a circle about ⅛-inch thick. Transfer the dough to a 10-inch regular pie plate or a 9-inch deep dish pie plate.

7. Transfer the filling to the dough-lined pie plate. There is a lot of filling, so you'll want to pack it tightly into the pie dish, mounding it slightly in the center. Roll out the other dough round and place over the filling. Trim top and bottom edges to ½ inch beyond pan lip. Tuck this rim of dough underneath itself so that folded edge is flush with pan lip. Flute edging or press with fork tines to seal. Cut four slits at right angles on dough top. With a fork, beat together the egg yolk and heavy cream, and brush over the top and crust of the pie.

8. Bake the pie until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is bubbling through the slits on top, about 50 minutes. Let the pie sit for at least 30 minutes before serving. Any leftovers should be refrigerated.

Notes:

  • If you cannot find basket cheese, you can substitute any other mild, semi-soft cheese in its place.

(Recipe adapted from Lamagna Cheese Co., as printed in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 3/27/1994)

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45 Responses to “Italian Easter Pie”

  1. Elizabeth @ Confessions of a Baking Queen on March 26, 2013 at 12:51 am

    All the cheese sounds delicious!

    Reply

  2. Ashley @ Wishes and Dishes on March 26, 2013 at 1:31 am

    This would surely put me in cheese heaven!!

    Reply

  3. Becca on March 26, 2013 at 1:40 am

    I would actually recommend a cake pan, or even a cheesecake ring. Whenever I’ve had it from bakeries, they were all really deep.

    Reply

  4. Valerie on March 26, 2013 at 5:27 am

    I have been making this Easter pie for years and so had my mother and her mother! I make mine in a large jelly roll pan the layers fit nicely and bakes to perfection! My family loves it and begs me to make 2 so it will last longer!

    Reply

  5. Milk and Honey on March 26, 2013 at 6:54 am

    YUM! Anything with that amount of Italian cheese and meats under a golden crown of pastry just has to go on the menu at my house this Easter. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply

  6. Marla on March 26, 2013 at 7:37 am

    Looks wonderful! Is the measurement on the Parmesan 1/4 cup?

    Reply

  7. Lisa from the 'burgh on March 26, 2013 at 8:01 am

    The Easter pie looks fabulous. I just saw basket cheese at Labriola’s over the weekend and wondered how it is used.

    Reply

  8. Jessica @ Portuguese Girl Cooks on March 26, 2013 at 8:28 am

    Wow! All that meat and cheese must make for one really really delicious pie!!

    Reply

  9. Margaret Garner on March 26, 2013 at 8:35 am

    Can’t wait to try this. Brings back such memories. Love your site.

    Reply

  10. marie @ little kitchie on March 26, 2013 at 8:36 am

    Oh wow! This sounds awesome – can’t go wrong with all that delicious cheese!

    Reply

  11. Maria on March 26, 2013 at 9:05 am

    Thank you for posting this recipe. I had this for the first time two years ago at my MIL’s, she bought it at an Italian Grocery Store in Youngstown. Can’t wait to make this. Happy Easter!

    Reply

  12. Tieghan on March 26, 2013 at 9:30 am

    Loving the cheese!

    Reply

  13. Gerry @ foodness gracious on March 26, 2013 at 9:30 am

    Looks like a super hearty dish, perfect for easter or any day!!

    Reply

  14. Renee - Kudos Kitchen on March 26, 2013 at 9:32 am

    Oh my. This sounds and looks incredible. I’m printing this and will be making it as soon as possible. Thanks for the recipe!!!

    Reply

  15. Cara on March 26, 2013 at 10:01 am

    I JUST saw basket cheese in the deli case at the Cash Market in Coraopolis and wondered what it was! This sounds amazing…. pinning it for next year. (and noting were to find that cheese too!)

    Reply

  16. Nicole @ Fruit 'N' Fitness on March 26, 2013 at 10:06 am

    I have never seen basket cheese. This looks like it would be the perfect holiday brunch!

    Reply

  17. Kathy on March 26, 2013 at 10:07 am

    Wow! I bet that tastes incredible with all that cheese!

    Reply

  18. Candace Karu on March 26, 2013 at 10:17 am

    Thank you so much for sharing this recipe. It’s perfect for Easter brunch!

    Reply

  19. bezzie on March 26, 2013 at 10:31 am

    Yes! Finally an honest to god recipe for this! Someone at my office made this 2 years ago…and I fell in love. But the only recipes people could give me were their grandmother’s “estimated” recipes. Those are usually the best kind, but the internet was very scarce on any good recipes to fill in the gaps. Of course I’ve only heard it called Italian MEAT pie…so maybe I was searching incorrectly!

    Reply

  20. Megan on March 26, 2013 at 10:47 am

    We have family friends who sometimes pick one of these up at a bakery and bring it for Easter, but I have been wanting to make my own for years. I love how it’s chock-full of Italian meats and cheese. I’ve heard it called pizzagaina or pizza rustica.

    Reply

    • Mary on April 21st, 2013 at 9:18 pm

      Megan, I had to thank you for posting the Italian name for this! Now I remember, I must have heard my relatives calling it “pizza gain'” a hundred times. Duh! I’ve been trying to get something other than half of a hand-written recipe for this and now I’ll know what to type in the search bar! (Besides, of course, trying the recipe posted here.)

      Reply

    • A on March 25th, 2014 at 10:49 am

      I grew up with this being called Pizza Rustica and Pizza Gain. there are many variations to the meat and cheese combination according to personal preference. Love them all. My mother used a deep cake pan, I use a big pie plate and my very authentic Italian friend makes it it a jelly roll pan. That just shows how diverse it can be.

      Reply

  21. Kasha the FarmGirl on March 26, 2013 at 10:51 am

    Is it wrong that I want to dive into that cheese with a spoon?

    Reply

  22. Alisha on March 26, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    I’ve been looking for a recipe like this ever since I saw one similar to it on Cake Boss! This looks amazing! THANK YOU!

    Reply

  23. Marcie @ Flavor The Moments on March 26, 2013 at 12:27 pm

    That looks like one fabulous way to end Lent! All that meat and cheese in a flaky crust has to be good.

    Reply

  24. Courtney@BakeMeBetter on March 26, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    This looks amazing! Happy belated birthday! Today’s Easter Pie with yesterday’s cake sounds like the perfect meal. :)

    Reply

  25. Anna @ Crunchy Creamy Sweet on March 26, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    When I saw the title of your post I didn’t expect a savory pie. :) Oh my! All the cheese and Italian meats. Yummers!

    Reply

  26. Paula on March 26, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    I’ve never heard of Italian Easter Pie! Certainly does have a load of cheese and meats in it and it looks wonderful.

    Reply

  27. Kim Bee on March 27, 2013 at 12:03 am

    Wow, this is flipping amazing. I just want to grab a huge slice of this.

    Reply

  28. Kiran @ KiranTarun.com on March 27, 2013 at 1:30 am

    I’ve never heard of italian easter pie before, but this definitely looks delish!

    Reply

  29. Annie @ Annie's Noms on March 27, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    Oh wow, this sounds amazing. Italian has to be my favourite cuisine and I’m loving all the meats and cheeses in this! Making me crave cheese now! Need to make this :)

    Reply

  30. Susan on March 28, 2013 at 3:26 pm

    Can you suggest a specific cheese(s) in case the basket cheese is unavailable?

    Reply

    • Michelle on March 30th, 2013 at 11:29 am

      Hi Susa, Truly just based on preference, as I noted in the recipe. Anything semi-soft and mild – mozzarella, fontina, provolone, etc.

      Reply

  31. Ann Marie on March 28, 2013 at 4:52 pm

    Heart healthy it’s not…..but even better the next day. Use a deeper dish…..my grandmother used a soufflé dish.

    Reply

  32. Janice on March 31, 2013 at 12:10 am

    I found the basket cheese at McKinnon’s in Portsmouth, NH. I used all butter in the crust, it came out great and my family loved it!?

    Reply

  33. Lea on March 31, 2013 at 8:11 am

    This is an awesome recipe thank you…. I made mine like a pie but I also made one like a calzone….

    Reply

  34. Heather V on March 31, 2013 at 7:00 pm

    This was fantastic today! Everyone had seconds :) Thank you for posting!
    Also, I used my 9.5″ deep dish pie plate and no spillage.

    Reply

  35. Pina on April 2, 2013 at 11:00 am

    Hi Michelle, that sounds delicious. I don’t remember if my grandmother used to make this but I will aske my mother and will try it out. Do you have a recipe for la pastiera, made with grain? or maybe soft wheat? and I don’t know what else. My grandma used to make it but we have no recipe…

    Reply

    • Michelle on April 2nd, 2013 at 3:20 pm

      Hi Pina, I don’t have a recipe for la pastiera, but I come across one, I will definitely share!

      Reply

    • A on March 25th, 2014 at 10:56 am

      I buy the pre cooked canned wheat at my Italian specialty store and follow the recipe on the label. It calls for cooking the wheat again with additions and then another step before putting in pie shell to bake. Time consuming but worth it if you like this. Try googling “easter wheat pie” and if I find my old wheat can label, I’ll post! Good luck.

      Reply

  36. Mary on April 21, 2013 at 2:06 am

    I’m thrilled you posted this!! I have been searching for a recipe for Easter Pie! I think every Italian is keeping their recipe to themselves because I haven’t had much luck, so thanks for sharing!! I have a recipe for this, from my father’s Aunt, but I have been hesitant to try it because of the large quantities of ingredients and not having the correct pan, much like the trouble you ran into. I ended up buying a 4″ tall, 8″ diameter round cake pan to make [this same aunt's recipe for] ricotta pie, which I also could tell would have never fit in a regular sized pie plate, and it worked! When this aunt passed away, we had found several “tall sided” baking tins (for lack of a better description), which we discarded because they were so well used. Looking back on it now, I know those must have been what she used for the Easter Pie! (and probably the ricotta pie, too.) I have been on the hunt for those tins ever since I inherited her recipe book and I can’t find anything like them anywhere.

    Reply

  37. Janet D on February 19, 2014 at 3:34 pm

    You did a nice job writing up this recipe…. especially explaining about basket cheese…. my daughter is trying to find basket/fresh Italian cheese around Richmond VA…. I am located south of Boston and can get it directly from a manufacurer but she can’t locate… ideas?

    Reply

    • Michelle on February 20th, 2014 at 1:38 pm

      Hi Janet, I’ve actually only seen it on display at the regular grocery store right around Easter time. She might be able to find it year-round at an Italian grocery store, though.

      Reply

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