Revising the Italian Easter Pie Recipe

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A few years ago, we published a recipe for Torta Pasqualina (which is simply Easter Pie) that has been passed down from our Italian heritage (we give quite a bit of history to the Easter Pie story in that article, which we won’t repeat here).  Though we’ve been making it the same way for a long time, we really never liked the crust – and sometimes the filling was quite heavy.

We’ve done a bit of experimenting in our test kitchen, and found some very simple fixes.  It’s still a bit of work, but with our revisions it is not hard work – and the results are delicious!

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The Crust

Frankly, the crust for most Easter Pie recipes are not good.  We tried a few, including the classic we published previously – and just decided to rethink what we really wanted.  Let’s start with flaky – but a crust that has enough substance to hold up to filling.  We tried both store-bought filo dough and puff pastry, and found that puff pastry was quite good.

By far, the best crust we’ve tried was Martha Stewart’s Pate Brisee recipe – a flaky, buttery dough used for pies, tarts, quiches, etc.  How can you use a French crust with an Italian classic – because it tastes great!  We eliminate the sugar from Martha’s original recipe.

     Ingredients

  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter chilled and cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 to 1 cup ice water

   

     Directions

  1. In a large bowl of a food processor, combine flour, and salt. Add butter, and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, 8 to 10 seconds
  2. With machine running, add ice water in a slow, steady stream through feed tube. Pulse until dough holds together without being wet or sticky; be careful not to process more than 30 seconds. To test, squeeze a small amount together: If it is crumbly, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time.
  3. Divide dough into two equal balls. Flatten each ball into a disc and wrap in plastic. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill at least 1 hour. Dough may be stored, frozen, up to 1 month.

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La Torta Pasqualina 2015
La Torta Pasqualina alla Mickalene

The Filling

The basics of the savory version of Easter Pie call for eggs, cheese, and often a green vegetable (we used spinach, our Tyrolean parts of the family used asparagus, and we’ve seen others use Swiss chard).  My Mom’s father came from Abruzzo, and my Dad’s family came from Calabria, so our version is a mix of both traditions: sweet sausage, ham, spinach, and a lot of other goodies.  Try this version that Mickalene made – and perfected through many years of hard work.

    Ingredients

  • 8 ounces sweet Italian sausage
  • 1 cup cooked spinach, chopped
  • 1 medium sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 pound cooked ham, cut into 1/4 inch pieces (alternatively, 4 ounces hard salami, chopped, and 4 ounces prosciutto, chopped)
  • 1 cup toma from Piedmont, or Italian fontina, shredded
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese, drained
  • 4 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
  • 4 ounces mozzarella, cut into 1/4 inch piees
  • ¼ grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten with a fork; save about 1/4 cup for egg wash

Directions

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.  Cool, and cut up into small piecesCook onions in about 1 tablespoon olive oil until translucent (about 10 minutes).  Allow to cool.

Place all the ingredients into a large bowl, and mix well until thoroughly combined.
Prepare two 8 inch square glass or ceramic baking dishes, with at least 2 inch side – grease and flour each thoroughly (you can use a 9 inch deep dish pie plate, or one large spring form pan used for cheesecake). Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, cut into four portions, then form each portion into a disk. Roll out one disk for each baking dish about ⅛-inch thick. Transfer the dough to the prepared baking dishes.
Transfer the filling to the dough-lined pie plate. 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.
Brush the egg wash over the top crust of the pie.
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.
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