Pizza Rustica

Easter, Inspired By Family & Friends

Pizza Rustica

I have been enjoying my friend Patty Zelinski’s Italian-influenced comfort dishes for more than three decades, and this month she shares her family recipe for Pizza Rustica. For me, nothing compares to her magnificent Easter feasts, and I particularly enjoy this delicious pie. In fact, I must restrain myself from consuming too much, as I know that roast lamb and other delights are to follow. When I invited her to cook this with me, I was amazed at how simple it was to make, using the best ingredients, prepared with love and skill. 

From my native Great Britain, I am sharing delicious biscuits that my mother would make only at Easter. Unlike the feasting of the Mediterranean and eastern Europe, there are not a lot of special British dishes served for this holiday, where the traditional Lenten fast followed by abundance is not so widespread. There is, however, a tradition of gifting chocolate eggs and a few recipes for sweet dishes remain. These buttery, spice and lemon accented cookies are a favorite. I hope as you celebrate with your families you will add these dishes to your holiday table.

This filling contains just cured meats, eggs and cheeses, but feel free to add your own additions, such as fresh herbs or cooked chard or spinach. If serving as a main dish, you can add a top crust and bake in a round pan. Patty bakes her pie with a single crust and serves it at room temperature, cut into small squares, as a prelude to a hearty Easter dinner. The base is purchased all-butter puff pastry, but you can use a short crust or Italian olive oil dough. Be sure to use top quality ingredients for the filling. We purchased the meats and cheeses at Lombardi’s market in Mattituck and our fresh organic eggs from 8 Hands Farm. 

Ingredients
1 ½ lb. ricotta
1 I lb. Mozzarella
¼ lb. Capicola
¼ lb. Salami 
¼ lb. Prosciutto di Parma
1 cup freshly grated parmesan
4 egg yolks, lightly beaten
4 egg whites
Fresh black pepper
2 x 8 oz. sheets all-butter puff pastry

Method

Cut the mozzarella and meats into small pieces. Place the ricotta in a large bowl and add the beaten egg yolks, mixing thoroughly. Stir in the meats and cheeses and add fresh ground black pepper. Beat the egg whites until stiff and gently fold into the mixture. 

Line a large heavy rectangular dish (I used a 12 x 9-inch Pyrex dish) with the puff pastry. There is no need to roll the dough, just press it to fill the bottom and sides of the pan. Crimp the dough with your fingers to neaten the edges, before adding the filling. Place in the center of a preheated 350-degree oven and bake for one hour. The pie will puff up and be a light golden color when ready. Allow to cool for at least 20 minutes before slicing. Best served cold and cut into small squares as an appetizer.

Easter Biscuits

Ingredients
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. fresh grated nutmeg
1 cup unsalted butter softened
3/4 cup superfine sugar plus 2 tsp. for sprinkling
2 eggs lightly beaten
1 egg white, beaten until frothy
3 oz. currants & 1 oz dried blueberries or 4 oz. currants 
Finely grated zest of 2 small lemons

Method

Sift the flour together with the salt, nutmeg and cinnamon. Cream the softened butter and sugar together with an electric beater until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and lemon zest until thoroughly combined. Fold in the flour and currants and mix through. Form the dough into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Dust a surface with plenty of flour and roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Prick all over with a fork and cut into rounds using a 3-inch serrated cutter. Place on a parchment lined half sheet pan and bake in the middle of a 390-degree oven for eight minutes. Remove from oven, brush the tops with the beaten egg white and sprinkle with a thin layer of sugar. Return to the oven and bake for a further five minutes, until golden brown around the edges. Remove to a wire rack to cool. Biscuits keep for up to five days in an airtight container and freeze well.

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