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Pizzagaina, Italian Easter Pie in English is the most expected and anticipated dish associated with Easter.
Main ingredients are a filling of ricotta, with selections of the best cured Italian cold cuts and cheeses that are encased and baked in pizza dough.
Italians, dominantly Catholic, observe Lent from Ash Wednesday through Good Friday. This is a period of penance and abstinence from eating meat on Fridays. Symbolic at the end of fasting, Italians help celebrate with this incredible meat filled appetizer. The ritual is so special, it’s rarely made at any other time.
Mom would make hers on Holy Saturday. She started accumulating ingredients a week ahead of time that included wasted ends from Italian cold cut logs deeply discounted that were perfect for cubing.
Traditional Easter Pie is made for a crowd. Mine is assembled in a spring formed cheesecake pan. Sides and bottom are lined with pizza dough. Filling starts with a base mixture of ricotta, grated Parmigiana, and eggs for binding. Cubed Italian cheeses and a variety of salami, Prosciutto and other cured Italian cold cuts are folded into the ricotta mixture and the top sealed with dough, ready for the oven.
Scaled Down Version
This scaled down version of Easter pie replaces the traditional oversized version. It’s convenient to serve at smaller socials or holiday gatherings. Dough is replaced with braided puff pastry. Proportioning ingredients ensures all the same great flavors as the original while flaky egg washed pastry adds eloquence.
Different than traditional Easter Pie, we frequently serve them as appetizers year-round.
This recipe makes 2 identical braids. If making only one braid, beat both eggs and use half the odd egg for the wash.
- 2 pack of puff pastry defrosted
- 1 15 oz. container whole milk ricotta cheese
- 3 eggs
- 8 oz. (2 cups) shredded Italian cheese mix
- 1 cup graded parmigiana cheese
- Freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ pounds Genoa Salami
- 2-4 oz. prosciutto thin sliced or cubed
- 1 additional cup shredded Italian cheese mix
Note: You can substitute or add pepperoni, soppressata, provolone, and other Italian cheeses and cured meats.
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon water
- Preheat oven to 350° convection.
- Once defrosted, keep puff pastry refrigerated until ready to use.
- Mix base ingredients until well combined. Optional, add a small pinch of salt. Other ingredients have relatively high salt content.
- Cut slices of Prosciutto in half lengthwise and in 1” lengths. Fold and distribute evenly into mixture. Chill mixture slightly for easier handling.
- Slice salami into strips, cut longer ones in halve lengthwise.
- Place puff pastry sheets on a lightly floured countertop. Roll parallel to their folds. Increasing lengths to about 12 or 13 inches. Cut patterns as shown in the picture above.
- Spread half of the chilled ricotta mixture evenly along the center of each trimmed puff pastry. Cover both with half of the salami. Sprinkle both with half the remaining shredded cheese. Repeat with remaining ricotta mixture, salami and shredded cheese. Fold end tab over filling; cover with alternating side tabs.
- Place both on a tray covered with parchment paper. Whisk egg with water. Brush both pastry with egg wash.
- Place in the middle of the oven for about 25 to 35 minutes until browned on all sides and mixture isn’t runny. It will solidify further as they cool. Slice with a serrated bread knife. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Visit Peter’s website: www.luciatramonte.com for more appetizers and desserts made with Braded Puff Pastry
Pineapple Cheesecake with Pecan Praline
Mom saved many recipe clippings from magazines, newspapers, and food boxes. A favorite appeared in the “Boston Daily Record” newspaper on Friday, October 19, 1956. Kraft® featured a Pineapple Cream Cheese Pie. Traditional pastry crust had a layer of prepared crushed pineapple, PHALALELPHIA CREAM CHEESE topping and was finished with chopped walnuts. Their tag line still brings a smile, “Stun your guy with this “Philly Pie” ….”You’ll simply bowl over the Man in your life with this special but easy pie that owes its greatness to (of all things!) a cream cheese.”
Of course, mom made it often. She knew it was one of my favorites.
Mom’s original clipping has a note she wrote to herself to “try using more cream cheese”. Here’s a cheesecake version of this wonderful desert made in a 9-inch springform pan. Crust is replaced with a complimentary ginger snap cookie crust and thicker layers of crushed pineapple and cheesecake filling. Cheesecake is made well ahead, frigerated, and finished with a generous topping of old fashion pecan praline. Extra praline is wonderful with cocktails.
- 2 cups of ginger snaps crumbs
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 20 oz. canned crushed pineapple with natural juices only
- 1/3rd cup sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
- 2 8oz. packages of cream cheese
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup whole milk
- Boiling water
- 1 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped pecans
Step 1. Crush ginger snaps, creating 2 cups of crumbs. Blend with butter and press onto the bottom and halfway up the sides of a 9-inch diameter spring form pan. Bake at 325º until just set, about 10 minutes. Cool.
Step 2. Drain pineapple juice into a small bowl. Add about a tablespoon of water and whisk with cornstarch.
Step 3. In a pot, stir crushed pineapple with sugar. Fold in cornstarch mixture. Stir over medium heat until clear and thickened. When cooled, spread mixture over cookie crust.
Step 4. For filling, in a food processer or mixer, beat cream cheese with sugar and salt until creamy. Add eggs one at a time followed by milk and vanilla. When well combined, slowly ladle filling over pineapple being careful to not disturb pineapple.
Step 5. Preheat oven to 400º degrees. Seal the outside of the springform pan by wrapping the bottom and sides with 2 sheets of wide aluminum foil. Put it into a roasting pan. Place in the oven. Pour boiling water in the roasting pan to about an inch and a half up the outside of the wrapped spring form pan. After 10 minutes, lower heat to 325º. Bake until the edges puff and the center lightly set, about 60 minutes. Once cooled, refrigerate in the springform at least five hours or overnight.
Step 6. For praline, set oven at 325º. Cover a cookie sheet with foil. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the brown sugar until melted. When the mixture begins to boil, let it bubble without stirring for about a minute. Coat pecans in the pot and place on the sheet covered with foil. The mixture will boil again in about 6 minutes, throughout within 8 minutes. Cool.
Step 7. Slide a thin knife between the cake and side of the pan to release the cheesecake; remove springform pan. Use a baker’s spatula do the same with the bottom. Slide the cheesecake onto a serving platter. Top with praline. Cut and serve.
About the Author
Peter, a member of Harbor Hills Country Club, grew up in Boston’s Italian North End. His website, www.LuciaTramonte.com, is dedicated to his Mom. Lucia Tramonte was her maiden name.