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Calling all Italians....savory cheese pie for Easter?

My Moms' coworker is asking for a recipe for an Italian pie, served at Easter, filled with savory cheese and seasoned with pepper....is anyone familiar with this and has a recipe to share? Thank you!

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  1. I don't know the actual name of the pie, but amongst New York Italians, it's called -- and this is a rough estimation -- pizza ghen' (at least amongst those whose pronunciation isn't so affected as to drop the -a off "pizza"). You might try doing a search using that as a reference point.

    6 Replies
    1. re: JungMann

      Miss G -- I believe that what this person is referring to is Pizza Rustica. In addition to cheese, it is made with various kinds of dried and fresh sausage as well as prosciutto. The more luxurious versions always had more of the meats, which tended to be more expensive than the cheeses, which included ricotta, mozzarella and locatelli romano. If you do a google search for Pizza Rustica you will come up with many recipes. And yes, JungMann, I often did hear it referred to as "Pizza gain" by the old-timers. I haven't heard that phrase in a long, long time!

      1. re: roxlet

        That was the first thing I thought of. So rich and delicious you can eat only a small piece at a time.

        1. re: mamachef

          Oh, yeah? Maybe YOU can only eat a small piece at a time! For me, it's like: "Oh, I'll only have a small piece. OK, maybe just another sliver. Let's even out that cut there. Ummm. That sure is good. Look! A big piece of prosciutto. I'll just take that so it looks better."

          1. re: roxlet

            The trouble is, it's good for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Or a snack in between. There's no bad time.

            1. re: coll

              You got that right! Only a month or so until I make it!

      2. Pizza Giena? I have heard it called Easter Pie but we ate it whenever we went up to Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. It's the best.

        1 Reply
        1. re: southernitalian

          I actually just read an interesting explanation -- pizza gain is an Americanization via southern Italian dialect for Pizza piena -- that is full.

        2. If it's a sweet ricotta and farro pie, it's called Tortiera and is an Easter specialty of the Campania area (the region around Naples). Here's a discussion: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/283760

          1 Reply
          1. re: farmersdaughter

            Except she is asking for a savoy pie! We called what you're described grain pie and it was made with wheat. I don't think anyone knew what farro was then -- maybe in Campagna, but not in my Neapolitan mother's family!

          2. You want Pizza Rustica minus the meat ingredients. Google for recipes galore.

            1. MIss G: Much too late for Easter, but I just saw this tread and remembered something I made years ago simply called Savory Easter Pie. It has Swiss chard and artichokes, ricotta, Parmesan, eggs for the filling. Then six small raw eggs are dropped into little wells in the filling before the top crust goes on (it's a double crust, 10" deep dish springform).

              It's a long recipe, so I thought I'd ask if this sounds like what you're looking for before I typed it in. It's from an old Bon Appetit magazine.

              1. We call it Pizza Gana. It is a savory concoction, not a pie in the usual sense but rather like a Jewish cheese cake, but not as high. How's that for a description? It can be made with just a bottom crust, or with a top & bottom. The filling is ricotta , eggs and cheese with a variety of chopped salamis....no chard, peppers or artichokes.
                There is a savory Easter pie called Pizza Rustica but that's the one with the vegetables.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Gio

                  Gio -- Pizza Rustica and Pizza Gana (or Gain of Chena or whatever), are one and the same. I have never seen (or made) a Pizza Rustica with vegetables, and growing up we routinely made a dozen or more at Easter. They were always known as Pizza Rustica though the old aunts would say Pizza Gain...

                  1. re: roxlet

                    Interesting, roxlet... We called it Pizza Gana... I guess it's different according where your relatives came from. Mine, Trieste and Avelino. I've never seen the savory pie with chard but there are recipes around which list that and asparagus as well. We were fortunate in that one of my mother's friends was a fabulous cook and regularly made savory pies for the holidays, one was with the meats, and one was with barley. That was delicious too.

                    1. re: Gio

                      Well, I guess that there are a million experiences out there. Reminds me of my father's sisters who used to squabble over whose particular dish was the best and whose was most like what their mother had made. Aunt Rose would compliment Aunt Terese on her struffoli and ask what she had fried them it. Aunt Terese would reply that she had fried them in Mazolla and Aunt Rose, the oldest sister and the sweetest of all elderly Italian ladies, would shake her head with a malicious gleam in her eye and say, "Yes, they're good Terese, but they're not authentic."

                2. I was on a quest for this a few weeks ago, looked under ricotta pies, easter pie, pizza rustica. There are so many variations for the savory pie--from puff pastry crust, phyllo leaves to pie crust made w/ egg/yolks to yeasted pizza dough. And, that doesn't go into the meats that go in it. Sometimes grain is added to the cheese, though I never tried it that way.

                  There are two that I've kept, the first one is a pie crust but made in a springform pan. I like it better than making it in a pie pan because you get more filling.


                  The next one is pizza rustica from King Arthur. I did not use pizza dough flavor or dough improver but did use vital wheat gluten. This one is more time consuming since you have to make yeasted dough. If I made this again, I'd try making this one in a springform pan as with the previous recipe. I prefer the pizza rustica over the pie crust which is almost like a tourtiere.


                  Oops, I'm not Italian but love Italian food!

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: chowser

                    Chowser, I thought you might be interested in the following...It's a quote from the listing of products at Maria's Bakery in the North End of Boston... a favorite Italian bakery here,
                    "Pizza 'Chiena'---or “Rustica” as some may know it is not a sweet but practically an entire meal, minus the dessert. This salty pie is made of a light flaky crust filled with ricotta and parmesan cheese along with an array of cold cuts including prosciutto, ham, and salami. It doesn't get any tastier than this."


                    1. re: Gio

                      That sounds great. I miss Maria's Bakery (and Boston)! I've seen recipes that use phyllo leaves. Do you think it gives it the same crust, or more like phyllo dough? I'd love to give that a try.

                      I just did a search for pizza chiena. They seem to be pie dough-like. This one sounds great. I'll have to try it:


                      These are all so different, though. Does anyone know the origin?

                      1. re: chowser

                        Search long enough and thou shalt be rewarded,,,,, Just found this recipe for Pizza Rustica but there's no vegetables.. just the eggs, cheese and salamis mentioned above. I was trying to recall the pastry dough I remember mother's friends making and knew olive oil was involved, and lo & behold here it is in the following recipe:


                        Hope it works!

                        1. re: Gio

                          Thanks for that. When I made this a few years ago after a discussion on CH, I kinda made it up as I went along. I cut butter into the pastry and chilled it before rolling. And I wrung out some chopped spinach for the filling. It came out well except that I used pancetta as one of my three meats and that didn't work out well.

                          Pssst, Gio~ Have you seen "Italian - Slow and Savory" by Joyce Goldstein? I found it at the library and then bought a nice copy used for not too much money. You might want to have a look at this.

                          1. re: yayadave

                            Thanks for the heads-up, Dave. I'll have to search it out. I just bought Flavors of Tuscany by Nancy Jenkins. I really need an intervention.

                            1. re: Gio

                              There should be a twelve step program - Cookbook Abusers Anonymous.

                          2. re: Gio

                            Thanks for searching for that. I'll have to give it a try. Interesting dough--like pasta dough. Sounds almost like a deep dish pizza.

                    2. Then there is the famous Torta Pasqualina, including spring veg and often hard-cooked eggs, but it is probably more common in Buenos Aires (Torta Pascualina) than NYC as it is from Genova and surrounding areas in Liguria, and Northwestern Italians emigrated in far greater numbers to South America. Google "Torta pasqualina" for many versions, or "Torta pascualina" for the Italian-Argentine variant. Many include spinach or other spring greens (though of course in Argentina Easter is in the Autumn).

                      I don't make my pastry for it - I buy the pascualina pastry rounds from an Argentine shop round the corner.

                      1. There is a good recipe for Easter Pizza in the North End Cookbook- it's a great reference if she'd find more Italian-American recipes useful to have around. Otherwise, google "easter pizza" and you'll find tons of recipes.

                        I love this article on the many "Correct" recipes out there:


                        1. Our family makes a "wheat" pie, with ricotta, peeled wheat (available at italian deli's) eggs, and yes, black pepper. I've never found a recipe on line for this, nor are we even sure where it came from......but this and "pizza rustica" (that would be the one with meats and cheeses) are our two traditional items for Easter

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: mamatimms

                            it's also called

                            Pizza Chiena
                            (Naples Dialect)

                            "correct/proper" Italian it would be pronounced Pizza Piena
                            but it started out as Pizza Chiena, from the old country :)

                            also called Pizza Rustica

                            1. re: mamatimms

                              You can find lots of recipes online if you look under Grain Pie. I think that's what you're referring to? Or on the can of wheat if that's how you buy it.



                              My recipe came from my MIL though.

                            2. PIZZA RUSTICA



                              3 lbs Ricotta
                              1/4 lb provalone
                              1/2 large mozzarella
                              3 eggs slightly beaten
                              3 tablespoons grated Parmesan


                              1/4 lb pepperoni
                              1/4 lb prosciutto
                              1/2 lb Genoa salami
                              1/2 lb sweet sausage browned in 2 tablespoons white wine, crumbled

                              Chop all filling ingredients finely, & mix together.

                              Pie Dough

                              3 cups flour
                              1/2 tsp salt
                              1 tablespoon sugar
                              1/2 lb butter or lard or Crisco cut into cubes, then put in the freezer to get ice cold
                              2 eggs

                              Stir flour, salt & sugar together. Work shortening of choice into flour, mix the eggs in and add as much additional ice water as needed so that the dough comes together. Divide pat ¾ of the dough into a flat disc, do the same with the other ¼, wrap in saran and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

                              Use an 8 or 9 inch springform pan, using the larger amount of dough for bottom & sides, ¼ for the top. Fill with the cheese/meat mixture, but don’t pack or compress it, nevertheless making sure that there are no air bubbles without filling.
                              Bake at 350 degrees for 1½ hours.

                              1 Reply