Saturday, April 07, 2012

Pizza Gain, or Easter Pie

As a kid, I would look forward to Easter for one reason... A giant chocolate rabbit with my name on it. I could care less about resurrecting messiahs, rites of spring, or pagan fertility festivals. It was all about the candy. A good Easter basket, if properly managed, could last a sugar happy kid like myself all the way through the fourth of July.

Mine was of course, gone by Tuesday.

As an adult, my tastes and understanding of the holiday matured considerably, and along with freaking out my Catholic (with a capital 'C', you heathens) relatives by espousing my personal theory that Jesus was a Vampire, I started to look forward to a traditional Sicilian (with a capital 'S'!!!) dish known as Pizza Gain. I would later learn that the name of the dish was actually dialect-specific to the region of Sicily my ancestors came from. It's 'real' name is Pizza Rustica, or 'Italian Easter pie'.

When I moved to New Orleans, I was disappointed to find that my beloved Pizza Gain wasn't part of the Italian traditions here. Mind you, the Italian parades and St. Joseph's altars make up for this failing, so I let it slide for many years.

Fast forward twelve years. After hurricane Katrina, I flopped around a bit. I was unsure of myself or my identity. No longer confident about my role in the world after having much of my life stripped away. That following Easter, I felt homesick for the first time in years. I wanted and needed to have Pizza Gain on Easter Sunday.

First, I tried to find someone that produced it locally, with no luck. Then I called a bunch of Italian bakeries in NYC to see if they could ship some to me, but turned up nothing. Then I Googled it, and came across a recipe that seemed very similar to Grandpa Ferdinando's. I prepared it, tweaking it here and there to what I remembered my Grandpa doing to his, and it came out really close... but not quite there. Certainly it was close enough for my purposes. I have tried to prepare it every year since, and I really hope that my step kids will one day incorporate it into their holiday traditions.

Rob's Pizza Gain (Pizza Rustica, Italian Easter Pie)

2 lbs of good ricotta cheese (dense, not watery, being the standard here)
1lb of deli ham, cubed (or capicolla if your local deli has it)
1lb of Genoa salami (any hard salami should work... but Genoa has just the right blend of garlic and fat)
9 large eggs
1lb cubed Mozzarella cheese
3 tbs of dried parsley
2 tbs of dried basil
2 deep dish ready-made pie crusts, or 3 regular depth**

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. in a large bowl, mix together the eggs and the ricotta. add all the deli meats and cheese, and the basil and parsley. Pour the mixture into the pie crusts and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the edges turn golden brown. remove from oven and let stand until completely cool before serving. My Mom says that you need to let it age for at least a week... yeah, you just try waiting that long.

**Note- Grandpa Ferdinando's traditional Pizza Gain always had a top crust... I have never gotten the hang of making pie crust from scratch, So if you feel up to it, go for it. Don't forget to do an olive oil wash (not egg) and vent the top.

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