Italian Easter Pie or Pizza Rustica

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Easter Pie or Pizza Rustica

I remember that exciting time when Easter pies lined the glass counters of Italian bakeries in New York. These savory pies — also known as Pizza Rustica — showed up just before Easter. They’re an elaborate, rich celebration of cured meats at the end of Lent.

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Easter Pie or Pizza Rustica

The pie is over-full with chunks of salami, mortadella, cappacollo, ham…that’s my version. You can mix up the meats to include pepperoni or soppressata, or prosciutto.

Pie chopped ingredients

Chopped cappacollo, salami, ham, mortadella, & mozzarella

They meats are mixed with ricotta, eggs, parmigiano, and — in my version — provolone for a little sharpness. 

Pie ricotta mix

Meats mixed with cheeses

The whole pie is baked in a flaky crust and served in slices for an appetizer — or part of your Easter lunch or dinner.

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The pie keeps well, refrigerated, for a few days. You can sneak irresistible tasty slivers for as long as a week.

Don’t worry if it looks involved — it’s not hard! It’s authentic — one of those rustic culinary traditions that Italians look forward to every year (including me). Once you taste it, you’ll make it one your traditions, too. Let me know how it goes. : )

Buona Pasqua!

Easter Pie or Pizza Rustica

For the Pastry:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

pinch salt

7 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 cup cold dry white wine

For the Filling:

2 cups ricotta

3 eggs, plus 1 more egg for egg wash

1/2 lb. mozzarella, diced

¼ lb. mortadella, thick sliced, cut into small dice

¼ lb. capacollo, thick sliced, cut into small dice

¼ lb. salami, thick sliced, cut into small dice

1/4 lb. ham, thick sliced, cut into dice

1 cup grated Parmigiano or Pecorino

1/4 lb. diced pecorino or provolone cheese

salt & pepper to taste 

1 tablespoon butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F

Put the flour and salt in a food processor. Pulse to combine. Cut the butter into cubes and add to flour. Pulse until the mixture is crumbly. Add the chilled wine. Process until a ball of dough forms — about 15-20 seconds. If ball isn’t forming, add a tablespoon or more wine.

Take dough out of the processor and divide into two pieces—about 2/3 and 1/3. Flatten each into a disk, wrap in plastic, and chill for at least 30 minutes, or as long as overnight. 

In a large mixing bowl mix together the ricotta with the grated cheese. Stir in the mozzarella, mortadella, capacollo, salami, ham, and diced cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste. In a small bowl, beat together the 3 eggs. Season eggs with salt. Stir into ricotta mixture, and combine well. 

Lightly butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Roll out the larger piece of dough to fit a the pan, with dough coming about half-way up the sides of the pan. “Dock” the dough by poking a fork all around the dough. Fill with the ricotta filling. Roll out the smaller piece of dough and place on top. Crimp the edges to seal it together with sides of the bottom pice of dough. . Cut about 4-5 steam slits in a circle around the center into the top dough.

Beat the last egg with a teaspoon o f water. Brush lightly on the dough.

Bake for about 1 hour until the crust colors to golden. Let pizza rustica sit for about 15 minutes before unsealing the sides of the springform pan. Let cool for another 30 minutes-1 hour before cutting into wedges. Serve warm or at room temperature. The pie keeps, refrigerated, for a few days.


Beautiful Romanesco Cauliflower

Romanesco cauliflower (or known, too, as Romanesco broccoli) is an inventive sculpture of the highest artistic quality.

Okay. It’s a vegetable, yes, but it’s so beautiful! And a work of stunning, shapely, color-bright art of the garden. If I see one in the produce section I must get it. It’s like a vegetable siren song.

I first encountered Romanesco in Rome one autumn. My friend, Malena, brought some to the apartment we were renting. In Rome it’s in season in autumn. She cooked us a fabulous pasta dish with orecchiette and garlic croutons and cooked-till-creamy Romanesco. I’ve made this same wonderful dish stateside and also tried it with cauliflower (perfect!).

But this time I wanted to keep those playful spiraled cones intact. Instead of making slices to roast, or cutting it willy-nilly, I very carefully cut the head, removing each floweret one by one.

The detailed work was worth it! I laid them out in a pan with just a few ingredients and roasted the beauties (recipe below). They kept their shape and became tender-firm and super tasty.

And still so pretty when brought to the table.

As an added texture you can toast some breadcrumb and sprinkle on top. These breadcrumb got toasted a bit further than I intended…but still good!

Roasted Romanesco Spirals

1 head Romanesco cauliflower
juice of one lemon
4-5 tablespoons olive oil
5-6 sprigs fresh thyme
1/4 cup white wine
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Gently cut off each of the spiral tips/flowerets of the cauliflower. Line a sheet pan with foil. Drizzle some olive oil on pan and scatter flowerets. Sprinkle the lemon juice. Scatter the thyme sprigs. Drizzle olive oil lightly over all the flowerets. Season with salt & pepper. Pour the wine into the pan (this will help steam-roast the cauliflower).

Roast for about 40 minutes until desired tenderness. Serve warm or room temp. Add a sprinkling of toasted breadcrumb if desired.

(For breadcrumb: In a small frying pan heat 2-3 tablespoons olive oil with a 1/2 cup breadcrumb or panko. Stir until lightly toasted. Season with salt & pepper.)

What to do with Broccoli Rabe

Deep dark green, leafy veggies are so good for us. And broccoli rabe is my absolute favorite. Yes, spinach is pure earthy green. Kale vitamin earnest. Swiss chard beautiful, colorful. Collards durable, confident. Mustard greens spikey with flavor.

But broccoli rabe is downright bitter. Ah, that’s the best part! Bitter sometimes gets a bad rap. But bitter can be oh-so-good. From bunch to bunch of broccoli rabe the bitterness can range in intensity. Sometimes I take the fresh bundle from the grocery bag and, even raw, it smells bitter. I love that moment. That’s when I really swoon at what’s coming when cooked.

It’s easy to make and my favorite recipe is the most traditional. Olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes. Ta-da!

Do try it. A great side, or make it your main meal. Or cook the recipe below and add some pasta (with a sprinkling or grated parmesan or pecorino). Enjoy! Let me know how it goes.

Sautéed Broccoli Rabe with Garlic & Red Pepper Flakes

1 bunch broccoli rabe
3 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
4-5 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Cut off some of the thick bottom stems from the broccoli rabe and discard. Cut the leaves and flowerets into smaller pieces: halving large leaves, separating out floweret stems with a leaf or two attached. Rinse in a colander, and shake out extra clinging water.

In a large skillet, heat about 4-5 tablespoons olive oil. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, cook until garlic starts to turn golden. Add cut-up broccoli rabe (it will sizzle because it’s a little wet— but will calm down). Cook 5-6 minutes, turning broccoli rabe in oil, until wilted and tender. Season with salt & pepper. Serve.




What I buy at is a great website with all sorts of food imports from Italy. If you don’t have one (or more) Italian food stores where you live, this place is a fantastic source! People often ask me what I buy there (Hi, Casey!), so here is a list. These are the things I go back for over and over– but while perusing the site I always find something else I want to try (and you will, too). 

Kimbo is my favorite Italian coffee. This pretty white can has a screw top. And sometimes I buy the airtight packs and reuse these cans. Kimbo is a neapolitan brand and use it for my stovetop espresso pots. I also use the Kimbo espresso pods for our Nespresso machine. See below…

My favorite pasta is the shape: garganelli. It’s like penne but thinner, rolled on a diagonal, and often (or always) made with egg-based pasta. You can find it here! These are a couple of brands below.

Like hot peppers? Calabrian peppers are loved all over the world. Here are a couple of products I’ve tried (but there are others!)

I’m a fan of anchovies and these two are my faves. One with hot chili peppers (so good!) and one with anchovies wrapped around capers (yum!)

Baking? Whenever I do anything chocolate in baking or chocolate icing I always add a little espresso powder. It’s meant to be used as an “instant coffee” (don’t do that), but it’s much better as a flavor enhancer.

Still baking? Try this lovely imported orange extract– heavenly!

This fun beverage – San Bitter – tastes like Campari and soda but isn’t alcoholic. I love the upbeat bitter-sweet taste and used to cart back packages like this in my carry-on from Italy. Here, they’ll easily ship it to you! (And the bottles are adorable.)

AND there is so much more! During the holidays look for fabulous panettone. Check out all the other pasta. Candies, chocolates, more more more. I’ll try to do a Part 2. But also, next time, I’ll show you another great source for Italian products. 🙂

Mussels with Spicy Pasta Sauce

Mussels with Spicy Pasta Sauce

Seafood. Tomato Sauce. Pasta. Can’t get any better than that. My favorite! The taste of the sea in a pasta sauce. And those meaty, sweet morsels of mussels.

AND so easy!

This is my family’s seafood sauce that we use for mussels, clams, shrimp, lobster, or blue-claw crab.

Fresh mussels? Usually not hard to find in stores. Costco has some wonderful ones from Prince Edward Island.

Here’s how I clean them.

Rinse each one under cool water to remove any grit. And debearding…do you know about that? Mussels grow clinging together on seaweed. Sometimes some of the seaweed stays attached. You can find it at the edge of the mussel. Simply grab it in your fingers, and pull it off. Not every mussel has this– and it’s really not hard to do at all.

And, typically, for Italian seafood pasta dishes, grated cheese is eschewed! The better topping is crunchy toasted breadcrumbs.

See the recipes below for some tasty (and as spicy as you like) seafood sauce. Enjoy that taste of the ocean!

Pasta and Mussels in Spicy Tomato Sauce

3 tablespoons olive oil

3-4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

1.5 teaspoons dried oregano

3 teaspoons, minced fresh parsley

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)

1/3 cup dry white wine

1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

3 dozen (or more) fresh mussels, rinsed clean & debearded

1/2 lb. linguine or spaghetti

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan until hot. Add garlic, oregano, parsley, and pepper flakes. Saute until garlic softens and starts to color, about 1-2 minutes. Add the wine. Cook until reduced by half. Add the tomatoes. stir to combine. Season with salt and black pepper. Simmer for 15 minutes. 

Meanwhile, bring a pasta of water to a boil. Season liberally with salt. Add pasta, stir to keep strands apart until the water comes back to a boil. When you add pasta to water, add mussels and shrimp to sauce. Cover and cook on medium heat. The steam will open the mussels.

When pasta is done, drain and add to a serving bowl. When mussels have all opened (discard mussels that won’t open), add mussels and sauce to pasta. Stir to combine. Serve with toasted breadcrumbs for sprinkling.

Toasted breadcrumbs

1/2 cup breadcrumbs

4-5 tablespoons olive oil

salt to taste 

Add crumbs and olive oil to a small frying pan. Stir to combine. Heat until crumbs are toasted. Season with salt.

Spatchcock Chicken with Rice

Amazingly tasty. Quick-cooking. Easy to do.

When you cut out the backbone from a whole chicken you can then lay it flat on your roasting pan. It’s called “spatchcock” and/or butterflied. What’s the benefits? Chicken cooks perfectly evenly. Dark meat cooks at same rate as light meat. All the skin crisps. AND it cooks faster than when it’s left whole.

How to do? Place the whole chicken on a work surface breast side down. Using a pair of kitchen shears, cut along one side of the backbone. Then cut along the other side of the backbone until you can remove it. (Save it to make stock later — you can freeze it.) Flip over the chicken and splay out the legs and thighs. It will naturally lay flat. You can also break the breastbone so the breast lays flat, but not necessary. I usually don’t.

The rice addition takes advantage of the juices from the chicken. This adds so much flavor to the rice (especially mixed with the roasted onion slices).

Here’s how I roast it (with rice!):

1. Line a sheet pan/roasting pan with foil (for quicker cleanup).

2. Coat with a few tablespoons of olive oil.

3. Lay out the spatchcock chicken. (Place lemon slices and/or herbs under the chicken.)

4. Sprinkle a cup of rice (uncooked) around the pan. Sprinkle 1 or 2 sliced onions around the rice.

5. Season all with salt & pepper. Drizzle all with olive oil.

6. Add 1 cup to 1 and a half cups of water on & around the rice.

7. Roast in 375 degree F. oven for 30 minutes. Check if rice has absorbed water. Add another cup of water, still through the rice a little. Cook another 15-30 minutes until instant read thermometer reads 165 in chicken, and rice is tender.

8. Cut up chicken in pieces. Lately, I’ve been cutting the breast meat into slices like you do with turkey. You get so much more meat to serve that way! Enjoy!

Spaghetti-Stuffed Eggplant

I’ve made a version of this dish for years. Then, in 2016, I took small group to Ragusa, Sicily (my ancestral home). We cooked with a family in their home and this is what they made. It was so good and proved once again that recipes in my family and the ones I encounter in Sicily and Campania have a very direct connection!

I used capellini. In Sicily they used a thicker fusilli. Either way- all good! I hope you’ll try it. Let me know how it goes. 🙂 Happy Cooking! Recipe below!

Spaghetti-Stuffed Eggplant

1 medium eggplant

1/2 cup AP or Self-Rising Flour

olive oil for sautéing 

1 small onion

1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes

splash of white wine

1/4 pound spaghetti or capellini

2 tablespoons butter

1  1/2 cup ricotta

1/4 pound mozzarella, cut into cubes or thin slices

salt & pepper to taste

Peel the eggplant in strips, so there’s still some skin. Slice thinly into large slices (so you can roll them up). Season the flour with salt and pepper. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in large frying pan. Dredge eggplant slices in flour and shake off excess. Fry eggplant until golden on each side and slices are softened. Drain on paper towels.

Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a medium saucepan. Add the diced onion and cook for 2-3 minutes until softened. Add splash of wine, let it cook out, then add tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 8-10 minutes.

Heat a medium saucepan filled with water. When boiling, salt water, and add the pasta (break strands in half first for easier handling later). When pasta is done, drain, and stir in 2 tablespoons of butter to coat. Add 2-3 spoonfuls of tomato sauce to pasta and stir to coat.

Place ricotta in a small bowl and season well with salt & pepper. Stir to combine.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Use a 9 X 13 inch pan or casserole or similar (something that can go in the oven). Add a little sauce to the bottom of pan to coat. Place a slice of cooked eggplant on a work surface. Slather some ricotta to cover. Place a couple of tablespoons of pasta. Top with a basil leaf. Roll to close (sometimes you can just close it without too much rolling)— place seam side down in pan. Repeat with the rest of the ingredients, and place the rolled bundles in snugly. Top with some sauce and sprinkle the mozzarella on top.

Bake for 30 minutes or until mozzarella melts and starts to brown. To serve, use a large spoon to get under each bundle to transfer to plates.

Mini Spinach Pies

I love these quick little savory pies. They come together in a snap and are perfect for appetizers, or sides, or make them a whole meal!

Here’s a short video taking you step by step through the process. See the recipe below.

Try them! Let me know how it goes. Yum!

Mini Spinach Pies

5-oz. package fresh baby spinach

1 shallot, peeled and diced

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

salt & pepper to taste

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed

1 egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon water

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a medium sauté pan, heat the oil and sauté the shallot until softened. Add spinach to a large frying pan with a tablespoon of water. Cook and stir until wilted, about a 2 minutes. Drain spinach well. Let cool a few minutes.

Mix spinach, cooked shallot, and feta together in a medium mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

Roll out puff pastry sheet on a lightly-floured surface until it is about 20-30 % bigger. Cut sheet into about 3-inch squares (or close to that — choose your own size to use up the dough).

Place about a tablespoon of mixture in the center of a dough square. Fold over to form a triangle. Press the edges together. Then seal by lightly pressing the tines of a fork along the edges. Repeat with the rest of the dough and the mixture.

Place pies on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush lightly with beaten egg. With a paring knife, poke a small hole in the top of each one for steam. Bake for about 20-25 minutes until golden.

Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

Easy Chicken Piccata

I LOVE this dish. And it is so simple to do. Here’s a quick video giving you all the details (and recipe below). Make this often. You will crave the flavor! Lemony — Buttery — the zip of capers — and the depth of wine. It’s got it all.

Chicken Piccata

10-12 thin chicken cutlets (cut from 2-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts)

1/2 cup flour, seasoned with salt & pepper

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

3-4 tablespoons butter, divided

1 shallot, peeled and minced

Juice of 3 lemons

1/3 cup white wine

1 lemon, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons capers

salt to taste

Place the seasoned flour in a medium shallow bowl. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a large sauté pan. Dredge chicken cutlets in the seasoned flour and shake off excess. Sauté cutlets until golden on each side and cooked through. Add a little more oil if needed as you sauté. Lay out cooked chicken slices on a serving platter and tent with foil to keep warm.

Add shallot to the same pan and cook till softened, about 1 minute. Add lemon juice, wine, lemon slices, and capers. Cook for 2-3 minutes to reduce a little. Swirl in 1-2 tablespoons butter. Season with salt. Bring to a simmer. Pour over chicken. Serve.

Let’s Grill Some Pizza

Finally, spring has crept “under me window sill!”

I’m out at the grill and loving the flames and char and tastiness. Pizza is one of my favorite things to grill.

Once you get the hang of getting the dough ready and onto the grill — the rest is easy as pizza pie.

Check out my quick video with demo and tips. And see recipe below.

Let’s grill pizza! And don’t be afraid to get some dark, crunchy, and even black-char on the dough. Taste better that way!

Quick Video for How to Make Grilled Pizza

Buy pizza dough at the store (cut a 1 lb. ball into 4 balls) or make my fresh pizza dough recipe below.

Always make sure dough is at room temperature (easier to work with). Press dough ball into a flat circle (can be a rough circle, an oval is okay too) on a pizza peel or sheet pan. You can gently stretch dough by holding the center and pulling the edges out. Don’t overwork dough, use as few stretching efforts as possible, if dough get overworked it’ll get tough and not stretch for you (until you let it rest for a while). Lightly oil the dough on both sides (drizzle and spread with your fingers).

PAM spray the grill grate before heating. Heat the grill to medium-high heat. In one quick-deliberate movement, lift the dough circle and place quickly on the grill grate. Let cook for about 3-4 minutes until good grill marks appear on the underside. Flip dough over using tongs (it’s stiff now, not floppy) and pull off onto a plate, peel, or cutting board.

Place on your favorite toppings. Tomato sauce or fresh tomatoes, mozzarella (or any other cheese– try Swiss– it’s great), cooked sausage crumbles, sliced peppers, mushrooms, etc. etc., keep it simple or go crazy. Drizzle a little olive oil on top. Slide dough back onto grill for the other side to cook and the toppings to melt/cook. Using tongs, slide off finished pizza onto plate or cutting board. Cut into squares/wedges to serve.

For making fresh pizza dough (for approximately 2 lbs. dough)

My Family’s recipe!

5 cups flour (all-purpose)

2 teaspoons salt

2 1/4 teaspoons yeast (1 package/envelope)

1 teaspoon sugar

1/4 cup olive oil

1 egg

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or you can do this by hand) mix together the flour and salt. In a medium bowl or large measuring cup combine 1 1/2 cups warm water (tepid, not too hot, not too cool) with the yeast and the sugar. In a small bowl or cup mix the egg with the olive oil.

Make a well in the center of the flour. When the yeast has “bloomed” (becomes puffy) pour the yeast water in the well and pour the egg/olive oil mixture in the well. Gently stir the flour and wet ingredients to roughly combine. Then mix on a slow speed with the dough hook for about 5 minutes until silky.

Take out dough hook. Smooth a thin film of olive oil over top of dough. Flip dough so both sides have a thin film of olive oil. Cover top of bowl with a clean dry kitchen towel (or double layer of towels) and place in a draft-free place to rise. Let rise about 2 hours. It should double in size. 

Scoop dough out onto a work surface and cut into 2-4 even pieces (use a bench scraper or knife). Or up to 6-8 pieces for smaller personal pizzas (and easier to flop onto the grill). Roll each piece gently into a ball. Place balls on a towel-lined sheet pan, coat with a thin film of olive oil. Cover with a double-layer of clean kitchen towels. Put in a draft free place, let rise for about an hour more. Proceed as above to grill pizza.