Our Introduction to Pizza Rustica

Recently our Nature’s Yoke cook, Dawn, tried her hand at a special Italian ham pie called Pizza Rustica. (check out the recipe here.) Her motivation was a growing friendship with Art Petrosemolo.

You see, we love connecting with people over food and recipes. Recently at a food photo shoot, Dawn was talking with a photojournalist of Italian heritage. Connecting over food, he began sharing his memories of his mother’s Italian Easter pie. He and his wife  have preserved both the memories and the family recipe. Would our cook like to try it out? You’d better believe she would.

As soon as she received the recipe, Dawn gathered the ingredients and set aside a Saturday to bake and photograph. (Yes, she does both. Check out this blog to find out about her job or this article recently published in Lancaster Farming.)

Torta Pasqualina

Nature’s Yoke already has a great recipe for Italian Easter Pie. Ours boasts spinach, ricotta cheese, and a flaky phyllo crust. Best of all it has whole boiled eggs inside, making each slice particularly lovely. Especially for those of us in the egg business! Yes, our Torta Pasqualina is both delicious and beautiful.

We have heard of some traditional Italian grandmothers making thirty-three layers of paper thin pastry for their Easter bread, representing the years of Christ on earth. Although our recipe uses nine eggs, some families make a larger pie with 12 eggs representing the 12 disciples.

Traditional Torta Pasqualina

Torta Pasqualina

Our Argentinean friends make a very similar Easter pie called Tarta Pascualina. Another version pops up on Easter weekend in Uruguay.

Both of these Latin American countries credit their recipes to immigrants who came from Liguria, an area in Northern Italy, and brought with them this special Easter pie.

Some of these pies use phyllo. Some also use a regular shortcrust pastry, and a few even use a pastry more like the one used in empanadas.While riccotta is the most popular cheese used, we have seen a variety of other cheeses included.

Discovering a New Italian Easter Pie

Our newfound friend, however, was not talking about Torta Pasqualina. He had a family recipe for a different type of egg pie. Also well anticipated during the Easter season, this one incorporates raw eggs with the meats, cheeses,  and additional chopped boiled eggs. The result is a firmer and drier pie that is a special treat.

Art Shares About Their Recipe

My grandparents came from the Naples region of Italy and they brought with them their recipe for Pizza Chiena (filled pizza) also called Pizza Gaina, Pizzagaina or Pizza Rustica. In my family, it has been passed down through two generations to my sister’s family and mine. My mother Amelia Valente shared her recipe with my sister and my wife. In that way our heritage is celebrated and preserved.

Regardless of what you call it, this indulgent Easter dish was made for years by my (late) mom, on Good Friday and eaten on Easter Saturday to break the Lenten fast. It includes a number of meats and cheeses and is quite an undertaking but well worth it. I now have the job of cutting all the meat into the small pieces.                                                                                         ​

My mother and many Italian moms have made this dish in the shape of a thick pie. My wife Tina, of Polish descent, now makes it in a loaf pan (we still call it Ham Pie) which I find easier to eat by hand. We refrigerate the loaf to keep it firm. It stays fresh for some time, but I am not sure how long as we eat it too fast. We make two and freeze one to enjoy a few weeks later.

​This is a regional Italian dish and in Italy recipes can vary by province as well as by village. I have tried bakery-made Pizza Rustica and Pizza Chiena made by relatives and friends but nothing, I feel, compares to my family’s recipe. I look forward to it every Easter. Even though we love it so much, it is a special dish and only made at the end of Lent each year.

I am excited that you have accepted the creation for your recipe site and your blog. It honors both  my mother, who passed away 18-years ago this spring at 95…..and healthy until her last six weeks. I should live so long! Thank you again.
​​​​Art Petrosemolo
New Holland, PA

Marvelous Results

Below are pictures of our Nature’s Yoke cook following the time preserved recipe. The results were beautiful and delicious. We hope you try it. In memory of Amelia Valenti and Christina Petrosemolo, we wish our friend Art Petrosemolo and his family….buon appetito. Tanta salute. I migliori auguri!

Dicing boiled eggs for Pizza Rustica

rolling dough

Ingredients Pizza Rustica

Italian Ham Pie loaves

​​​​Sliced Italian Ham Pie