“Pizza Rustica”. The name conjures up thoughts of amazing Easters-past when my grandmother, Mary Esposito, would create this layered & weighty delicacy to share with the extended family. I actually witnessed her build one of these pies when I was in grade school; my mother had taken me and some of my siblings to grandma’s house in Jersey City on a Saturday before Easter (1975, if I remember correctly), and we watched the Maestro at work. Grandma’s ability to cook was legendary – she had owned and run the Casa Maria family restaurant in Jersey City from sometime prior to World War 2 to the 1960s; and her knowledge and style of Italian cooking was vast and well-respected. I especially admired her incredible knowledge of the different shellfish native to the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, and the many ways to prepare such treasures. But that will be a different article.
What struck me about the way Grandma made this pie was two-fold: she used only the best quality meats (not unusual for her), and she layered these fine ingredients so that they were a sight to behold when the pie was cut into slices. We’ll honor both of these fine attributes as we recreate this culinary joy for you. Here it is – Mary Esposito’s Pizza Rustica recipe as per her written recipe and handed down to the next generation. If you have a copy of Matilde Pei’s The Talisman Italian Cook Book, look for the origin recipe on page 167. This recipe builds upon that original classic.
Pizza Rustica Ingredients*
- ½ pound Prosciutto de Parma (If it’s not Parma, you might as well quit now)
- ½ pound of boiled ham
- ½ pound of provolone
- ½ pound of Italian Salami
- ¾ pound of fresh mozzarella
- 1 pound of ‘basket cheese’ (not sure what this is? See your local Italian deli for guidance & purchase)
- 9 hard-boiled eggs
- 3 raw eggs
- 4 heaping tablespoons of grated cheese
- 1 teaspoon of black pepper
- 1 pound of whole milk ricotta cheese
Note: You’ll need a heavy-walled 2-quart baking pan for this – a flimsy foil pan will not work well, as the pie will be heavy and will need the support.
Make your pie crust first. If you are pressed for time or don’t want to make your own crust, you can substitute with a store bought version (not recommended). Then beat raw eggs, basket cheese, ground pepper and ricotta cheese together – this will be the egg/cheese mix.
This is the blending of raw eggs (3), basket cheese, black pepper and ricotta cheese.
Grease pan lightly, and line it with your pastry (dough).
These are 2 quart baking pans – make sure yours are heavy wall construction so it can handle the full weight of the pie.
Spoon a ½ inch layer of egg/cheese mix over the bottom, then alternate all of the ingredients until you run out (prosciutto, salami, more egg/cheese mix, mozzarella, hard-boiled egg slices, ham, provolone, more egg/cheese mix, etc.).
Layers of prosciutto, ham, egg/cheese mix, provolone, salami, mozzarella, and more go into this beautiful pie.
Top the pie with your dough lid, and make a few air vents in the dough.
Topped with its dough lid, the Pizza Rustica is ready to bake. Bake at 350 degrees until dough is brown and pie is firm. Serve Cold.
*makes one pie – double/triple as you see fit to make extra pies.