In an Italian-American kitchen, spring comes not with a whimper, but with approximately five pounds of cured meat. Italian meat pie is an Easter tradition, and like all good holiday institutions, this one is studded with salumi and cheeses. The manliest quiche in the world, the pie is called pizzagaina by some, pizza rustica by others and delicioso by all. It has a crust so simple it basically prepares itself, and can easily be doubled to feed a crowd. Better still, the pie tastes even better a day or two after it’s baked, making it the ultimate do-ahead dish. Bravissimo.
For the crust
- 1 1/4 cups King Arthur baking flour
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
- 1 small egg, lightly beaten
- 1/4 cup warm water
- 1 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the filling
- 1/4 pound prosciutto, thinly sliced
- 1/4 pound Genoa salami, cut into 1/2-inch thick chunks
- 1/4 pound sopressata, cut into 1/2-inch thick chunks
- 1/4 pound boiled ham, cut into 1/2-inch thick chunks
- 1/4 pound pepperoni, cut into 1/2-inch thick chunks
- 1/2 pound mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch thick chunks
- 1/4 pound Muenster cheese, cut into 1/2-inch thick chunks
- 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
- 1 pound fresh whole-milk ricotta cheese
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
- pinch of salt
- 2 heaped tablespoons black pepper
- 2 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk
For the crust:
- In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder and pepper, mixing lightly with a fork.
- Add shortening and, using your fingertips, quickly incorporate into flour mixture.
- Make a well in the flour mixture. Add the egg and warm water, and use your hands to blend thoroughly. The dough will feel sticky but solid.
- Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Using a cookie sheet or jellyroll pan is a great way to minimize mess, but those blessed with ample counter space can just dot flour right on their countertops. Knead for five minutes, until dough feels flexible but firm.
- Cover with a bowl and let rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes, or up to three hours.
For the filling:
- While the dough rests, cut salami, sopressata, ham, pepperoni, mozzarella and muenster into ¼-inch cubes.
- Combine all in a large bowl, then add the two whole eggs, ricotta, parsley, salt and pepper. Mix gently with a wooden spoon until well combined.
Get your pie on:
- When the dough is sufficiently rested, use kitchen shears or your own savage claws to tear off 2/3 to form the bottom crust. Lightly flour a sizeable work surface and a rolling pin. (No pin? An unopened wine bottle works like a champ.)
- Shape the dough into a round, turning over often. When it’s at least nine inches in diameter, lift gently with your hands and fit it into the bottom of a greased, nine-inch pie plate. Use kitchen shears or a sharp knife to trim any extra dough from the sides.
- Place the sliced prosciutto on top of the bottom crust. Some overlap is okay, but use a relatively light touch; at one point, you will be be slicing through this.
- Spoon the ricotta and salumi mixture atop the prosciutto, smoothing with the back of your spoon.
- Roll the remaining 1/3 of dough into a nine-inch round, turning often. Place it gently on top of the pie.
- Using your fingers, roll any of the excess dough along the sides underneath the top surface, pressing the edges into the bottom crust to seal. Crimp the two together with the tines of a fork. The edges of your pie will resemble the seams of an empanada. A beautiful empanada.
- Lightly beat the remaining egg yolk, then use a pastry brush – or the back of a spoon—to evenly glaze the top of the pie. Using your sharpest knife, cut four slim vents in the top.
- Place on the center rack of a preheated, 375-degree oven. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until crust looks golden.
- Let cool in a refrigerator for at least four hours. Serve cold or at room temperature.
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