Italian Easter Pie

March 18, 2021
4 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Prep time 3 hours 30 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour 50 minutes
  • Serves 6 to 8
Author Notes

One of the best-known Italian pies is the Easter pie. Like many Italian dishes that have gained popularity outside their home, you will find recipes for Easter pies in abundance, and everyone seems to have a variation. There are two distinctly different Easter pies. One is the deep vegetable and egg-filled torta pasqualina, a Ligurian specialty in northwest Italy. There's also pizza rustica, which has nothing to do with pizza from Napoli, but is a deep sausage, Prosciutto, and cheese-stuffed pie from Abruzzo in central Italy, and is the one we are making here.

Traditionally, the pastry for an Easter pie was a simple dough of flour, water, and oil, stretched until translucent, much like phyllo. According to renowned Italian chef Luca Marchiori, "The pastry is said to have been made with 33 sheets of very thin pastry, one for every year of Jesus' life." We're using rich shortcrust strengthened by adding eggs to make the pastry strong enough to hold the large volume of ingredients.

Please don't panic when you look at the recipe—you can absolutely make this dish.
Elaine Lemm

Test Kitchen Notes

For success, start this pie two days ahead of when you want to serve it, if you can. The pastry needs a good rest, and the cooked pie must be completely cold before cutting. If it's too warm, it will collapse and is impossible to rescue. Having the cooked pie overnight in the fridge sets the eggs and the cheese firms up and holds everything together nicely. —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • Pastry
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus 3 tablespoons for rolling
  • 8 ounces unsalted butter, cut roughly into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 1 teaspoon flaky sea salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • Filling
  • 2 small red bell peppers
  • 4 cups fresh spinach leaves
  • 2 tablespoons neutral oil, like canola
  • 14 ounces Italian sausage links (or bulk Italian sausage)
  • 8 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 3 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons Parmigiano Reggiano, freshly grated
  • 4 tablespoons Pecorino Romano, freshly grated
  • 8 ounces low-moisture mozzarella, cubed
  • 8 ounces smoked ham, cubed
  • 2 ounces Italian salami, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 ounces speck or prosciutto, thinly sliced
  1. Pulse the flour, butter, and salt into a food processor until the mixture turns to a rough sand-like texture. Add the egg and pulse 3 or 4 times until the pastry comes together. Transfer onto a worktop, and gently bring together into a ball. Wrap and put in the fridge to rest for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Lightly grease a 7-inch x 4-inch-tall springform cake pan for a tall pie or a 9-inch for a broader pie.
  3. For the tall pan: Reserve 1/4 of the pastry for the lid, then tear 1-inch chunks of pastry, and press evenly onto the pan's base. Continue up the sides in the same way to create the walls. Tear a large golf ball-sized piece of dough, roll it into a ball, and press the base and sides of the pastry case to smooth out the pastry. Check it to make sure there are no cracks or gaps. Roll out a 7-inch diameter circle for the lid.
  4. For the 9-inch springform cake pan: dust your worktop with a little flour. Roll 3/4 of the pastry to a roughly 18-inch diameter circle. Don't worry if it's not perfect, you'll trim this down. Roll the remaining pastry to a 9-inch diameter for the lid. Gently ease the pastry into the greased pan, allowing the edges to hang over, and once the pastry is in place, trim to fit.
  5. Put your pastry case and lid, covered with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator for several hours (preferably overnight).
  6. Heat the oven to 400°F, lay the peppers on a baking tray, and roast in the oven until the skin is blackened, about 20 minutes. Wrap the peppers in plastic wrap or transfer to a large plastic bag, and tie tightly. Once fully cooled, gently peel away the skin and wipe away any seeds.
  7. Add the spinach to a large pan and place over medium heat, continually stirring until just wilted but not cooked. Remove the pan from the heat, place a large colander into the sink, transfer the spinach to it, and press firmly using a wooden spoon or spatula to squeeze out any excess water. You don't want the spinach to be bone-dry, but you don't want it to be soggy (or the filling won't set). Transfer the drained spinach to a large bowl and, using a pair of kitchen scissors, chop roughly (you can use a knife with the spinach on a chopping board, but this is far less messy).
  8. Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Squeeze the meat from the Italian sausage into the pan and fry for 6 minutes to cook through, continually stirring and breaking the meat into large chunks as you go. Transfer the sausage onto a paper towel-lined plate, and let cool completely.
  9. Add the ricotta to a large baking bowl with two of the eggs, half the Parmesan and Pecorino, mozzarella, ham, salami, and parsley. Stir well to combine thoroughly.
  10. Take the pan from the refrigerator and lay the slices of speck or prosciutto over the base to make sure it is completely covered (this helps protect the base from getting soggy).
  11. Pour the ricotta and meat filling in and tap the pan gently on the worktop to settle and level the mixture. Crumble the cooked sausage over it, then cover with the strips of red pepper. Scatter over the remaining Parmesan and Pecorino. Finally, add the spinach as the final layer.
  12. Beat the last egg in a small bowl. Brush the pie's rim and the lid with a little egg, then lay the lid on the pie, crimp to seal, and create a decorative edge. Cut a quarter-inch hole in the center of the lid and if you have any leftover pastry, decorate as you wish. Brush the top of the pie with the beaten egg,
  13. Place the pan on a baking sheet and transfer to the center of the oven. Bake for 70 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown, and the internal temperature has reached a minimum of 150°F.
  14. Stand the pie on a cooling rack, but leave it in the pan for three to four hours; longer if you can. Refrigerating overnight will firm up the pie beautifully and make it easy to slice. This pie is best served cold, and will keep well in the fridge for two or three days.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • skehias
  • Nancy
  • Karen Doucet
    Karen Doucet
  • Darian

5 Reviews

skehias April 11, 2023
This was a showstopper on Easter. I read other's notes and these were key: adding water to the dough (just a couple Tablespoons), using jarred peppers and thus skipping the time consuming roasting part. Starting two days ahead was key for all the resting/cooling time involved.
Nancy March 10, 2023
Haven't made this recipe by Elaine Lemm, but the deep dish pie looks great!
Have another similar recipe which I've made often, which tastes very good and has a bit more flexibility - in addition to cold, it can be served hot or room temperature.
By Anita Sheldon, first appeared in NYT 1972, then reprinted in 2010 in Amanda Hesser, ed,, Essential New York Times Cookbook.
see also
Karen D. April 5, 2021
Made this for Easter 2021. It was excellent! But a few comments:
1- the pastry was dry. I was able to push the bottom pastry into the shell, but no-way was I going to be able to roll the top part. Needed to add water (I use the wet-your-hands-as-you-knead method).
2- with procuitto and salami, I left out the ham, there was enough meat!
3- could've used even more spinach
4- salt & pepper in the ricotta, never a bad idea!
5- I did all the cooling steps, but then reheated in the oven before serving. It came out hot and perfect, no slide or puddle. Stayed together as you'd expect a lasagne. Much nicer to have a hot dinner in the northern latitudes in April!
Darian April 5, 2021
Excellent! We usually do pizza Sundays, so this was a perfect Easter meal. I found I needed to add a few tablespoons of water to the dough in order for it to come together. It was extremely dense to work with after the first chill, and I was worried it would be tough in the end, but it was tender and light after baking. I used bottled roasted red peppers as a shortcut, and a little less sausage as it was left from another recipe (more like 8oz). I let it cool for 3 hours before unmolding and it held together very well for slicing/serving. The finished pie was so flavorful and satisfying! We offered a little marinara sauce on the side for dipping. This easily made 6 hearty servings.
Lemmy March 18, 2021
Defo excited about making this!!! Your recipes are always mega amazing