A Friend’s Childhood Memory of Pizza
This pizza recipe is adapted our friend Laura. She grew up in an Italian household so I am thrilled she sent me her grandmother’s recipe. Here is what she says,
“This was my grandmother’s recipe and it was her mother’s, and probably older than that. What makes it an Easter dish is that you were not able to eat meat on Good Friday and the following Saturday morning, so at noon they would celebrate with this meat pie.”
Rather than a traditional crust-on-the-bottom pizza, Pizza Rustica is a savory two-crust pie. It is generally made with a rich pastry dough which is rolled and fitted into and up the sides of a straight-sided pan.
Then, the fillings are added. Some recipes for Pizza Rustica call for a ricotta custard as well as meats, cheeses and vegetables. Some omit the custard. There seem to be as many variations of Pizza Rustica as there are cooks in Italy.
Often, Pizza Rustica is served as part of the Easter meal. The addition of meat signaled the end of Lenten fasting.
This recipe calls for frozen or fresh bread dough. Where I live, I can buy pizza dough from my local pizza parlor. If you would like to try the pastry dough version, the recipe follows.
Whether you make your own dough or start with ready-made, Pizza Rustica makes a hearty and impressive presentation. Serve it with a light salad and a nice glass of Italian red wine, and enjoy your meal.
- 9” X 2” straight-sided cake pan - brushed with olive oil
- 1 loaf of frozen or fresh bread dough or see recipe below for rich pastry dough
- ⅓ cup Parmesan cheese grated
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 - 9 oz package of chopped spinach thawed and well drained
- ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg freshly grated
- 2 medium tomatoes peeled, seeded & chopped
- 1 tablespoon basil minced
- 4 oz provolone shredded
- 4 oz Prosciutto thinly sliced
- 1 cup mozzarella shredded
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon water
Rich Pastry Dough for Pizza Rustica
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- 2 sticks 1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into ½” pieces
- 4 large eggs beaten lightly
Rich Pastry Dough for Pizza Rustica
- Whisk the flour, sugar and salt together very well to evenly distribute the salt and sugar.
- Toss the cold pieces of butter with the flour mixture, then quickly rub in with your fingers until the butter is about the size of small peas and the mixture is slightly sandy.
- Drizzle in about half the beaten eggs and toss together to moisten the flour. Pinch a bit between your fingers. If it holds together, you have used enough egg. If not, drizzle in more egg, about 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough holds together when pinched.
- Press dough together into two flattened discs, one slightly larger than the other. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.
- Roll each piece of dough between two sheets of parchment paper until about ⅛ inch to 3/16 inch thick.
- If using the Rich Pastry Dough, simply toss the Parmesan cheese together with the mozzarella cheese.
Putting It All Together
- Cover the dough with a towel, and let the dough come to room temperature. Allow to rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes.
- Knead in the Parmesan cheese, and cut into two pieces, one slightly smaller than the other. Cover and set aside to rise.
- In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, sauté garlic in olive oil for 30 seconds.
- Squeeze the drained spinach in a lint-free towel to get as much liquid out as possible. Add spinach to the skillet, and sauté only until spinach wilts.
- Stir in fresh nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
- Stir together tomato and basil, along with a pinch of salt and a grind or two of black pepper. Set aside.
- Roll the larger half of the dough out as thin as you can. You might have to stop and let the dough rest a few minutes if it starts springing back. Just cover it with a towel for about ten minutes to let the gluten relax.
- Fit the dough into the spring form pan and up the sides, allowing about 1/2 inch to overhang.
- Begin layering the ingredients in this order: ½ cup of the mozzarella, sautéed spinach, all the provolone, tomato and basil mixture, the meat, and the remaining mozzarella.
- Roll out remaining dough and place it on top of the pie and seal edges together. Set aside and let rise for 1 hour.
- Preheat oven at 375°.
- Brush egg and water mixture evenly on top of the pie.
- With a sharp knife, cut three or four slits in the dough to allow steam to escape.
- Bake in the lower ⅓ of the oven until the crust is a deep golden brown, about 40 minutes.