Easter Meat and Cheese Pie
Up until the mid-1960s, religious laws had Catholics abstaining from meat during Lent. So, when this pie was served for Easter, meat hadn’t been eaten for six weeks. Every family has a different tradition for eating this—some serve it at midnight on Easter Eve, some have it for Easter brunch. But I like it best served in thin slices as an appetizer before the meal. (And leftovers are great as dinner on Easter Monday with salad.) I have adapted this recipe from Patsy’s Italian Family Cookbook, where I served as writer. The Scognamillo family uses ricotta for the filling. But I have a couple of great Italian delicatessens near me in New Jersey, and I was able to get the traditional basket cheese, which many cooks prefer because it is slightly drier. This cheese is a fresh cow’s milk cheese, similar to farmer’s cheese, drained in basket and retaining the mold’s shape. It is usually made and sold only during Easter Week, but farmer’s cheese is a good substitute. Be sure to make it well ahead of serving (at least the morning of your party, or even better, the day before) so it has time to settle and cool. It should be served at room temperature or slightly warmed up in the oven, but not hot.
12 to 14antipasto servings
12 to 14antipasto servings
  • 2 1/3cups unbleached all-purpose flouras needed
  • One 1/4-ounce package instant (a.k.a. quick-rising or bread-machine) yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine table or sea salt
  • 3tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, softened
  • olive oil, for the bowl
  • 1pound assorted sliced Italian cold cuts (see Notes)
  • 1 1/2 pounds basket cheese (see Notes)
  • 15 to 16 ounces whole milk ricotta (see Notes)
  • 18-ounce bag “four cheese pizza mix” (see Notes)
  • 3tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3large eggs, beaten
  • softened butter, for the pan
  • 1large egg beaten, for the glaze
  1. For the dough:Combine 1 2/3 cups of the flour with 2/3 cup cold water, yeast, and salt in the bowl of a heavy-duty electric mixer. Mix with the paddle attachment on low speed to make a batter. Add the butter and mix until it is absorbed into the batter and the batter is thinner and stickier. Gradually beat in enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough that cleans the sides of the bowl. Switch to the dough hook. Knead on medium-low speed until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. To make the dough by hand. Stir 1 2/3 cups of the flour, 2/3 cups water, the yeast and salt together to make a batter. A tablespoon at a time, stir in the butter, stirring until the butter is completely absorbed into the batter. The batter will be sticky. Gradually stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a dough that is too stiff to stir. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead, adding more dough as needed, to make a soft, supple, and elastic dough, 8 to 10 minutes.
  2. Gather the dough into a ball. Place in an oiled medium bowl and turn to coat the dough with oil, leaving the dough smooth side up. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
  3. To make the filling: Roughly cut the individual stacks of sliced meats into ½-inch dice—each piece should be about 3 or 4 slices thick. (I find that the chopped sliced meat is easier to eat than the unsliced cubes of meats that some people use.) Mix the basket cheese and ricotta together in a large bowl. Add the meats, cheese mix and parsley and mix. Season to taste with salt and pepper, but go light on the salt because the meats are salty. Beat in the eggs and mix well.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Butter the inside of a 9½-inch springform pan.
  5. Punch down the dough. Place on lightly floured work surface and cut into two pieces, two-thirds for the bottom and one-third for the top of the pie. Roll out the larger piece of dough into a 16-inch-diameter round. Fit the dough into the pan, letting the excess dough hang over a bit the edge, stretching the dough as needed and filling in any thin spots or holes with dough trimmings. Add the filling to the pan. Fold the overhanging dough into the pan onto filling. Roll out the remaining dough into a 9-inch-diameter round. Lightly brush the exposed dough around the edge of the filling with the egg glaze. Center the round of dough over the filling. Pierce a cross in the top of the dough. Brush the top lightly with the egg glaze. Place the pan on a large rimmed baking sheet.
  6. Bake until the crust is golden brown and a small knife inserted into the filling for 5 seconds comes out hot, about 1 1/4 hours. Transfer the pie to a wire cake rack and let cool for 1 hour. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cooled, at least 3 hours or up to 1 day. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour before serving.
  7. Remove the sides of the pan, cut into thin wedges, and serve at room temperature.
Recipe Notes

Notes: For the cold cuts, sweet and hot soppressata, prosciutto, capicola, prosciutto cotto or boiled ham. I like to use a combination of three kinds, about 5 ounces each, to make up the pound.

Basket cheese is sold at Italian delicatessens and cheese stores during Easter week, or substitute farmer’s cheese.

If you use fresh ricotta, buy about 1 1/4 pounds and let it drain in a wire sieve lined with paper towels for about 2 hours to remove the excess moisture and yield 2 cups drained cheese.

“Four cheese pizza mix” is sold in bags at supermarkets, and contains shredded mozzarella, provolone, Parmesan, and Romano cheeses.