Here at Big Bites Tiny Kitchen, we’re always looking for ways to make you look good. You deserve to show off a little every now and then. The best way I can think to do that is by making a delicious recipe. Some dishes appear so much more complicated and difficult than they really are. These are the perfect recipes to keep in your repertoire especially around any holiday season. If you’re celebrating Easter whether as a host or a guest (or even as an unaffiliated bystander), Pizza Rustica is that recipe. I hate to blow my own cover, but for you…it’s worth it. Of course now when I make this for Easter, everyone will be much less impressed with me since the secret is out. Sure it takes a little time, but the steps are relatively simple. Pizza Rustica is a cross between a casserole and a savory pie. This recipe will feed a large crowd and it is a great antipasto for your dinner.
My mom taught me to make this Italian Easter classic when I was a kid. Back then she didn’t let me do much more than keep her company, but little by little I started helping her until eventually I took over the whole process. You almost have to trick my mom to get her to accept help, especially when it comes to cooking and baking. Mastering that trickery has been more work than any cooking I’ve ever done. I love this recipe because its origins are so typical of my experience with Italian cooking. My mom got the recipe from the Italian mother-in-law of one of our neighbors. Not surprisingly, said mother-in-law didn’t leave an actual recipe and all that remained was a general list of ingredients and a few vague instructions. I was always amazed that my mom was able to turn such limited information into a solid, foolproof recipe that we have successfully repeated year after year. Remember this was before the Food Network and before the Internet. My mom did this without any help from Google or Alexa. She never even used cookbooks!
My mom innately knows so much about cooking, but really didn’t learn anything from the history of this recipe. Instead, she proceeded to create her own general list of ingredients and equally vague instructions half in English and half in Italian. Spelling, order and description were of very low priority because this was just a recipe which to her translated to “loose suggestion or guideline.” After a couple close calls with recipes that were starting to slip from our memories, I decided to document this one once and for all. The only ingredient that might require a special shopping trip is the basket cheese. This cheese, which I’ve also heard referred to as farmer’s cheese is hard, unsalted and easy to cut into cubes. It has a very short shelf life because it doesn’t contain any preservatives. Its very plain taste makes it perfect to use with the salty meats and grated cheese in this pie. Basket cheese is usually only available around Easter time and any good cheese shop should carry it. We only make Pizza Rustica once a year for that reason and as a result it is highly anticipated. In Philly we buy this cheese and all the other necessary ingredients from Dattilo’s which is just a treasure trove of Italian delicacies and tasty treats. It’s such a neighborhood gem; I wish we had an identical shop in New York City. Back in New York we found farmer’s cheese at Murray’s Cheese. It’s not quite the same as the basket cheese from Dattilo’s. The version we found at Murray’s is soft like a ricotta and tasted as though it contained some salt, but luckily it did the trick for this recipe.
Normally we make Pizza Rustica in a large glass baking dish and the leftovers, if any get claimed very quickly. This year I decided to experiment with our recipe and cut it in half to see if it would still turn out right. I also decided to use disposable pie tins instead of a glass baking dish. I ended up with two eight inch pies that tasted every bit as delicious as the whole recipe. The only problem is that I couldn’t wait until Easter to try them and now they’re just about gone. I may have to make an emergency run to Dattilo’s for more supplies. If not I’ll have to hope that I can distract our guests with all of the other tasty Easter traditions that I will make for Sunday.
Celebrating Easter is not a requirement for this dish. As long as you keep an eye on the calendar and snatch up the basket cheese before it’s all gone, this is a wonderful yearly treat to make for your family and friends. If you want to impress someone or if you just want to impress yourself, give this recipe a try. I can’t stress enough how satisfying it is to master something like this. It looks like such an advanced recipe but once you break it down into steps, it’s quite manageable to accomplish. It will give you such a boost of confidence and as an added bonus you’ll end up with something savory and wonderful to eat. If you’re vegetarian, you can swap out the meat for a variety of your favorite vegetables. I love the dough for this recipe so much that I plan to create some variations on Pizza Rustica that can be made throughout the year so stay tuned to the blog and also our Instagram. Many dishes that we make at Big Bites Tiny Kitchen go straight to Instagram since we just can’t blog about all of them.
In the meantime you can find the recipe here. The picture below shows how full this pie is of savory meat and flavor! We hope you will give it a try. We’re just a click away of you have a question. Happy Easter and Happy Passover. Whatever you celebrate and whatever you do, enjoy your meal! Thanks for reading.
For more Easter recipe ideas check out Easter Dinner Traditions and Easter Sweets