Nana’s Easter Pie

As you know, growing up in an Italian household meant that all memories centered around family gatherings enjoying a meal. It didn’t have to be a holiday; Sunday dinner, someone’s birthday, even watching the game on TV was reason enough to be with the family and enjoy an abundance of good, homemade Italian food.

The Italian word for abundance is abbondanza. The Italian word for good food is buon cibo, and the Italian word for family is famiglia.  

Most importantly, the way to say an abundance of good food with the family is l’abbondanza di cibo con la famiglia. I want you to practice saying that.

Nana

Every year at Easter-time, Nana made her a-pizza! It was a delicious meat and cheese pie-kind of like an Italian version of quiche. Every year I’d help her make this Easter pie, and the smell of it baking would permeate throughout the house. It was so delicious, and rib-sticking; a meal unto itself.

Nana had a huge wood board; I think it was made by my grandfather for her to roll out her dough. She also had a old broom handle that she used instead of a rolling pin. Both the board and the broom handle developed a dark patina from decades of rolling out dough. Let me tell you, my grandmother was one strong woman! She could lift that board up onto the table without any help from my uncles, and when it came time to roll out the dough, no help needed. She even had strong hands; she’d squeeze my hand and put a hurting on me! 

When the holiday’s roll around, I think of Nana and miss her more than usual. Remembering her and all of the wonderful food she made, and all of the things she said and did brings a smile to my face. What a wonderful legacy she left for us!

This Easter pie is a delicious meal in itself, and I’m happy to share it with you.

INGREDIENTS:
DOUGH:
* 1 lb. all purpose flour (Nana used Gold Medal)
* 2-3 eggs beaten (1 additional egg will be needed for the egg wash)
* 2 sticks of salted butter (Nana used Breakstone’s)-cut it into small pieces
* a little bit of milk may be needed for mixing the dough

Place a rack in the center of the oven and pre-heat to 350 degrees

FILLING:
* 1 lb. whole milk Ricotta
* 1 lb. fresh Mozzarella
* 2 additional eggs beaten
* 1/4 cup grated cheese (I mix Locatelli Romano with Parmigiano Reggiano)
* salt and pepper to taste

MEATS:
(Cut all meats into cubes)
* Ham
* Proscuitto
* Sopressato
* Sausage (cooked)
* (Optional: Pepperoni)

ASSEMBLY:
1. Pour flour onto your work surface and make a well in the center
2. Pour the beaten eggs into the center
3. Add the butter
4. Mix together until dough firms (here’s where you may need some milk to help with the mixing) Nana used her hands to mix and knead the dough – set aside
5. Mix together Ricotta, Mozzarella, grated cheese, beaten eggs, salt and pepper
6. Once the ricotta is blended, add all of the meats into it
7. Roll out the dough and place over a 9″ pie pan
8. Add cheese and meat mixture
9. Cut excess dough from around the edges of the pie pan
10. Roll out another bit of dough and place on top of mixture
11. Cut off excess dough and pinch sides together to seal
(Optional: cut dough into strips and place on top of mixture in a basket weave pattern)
12. Brush egg wash on top of crust

Bake in 350 degree oven for an hour
Let cool, slice and serve with a nice Italian salad
Store in the refrigerator – will probably keep for a week, unless your hungry family finishes it before then!

Easter pie

 

 

 

 

 

Absent for a while

I realize that I’ve been absent in posting to this blog. Somehow life got in the way. 

I’d been so immersed with something that should not have taken so much of my energy. How I let that happen is beyond me, but it’s not going to happen again.

What would have been Jeffrey’s 60th birthday happened on August 30th and what was Nana’s second anniversary happened on September 18th. Both of these milestones were met with sadness and gratitude at the same time. 

On October 18th my mother will be 81 years young and I’m heading to St. Thomas to celebrate with her.  I know Nana and Jeffrey will be with us in spirit.

To properly celebrate a birthday, in addition to having loved-ones there, you need a good birthday cake. Not one of those factory-made ones that can be purchased in a grocery store; no, you need a real Italian cake.

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ITALIAN CANNOLI CAKE

INGREDIENTS: CAKE

  • 6 large eggs, separated into two separate bowls
    1 cup sugar divided into two separate bowls (1/2 cup in each bowl)
    3/4 cup all-purpose flour
    1 tablespoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    2 tablespoons water
    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

RICOTTA FILLING

  • 1-32 ounce container whole-milk ricotta cheese
    1-8 ounce package cream cheese, softened
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1 cup confectioners’ sugar
    1/4 cup small semisweet chocolate chips (Nestles or Toll House)
    1/3 cup semisweet chocolate shavings for on top of the cake

CAKE FROSTING

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
    3 tablespoons whole milk
    1 and 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar – sifted
    3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    2 cups heavy or whipping cream (I prefer whipping cream)

PREPARATION: CAKE

  • Preheat oven to 375°F
  • In small bowl, with mixer at high speed, beat egg whites until soft peaks form
  • Gradually sprinkle in 1/2 cup sugar- continue beating until sugar completely dissolves and whites form peaks.
    In a separate large bowl, now at low speed, beat egg yolks, flour, baking powder, salt, remaining 1/2 cup sugar, and 1 teaspoon vanilla.
  • Now add 2 Tablespoons water until blended.
  • With rubber spatula, gently fold beaten egg whites into egg-yolk mixture, one-third at a time.
    Spoon batter into UNGREASED 10 inch by 3 inch spring-form pan.
  • Bake 30 to 35 minutes until cake is golden and top springs back when lightly touched.
    Invert cake in pan on wire rack; cool completely in pan.

CAKE LAYERS

  • Brush the cakes with orange liqueur or light rum.

FILLING

  • In large bowl, with mixer at low speed, beat ricotta, cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract until smooth.
  • Stir in 1/4 cup semisweet-chocolate chips.

FROSTING

  • In small bowl, with mixer at medium speed, beat 3 tablespoons of softened butter, 3 tablespoons whole milk, 1 3/4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar, and 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract until smooth.
  • If needed, add a little more milk (1 teaspoon at a time) until mixture has an easy spreading consistency.
  • In large bowl, now at medium speed, beat 2 cups heavy or whipping cream until stiff peaks form; fold confectioners’-sugar mixture into whipped cream.

ASSEMBLY

  • Once cooled – loosen cake from edge of pan; remove pan side. Loosen cake from pan bottom; remove pan bottom.
  • With serrated knife, cut cake horizontally into 2 layers.
    Place bottom cake layer, cut-side up, on cake plate.
  • Brush orange-liqueur or rum on the bottom cut cake layer.
  • Spoon ricotta-cheese filling on center of cake layer.
  • Spread evenly filling out to edge of the cake.
  • Brush orange-liqueur or rum on the top cut cake layer.
  • Place top cake layer on top of the filling cut-side down.
  • Spread frosting over top and down side of cake.
  • Sprinkle shaved chocolate on top of the cake.
  • Refrigerate 2- 3 hours until cake is set.