Pizza Rustica with Italian Sausage and Roasted Red Peppers
Pizza Rustica (AKA Italian Easter Pie) is a savory meat and veggie pie that's loaded with three kinds of cheese and baked in a slightly sweet, deliciously buttery and tender crust.
What is Pizza Rustica (Italian Easter Pie)?
The first time I ever heard of Pizza Rustica was after purchasing Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan. I brought that cookbook home about 25 years ago and it's one of the most worn and tattered books on my book shelf.
It may be the most worn and tattered, actually. I credit that cookbook largely with teaching me how to bake, a lifelong passion that eventually led me to launch my first food blog - Of Batter and Dough.
Baking with Julia is still a book I turn to frequently. And so, in thinking about Spring recipes, and recently learning that Pizza Rustica is also called Italian Easter Pie, I pulled it off my shelf again and studied the recipe more closely.
Out of curiosity, I also did a bit of googling before working on this recipe and learned that in Italy, Pizza Rustica is considered casual finger food, where it's often served as a starter. Because they know how to do things right over there.
Would you like some pie before your pasta? Ummmmm..... yes. Of course I would.
However, the origins for this pie can be traced back a few hundred years ago as an Easter celebration dish. For Italian Catholics, Easter meant the end of lent and the conclusion of 40 days of religious dietary restriction. Since the ingredients in Pizza Rustica are rich and luxurious, the pie was a good way to celebrate the end of a restrictive diet.
I mean... I'm not one for any kind of serious fasting or strict dietary restrictions, but if it was the only way I could have a slice of this pie, I just might consider it.
Essentially, Pizza Rustica is a savory meat and cheese pie with a slightly sweet double crust.
If you, like me, are a sucker for savory-sweet combinations, you might as well just skip to the recipe and start baking because you're going to love this pie. The little bit of sugar in the crust provides a nice contrast to the salty Italian Sausage and parmesan cheese, similar to the variety of flavors you might find on a really great charcuterie board.
Everyone loves charcuterie. (Don't even tell me if that's not true.)
So, if you're one of those people who tends to stay away from foods that combine both sweet and savory flavors, I urge you to give this pie a try anyway. It just might be an exception to the rule for you.
It seems like there are as many varieties of this pie as there are different kinds of pizza.
Like a pizza, Pizza Rustica one of those dishes that can be customized to personal tastes and seasons. The only constant seems to be that the pie always includes a double crust and cheese filling. After that, you might find any variety of meat or vegetable in there, or even diced cooked eggs.
This version includes Italian Sausage, Roasted Red Peppers, and some Fresh Parsley and Basil. While not in the recipe, prosciutto and/or bacon are also delicious in this pie - in addition to the sausage, or instead of. Another delicious substitution (or addition) is cooked spinach or kale.
In general, I prefer a moderate amount of meat and veggies in Pizza Rustica, and this recipe reflects that. Some versions of the pie are absolutely loaded with several different kinds of meat. While still delicious, I love a cheesy filing that's studded with meat and veggies rather than the other way around. So, that's what we've got going on here.
If you're a pie crust newbie, or pie crust challenged, THIS is the dough for you.
The pastry for this pie is really super easy to make and even easier to work with. The dough is a cross between pastry and bread, and unlike most pie crust recipes, you don't really have to worry about over-working it. This makes it perfect for anyone who's new to pie crust making - or challenged by pie crust making.
The crust in this particular recipe contains a bit less sugar than what might be considered "traditional". While I love how the sweetness of the crust compliments the salty, cheesy filling in this pie, I've found that too much of a good thing is, in this case, not such a good thing.
I prefer a touch of sweetness - enough to taste it, but not so much that it competes with all the savory flavors in the filling.
Weekly Meal Plans that include Pizza Rustica:
If you give this recipe a try, let me know! Leave a comment, rate it, or take a picture and tag it #alittleandalot on Instagram.
FOR THE FILLING:
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- ½ lb ground Italian sausage - hot or sweet
- 1 lb whole milk ricotta cheese
- ½ cup shredded parmesan cheese
- 1 generous cup (about ¼ lb) shredded mozzarella cheese
- 3 large eggs
- 6 ounces roasted red peppers (from a jar), drained and chopped into ½ -inch pieces
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
- ¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
FOR THE CRUST:
- 2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoon granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 4 ounces (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cold and cut into 8 pieces
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- Heat the olive oil in a skillet set over medium high heat until shimmering. Add the sausage, breaking it into small pieces with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula as you stir. Cook until there is no visible pink inside the sausage. Scoop the sausage into a bowl and let cool to room temperature.
- Add the remaining filling ingredients to a large bowl and stir to combine. Cover, and set aside while you let the sausage cool and make the crust.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch glass pie plate. (If you don't have a glass pie plate and are using a metal one, heat the oven to 375 degrees.)
- Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the chopping blade. Pulse 2 or 3 times just to blend the ingredients. Add the butter and pulse 5 or 6 times, until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
- With the machine running, add the eggs. Continue to process until a ball of dough begins to form on the blade. Remove the dough from the machine and knead it for about 1 minute, until the dough is smooth.
- Divide the dough into two pieces, with one piece approximately twice as large as the other. Cover the smaller portion of dough with plastic wrap to keep it from drying out. Set the larger portion of dough on a clean work surface that's been dusted with a bit of flour. Use your hands to flatten the dough into a disk, then use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a 12-inch circle.
- Use a spatula to loosen the dough from your work surface, and transfer it to a pie plate, pressing it gently against the bottom and up the sides of the plate. If the dough tears, just press it back together. Trim the excess dough so that only about ½-inch of excess is hanging over the rim of the plate.
- Add the scraps of dough to the remaining portion of dough, kneading it all together to combine, and place it on your floured work surface. Use your hands to pat it into a rectangle, then use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a 10-inch circle. Using a pizza or pastry cutter, or a sharp knife, cut the dough into 8 strips that are approximately 1 & ½ inches wide.
- Stir the sausage into the rest of the filling ingredients and scoop all the filling into the pastry lined pie plate. Use the back of a spoon to smooth the top of the filling into an even layer.
- Lay 4 strips of dough across the top of the pie, spacing them evenly. Weave the remaining 4 strips of dough under and over the first 4 strips, laying them perpendicular to create a lattice pattern. Trim excess dough.
- To crimp the edge of the dough: With one hand on the inside of the edge and one hand on the outside, use the index finger of your inside hand to push the dough between the thumb and index finger of your other hand to form a U or a V shape. Continue this crimping motion around the entire edge.
- Bake the pie for 45-50 minutes, until the crust is golden and the filling is firm and slightly puffed. Set the pie on a wire rack and let cool to room temperature (or nearly room temperature) before serving. *You can speed up the cooling process a bit by placing the pie in the refrigerator.
The crust in this particular recipe contains a bit less sugar than what might be considered “traditional” for Italian Easter Pie. While I love how the sweetness of the crust compliments the salty, cheesy filling in this pie, I’ve found that too much of a good thing is, in this case, too much. I prefer a touch of sweetness – enough to taste it, but not so much that it competes with the flavors in the filling. However, please adjust the amount of sugar in this recipe to your own personal tastes and preferences.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 645Total Fat: 36gSaturated Fat: 17gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 18gCholesterol: 237mgSodium: 1148mgCarbohydrates: 46gFiber: 1gSugar: 8gProtein: 33g