For Easter, Italians from the Naples area make two different types of Easter pies, one savory and one sweet. I’m featuring these pies for this week’s Two for Tuesday. These are the kind of traditional Italian dishes, that if you didn’t grow up with them, you may not like them at first.
The first is the pastiera, or pizza grano. We called this “wheat pie.” It’s a sweet ricotta and wheat pie that originated during pagan times to celebrate spring. It also has citron in it. You can tell it by its distinctive criss-cross design on top. You can buy cans of wheat from Italy to use in the pie. They are available at stores like Di Palo’s in Little Italy and Buon Italia in Chelsea Market. This can depicts a finished piece of pastiera:
If you don’t use canned filling, the process of cooking the wheat takes longer. This is what the wheat filling looks like. Appetizing, right?
I made one and took the easy way out using frozen pie crust and you can tell my criss-cross is lazy. However, it was delicious and had that familiar taste inside.
The second pie is called a pizza rustica, or pizza chiena (pizza chien’ as we called it), that is filled with ricotta, mozzarella, chunks of salami and ham and eggs. My grandmothers both made this pie from scratch, and my Aunt Nancy made them every year as well. This pie is very dense and heavy from the egg and cheese filling. It’s much larger and taller than a pie in a traditional pie plate. The one I pictured from La Bella Ferrara
(now closed) in Little Italy is a lot smaller and thinner than they usually are. Pizza chiena is the type of pie that would sustain you for a long journey.