Category Archives: Pie

The Myth of the Italian Pastiera

The Italian dessert served at Easter, the pastiera, or pizza grano, has its origins in the myths of the ancient world.  In fact, it stems from a legend straight from Homer’s Odyssey.  According to legend, because the siren Parthenope could not lure Ulysses to crash on her shores, she jumped to her death in the waves, but the god Poseidon saved her by bringing her to the Gulf of Naples where some fishermen rescued her.  Every spring, she would revisit the people of Naples.  The people gave her seven gifts:  flour to symbolize wealth, ricotta to symbolize abundance, eggs to symbolize fertility, grain boiled in milk to symbolize the harmony of animal and vegetable, orange-flower water typical of the area, spices and honey to symbolize the sweet siren’s song.  These are the ingredients in the pastiera.

Sorghum Pecan Pie

pecan pie, sorghum

Last year, I bought some sorghum syrup when I was in Helen, Georgia.  I saw this sorghum and bourbon pecan pie from Smoky Mountain Living magazine and thought it was the perfect opportunity to use the sorghum.  For the pie, I made my own crust and decorated it with these fall pie crust cutters from Sur La Table.

pecan pie, sorghum

Pizza Chiena or Pizza Rustica

Pizza Chiena or Pizza Rustica, or Savory Italian Easter Pie

pizza chiena, pizza rustica

Pizza chiena or pizza rustica is a savory Neapolitan pie served at Easter time.  My family is from the area surrounding Naples and they called it pizza chiena, pronounced like pizzagaina, or pizzagain, as they pronounce the hard ch sound as a hard g in Neapolitan dialect and the last vowel is often left off.

pizza chiena, pizza rustica

Pizza Chiena

For the crust:

Some people use pizza dough for the crust.  You can get it from a pizzeria or make it yourself.  There are many different ways to make the crust.  You can experiment and see what you like.  Some people use lard, butter or oil instead of the shortening.  Some people don’t use eggs.  Some people use yeast.  Some people add pepper or salt.  The dish itself is pretty salty with the meats and cheeses, so I would opt for no extra salt.

5 cups flour, not sifted

3/4 cup shortening

4 eggs

warm water

olive oil

Put your flour on your work surface.  Dot with shortening and incorporate until it becomes crumbly.


Make a well and add eggs, incorporating them.  Add enough warm water until you have a workable dough.  Knead for about 5 minutes.  Put a little olive oil in a bowl.  Add the dough ball.


Cover with plastic wrap or a towel and let rest for about a half hour.

For the filling:

People use different ingredients in the filling.  It usually always has ricotta, eggs, grated cheese and salami.  From there, it varies.  You can also use soppressata, capocollo, mortadella, Italian sausage or provolone.  We only used soppressata, capocollo and salami.  One of my grandmas used provolone.  Also, some provolone can be sharp and you don’t want it to be too dominant a flavor.  Some people lump all the ingredients in there, some people chunk it, some people dice it very small, some people layer it.  It’s all your preference.  My two grandmas did it differently.  This is kind of a combination of both of theirs.

1 lb. ricotta (Use a good brand with no added gums or thickeners.)

1 lb. basket cheese (If you can’t get this where you are, you can just use another pound of ricotta.  Or you can let one pound of ricotta sit in a colander or in cheesecloth the night before to drain out water.)


1 cup salami, diced


1 cup prosciutto, diced


8 eggs

1 cup grated pecorino romano cheese

1 cup fresh mozzarella, diced

black pepper to taste

egg yolk for egg wash

In a bowl, mix all ingredients.  Just stir it all together.  No mixer needed.  I like it a little chunky.

Grease and flour a 10-inch springform pan or a 13×9 rectangular pan or a large cake pan or pie dish (depends on how much filling you have).

Cut off 2/3 of dough.  Roll it out into a circle and line springform pan.


Fill with filling.


Roll out remaining dough into a circle.  Top pie with it.  Brush with egg wash.

Bake at 375 degrees for 1/2 hour.  Lower heat to 350 for 1 more hour.  Let cool for a few hours.  Refrigerate.  We eat this at room temperature or cold from the refrigerator.

Pastiera, Pizza Grano or Easter Wheat Pie

Pastiera, Pizza Grano or Easter Wheat Pie

pastiera, pizza grano, Easter wheat pie, wheat pie

The pastiera, or pizza grano is also known in English as a wheat pie.  It’s a traditional Neapolitan dessert pie made at Easter time.  In the past, some people made these at home and other people bought them at Italian bakeries.  Unless you live near an Italian bakery, you will probably not be able to find one.  These pies have wheat but depending on where they are made, they can also have rice.  Part of my family is from the Benevento area of Italy, and they make the pie with rice.  I made an Italian Easter rice pie last year.

pastiera, pizza grano, wheat pie

Pastiera, Pizza Grano or Easter Wheat Pie

For the crust:

2 cups sifted flour

1 cup granulated sugar

pinch salt

1 stick butter, room temperature

2 eggs

Combine flour, sugar and salt.  On your work surface, make a well in the flour.  Add the eggs.


Dot the butter around and mix all together.  Work the dough until you have a dough that doesn’t stick (you may need to add more flour).


Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

For the filling:

1 1/2 cups whole milk

1 can/jar cooked wheat (You will find this at an Italian market.  Or you can buy wheat berries and cook them yourself.)

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon sugar

5 eggs

1 cup sugar

1 lb. ricotta (Try to buy a good brand that doesn’t have added gums or thickeners.)

1 tablespoon orange blossom water (This is not orange extract.  You will find this at Italian markets.  If you can’t find it, you can use vanilla instead.)

8 oz. chopped citron (This is hard to find.  Some grocery stores carry it.  Italian markets have it too.  It depends on where you live.  The higher percentage of Italians, the more likely you are to find it.)

In a pot, add the milk, wheat, butter and 1 T sugar.  Bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes until it’s a thick custard.  Transfer it to a bowl and allow it to cool.


By hand or with a mixer, mix the eggs, sugar, ricotta and orange blossom water until well combined.  Mix in the cooled wheat custard.  Stir in the citron.

Grease and flour a 9- or 10-inch springform pan.  (You can also use a pie plate or cake pan.)

Take out your dough.  Cut off 1/3 of it to save to make strips for the top.  Roll the dough out into a circle and put into springform pan.

Pour the filling into the crust.  Roll out the other piece of dough and cut strips to make a crisscross design on top.

Bake at 350 degrees for about an 1 hour (not less but maybe a little more).

Pie for Pi Day!

I have been wanting to make this triple coconut cream pie from Seattle’s dahlia bakery for quite some time now–what a better excuse than pi day!  A friend brought me back this cookbook from her trip to Seattle.  She had this pie at the bakery and said it was one of the best pies she’s ever had.


If you love coconut, you will love it too.  It’s got coconut in the crust.  It’s filled with a coconut custard and topped with whipped cream and toasted coconut.  Yum!  It takes a while to make this pie–because everything is from scratch, but it’s worth it.  The recipe can also be found online here.

Mini Crustless Pecan Pies

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Mini Crustless Pecan Pies

1/2 cup dark corn syrup

2 eggs

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon melted butter + butter to grease ramekins

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 cup pecan halves

Grease 3 ramekins with butter.  Mix all ingredients in a bowl.  Divide into ramekins.  Bake 350 for 30-35 minutes or until done.  Cover with foil so pecans don’t brown too much.

Crustless Pumpkin Pie

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Here’s my almost-vegan pumpkin pie.

Crustless Pumpkin Pie

1 can pumpkin

1 can lite coconut milk

1/3 cup egg whites

1/4 teaspoon cloves

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup maple syrup

Mix all together.  Bake 425 degrees for 15 minutes.  Lower to 350 and bake another 40 minutes or until done.   Cover with foil so it doesn’t brown too much.