Every cook has their own version of this popular pie that appears on many tables in Italian-American homes in the Coal Region where large numbers of Italians settled as immigrants to America. Of the twenty-three million people who emigrated from foreign countries to live in the United States by the start of World War I, nearly five million were from Italy.
Lackawanna County in Northeast Pa. boasts one of the nation’s largest and most diverse Italian American populations.
Easter pie (pastiera) is found all over Italy, but its origins are Neapolitan where these pies with a tender, cookie-like crust filled with fresh ricotta cheese and rice and sweetened with sugar, were made in batches, wrapped in clear cellophane, and given away as Easter gifts.
Today, some cooks add chopped candied orange peel, citron, mixed fruits and/or chocolate chips to their pie, some do not. There is no “right” or “wrong” recipe – you should make it to suit your family’s tastes – every version is delicious!
Italian Easter Rice Pie (Pastiera di Riso)Course: DessertsCuisine: Italian, Coal REgionDifficulty: Intermediate
2-1/2 pounds flour (about 6 cups or as needed)
2 cups Sugar
3/4 cup unsalted Butter
1 cup Cold Water
1/2 pound Long Grain or Arborio Rice
2 cups Cold Water
1 quart whole Milk, heated just to scalding
1 – 1/2 cups Sugar
1 pound Ricotta Cheese, well drained
6 Large Eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon ground Cinnamon
1/2 cup Finely Chopped Candied Citron
Grated zest from 1/2 of a Large Orange
- In a large bowl, combine the flour and sugar, then cut in the butter until it looks like coarse corn meal.
- Add the water, a little at a time, just until it just forms a ball; you may not need to use all the water.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and quickly knead it once or twice, into a slightly flattened ball, but don’t overwork dough.
- Wrap in plastic wrap and chill the dough, about an hour.
- Divide the chilled dough in two, and roll out each piece to fit a 9 inch, deep dish pie pan.
- If there is any dough leftover, roll and cut into strips for a lattice top.
- While the dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 400F degrees.
- In a large saucepan, bring the water and rice to a boil, then gently boil on medium heat for 10 minutes.
- Drain the rice and return it to the saucepan with the heated milk. Cook on medium low heat for 15 minutes.
- Remove from heat and add the sugar and ricotta, stirring well.
Add the beaten egg, cinnamon, citron and orange peel. Mix well and pour into 2 prepared deep dish pie pans.
- Decorate the top with any extra dough strips to make a lattice top and flute the edge.
- Place the pies in the oven and immediately turn the temperature down to 350 F degrees. Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. It may be necessary to cover the edge with some foil if it is browning too quickly.
- Cool, chill, and cut into wedges to serve.
- To chop the citron, place it in food processor with some of the sugar for the filling. Process it until there are no large chunks, it should be fairly fine.
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