Italian Easter Meat Pie-Pizza Gaina is the dish that you will find at the end of Lent. A perfect pie crust and a decadent cheese, meat and egg filling. This pie does take a little time to put together, but is totally worth the effort!
Italian Easter Meat Pie- Pizza Gain(also known as Pizza Rustica, Pizza China, Pizzagaina, Pizza Chena, Pizza Chiena, Meat Pie, Easter Pizza)is found in Italian households to signify the end of Lent and that Easter has arrived.
The Pizza Rustica-Pizza Gain is usually made on Good Friday, and you get to finally enjoy it on Easter Saturday or Easter Sunday. It’s just the perfect dish to make ahead for an Easter brunch.
Pizza Gaina is totally indulgent and delicious. Indulgent because of all the cheese and meats. Since most good Italian Catholics are not having meat during Lent, this is the pie that you celebrate with at the end of the 40 days of suffering!
I have been meaning to post this recipe for two years. I am not sure why it took me so long to get the photos and post together. And now that I have it, I can’t even find eggs in my local market. I hope that you were able to buy some ahead of time and that you can try out this delicious recipe for Easter with your immediate family. Stay safe and healthy, my friends. I hope this dish will bring you a little comfort or bring back happy memories of a loud Easter Sunday feast at a table filled with friends and family.
And as it is with many Italian recipes, especially those Italian-American recipes, the filling could change from family to family. But the essence of what is in the filling will always include a lot of different meats, cheese, and a lovely flaky pie crust. As it happened in our family, the recipe is passed down, and your taught how to make this special pie alongside nonna. In order to keep the tradition alive we make it every Easter.
As you take on the recipe, you could make slight changes to make it to your taste. A little more or less cheese, changing up the meat selection. The most important thing is continuing the special tradition and teaching your kids, grandkids (nieces, nephews), so these cherished recipes will not be lost.
So that Italian family traditions will continue on.
What does the name Pizza Gain AKA as Pizzagaina mean?
So in Italy you will never hear of a pizzagaina or pizza gain. You would be most likely to hear of a pizza chena, pizza chiena (Neapolitan dialect for pizza piena, or “full pie”. I grew up knowing it as an Italian Easter Ham Pie.
You’ll find at our house every Easter the Pizza Rustica (on the right)and the Pastiera Napoletana (on the left).
What’s needed for Italian Easter Meat Pie-Pizzagaina?
To make this Pizzagaina, here is what you’ll need:
- baking powder
- prosciutto crudo
What kind of dough should I use?
Feel free to try out this pie crust recipe. Some families prefer to use a yeasted pizza dough. You could use your own favorite pizza dough or even a ready made pizza. A puff pastry dough could work (I’ve never tried it with that sort of dough). Cover the top of the pie with a criss-cross or lattice pattern or just use a full crust on top. But if you’re looking for a flaky type of dough, try out my recipe. Whether you of for a pie crust or pizza dough, this will be amazing. Make the pie your own!
How much meat is needed for this pie?
As for the meats, this recipe is for 2 lbs. You could do a variety of sausage (spicy or mild), ham. salami, capicola (we usually have a chunk of homemade capicola from my Italian mother-in-law on hand), mortadella. I do mine typically without sausage. But add it in if you like! You could also get the meats from your deli in large pieces and cut them yourself into chunks, as opposed to slices.
Can I make a vegetarian version of this Easter pie?
Yes! You could sub out the different sausages and deli meats with grilled vegetables.
What kind of cheese is needed for an Italian Easter pie?
I used 1/2 pound of mozzarella. It’s the Galbani dry brand of mozzarella I like to use when I make lasagne. You could use a 1/2 pound each of mozzarella and provolone. I also used grated pecorino to add a little sharpness to the filling. I don’t recommend using burata or mozzarella di buffala (too wet!!). It’s completely up to you what Italian cheese combo you like. Just as long as you stick to the drier mozzarella and nothing wet.
How to make an Italian Easter Pie?
The first thing to do is gather all the ingredients. You’ll be making first the dough and then letting it rest. While it’s resting, start to make the filling. Add all filling ingredients to a large mixing bowl.
The next step is to roll out the bottom pie crust and add it into the spring form pan. Once you have carefully placed it on the pan, spoon in the filling. I did line my pan with a sheet of parchment paper.
Once you have your filling in the crust, flatten it out a little with a spatula or the back of a spoon. Next step is to prep the dough strips to place on top.
I just criss-crossed them over each other. Once the strips are all on top, crimp along the perimeter of the crust with a fork. Last step is to brush on the egg wash. Try not to brush it on the filling, just the the dough.
What baking dish do I use for this savory pie?
I make my Easter pie in a spring form pan (with the 3”sides). Once it cools down, it’s easy to slide out the pie from the mold. You could bake it in a rectangular baking dish or a square one. Just make sure you choose a big enough size to hold the quantity of this filling (you could always make two smaller square or rectangular ones). I always make in the spring form pan. It’s completely your choice how which style baking dish you prefer!
How do you store leftovers of this savory pie?
Store this Easter pie in the refrigerator for up to a a week in an air-tight container.
Can I freeze the pie?
Yes. Simply slice and wrap each portion with plastic wrap and place each slice in large zipped freezer back. Will freeze for up to two months.
Here are some other Easter dishes you’ll enjoy:
- Rosemary Brown Sugar Glazed Ham
- Torta Pasqualina-Italian Easter Pie
- Crescia al Formaggio
- Braided Italian Easter Bread-Pane di Pasqua
Adapted from Grace Parisi
Originally posted March, 18, 2020 and updated March 1, 2021
Italian Easter Meat Pie-Pizza Gaina
- 3 cups all-purpose flour plus more for dusting
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into cubes, chilled
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup ice water
- 1½ pounds ricotta
- 3 large eggs
- 8 ounces packaged mozzarella cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 4 ounces Genoa salami cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 4 ounces mortadella cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 4 ounces prosciutto crudo cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 4 ounces ham cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 2 Tablespoons grated parmigiano-Reggiano
- 2 Tablespoons grated pecorino
- 2 tablespoons parsley chopped, optional
- EGG WASH
- 1 large egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon water
- In the bowl of food processor, add the flour, baking powder and salt. Give it a pulse to combine. add the cold cubed butter. Pulse until the mixture is like a coarse meal (should be pea sized pieces of dough).
- Add the eggs and water. Pulse until a couple times to combine.
- Remove the dough onto a clean counter or work surface. Knead it to bring it together (we aren’t overworking dough. Just bringing it together kneading a little bit).
- Divide the dough into two portions (one portions is 1/3 of dough and the other is 2/3).
- Wrap with plastic wrap and let it rest for 20 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 375F.
- Butter and flour a 9-inch spring form pan.
- On a clean work surface, roll out the larger portion of the dough to 15-inch round.
- Carefully place into the bottom of spring form pan.
- Place in the refrigerator while you prep the filling. Place the other wrapped portion of dough also in the fridge .
- In a large bowl, add the ricotta and eggs.
- Add in the all the meats and cheeses.
- Stir every thing to combine.
- Remove the spring form pan with the crust from the refrigerator.
- Spoon the mixture cheese/meat filling into the pie crust. Flatten it out with a spatula.
- On a clean surface, roll out the remaining dough. You could cut out strips of dough or roll it to a 10-inch round. If you’re using strips, place them carefully in an overlapping patter on top of the filling. If you’re using one round piece, carefully transfer on top of the filling.
- Press the edges of the pastry together.
- If you have any overhanging dough, trim the edges and tuck underneath.
- Crimp all around the edge of the crust with a fork. Brush on the egg wash mixture. If you’re using one large piece of dough on top, cut a small steam vent.
- Bake for 65-75 minutes, or until crust is golden (I place my pan on top of a baking sheet in case any of the cheese mixture bubbles over). Halfway through baking cover loosely with foil paper so it won’t over brown.
- Transfer pan to a baking rack. Let completely cool before removing from springform pan.
- Slice into wedges and serve. You could also refrigerate for a couple hours before slicing and serving.