For Filling:
1 pound Ricotta cheese
1 pound basket or farmers cheese (if you can also use feta, but rinse it)
8 ounces Mozzarella Ball diced.
4 ounces Provolone, diced
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup grated Romano
3 large eggs
1/4 pound each of three or four of your favorite cold cuts, diced small. (I like prosciutto, hot capicola and mortadella)
1 recipe savory dough (see below)
1 10” spring form pan

For Savory Dough:
2 1/2 cups flour
1 stick butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 to 5 tablespoons white wine


For Filling:
1. Mix cheeses together.
2. Add eggs and mix until combined. Mixture should be stiff but not dry. Add diced cold cuts.
3. Cut dough into roughly 2/3 and 1/3 pieces. Take larger piece and roll it into a round on a floured surface. The larger round should be about 14 inches in diameter because the dough is very delicate and needs to fall over the edge of the pan so it doesn’t collapse inside the pan.
4. Lay dough into spring form pan with the edges falling over the edge of the pan.
5. Spread cheese mixture evenly into pan.
6. Roll out smaller round just to cover cheese. Roll extra dough down to make an edge to the pie.
7. Make slits in the top of the pie. Brush with egg wash (one egg, ¼ cup water mixed together). Bake at 350 degrees for one hour.

For Savory Dough:
1. Put flour, butter (cut into small pieces) and salt into bowl of a food processor and pulse several times until coarsely combined.
2. Add wine and process until dough starts forming a ball.
3. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill until ready to use. Dough will be quite soft, so it’s best to use it cold.

Recipe courtesy of Joanne Avallon, 2010.

Pizza Giana is also referred to with several different names: pizza piena, pizzagiana, pizzapiena, pizza rusica and pizza chiena).

Joanne Avallon of Beverly, MA grew up with many Italian family food traditions such as this recipe for a type of stuffed ricotta pie. It is made in many large sizes and used for large gatherings, and is an Easter favorite because being made with several meats it is a way to "break Lent".

I'm here with Joanne Avalon. I've known Joanne since we were in high school. We re-met as adults, and began to hang out and raise our kids together. And that's when I realized what an amazing cook Joanne is.

She's almost 100% Italian, and she makes this amazing dish, which she's going to make today. And I love this dish because it's one thing that you can eat hot or cold. You can take it on a picnic. You can slice wedges for your kids' lunch, or it can be a holiday meal. Hi, Joanne.

Hi, Heather.

Do you want to tell me about this?

This is called a pizzagaina, or a pizza chena, or a torta rustica. It's an Italian meal traditionally prepared at Easter time, when you finally get to break your Lent and fast. So you get to eat all the cold cuts you haven't eaten over all of Lent.

And the joke in my family was, it's called a pizzagaina because if you eat too much, you gain a lot of weight.

So where are you going to begin?

OK, the first thing we do is put 2 1/2 cups of flour into a food processor.

I have to add, it's worth gaining the weight, because this thing tastes amazing. I mean, all that ricotta cheese and feta cheese that goes into it, and then the meats in a fabulous pie crust.

When I was thinking of the recipe for you and writing it up, I started to say, you could use part-skim ricotta, but I mean, what's the point?

Exactly, exactly.

This is one stick of butter.

Cut in pieces?

Cut in pieces. It's cold, nothing too surprising here in the dough recipe.

But you do have a surprise in this recipe.

You do, you do.

In the pie crust recipe.

Yes. Also, you just need a sprinkle of salt. Just a quarter teaspoon, really not very much at all. I love these machines.

I do, I do, I do.

They're the best.

They are.

And you just do a couple quick turns to get it going. Sort of so it looks kind of crumbly. Just a course crumble. Then we put in two eggs.

So it's not going to be a really delicate pie crust, we know right now.

Actually it will be.

It will be?

Watch what happens. OK, here's the tricky part. And I didn't know why I did this for the longest time. And then I read a food magazine and they told me. Alcohol in a crust prevents the formation of gluten, and gluten is what makes a crust tough.

So what do you have there?

This is just plain white wine, drinking wine. Never cook with anything you wouldn't drink with.

Even in a crust?

Even in a crust. I mean, really. This is a shot glass, for anyone who doesn't know. Your shot has two tablespoons in it, so two shot glasses.

Four tablespoons.

Four tablespoons.

White wine.

White wine. And then we close it all up, and we hope for nice, delicate crust. So, I presume you want this to come to a ball.

Yes. Soon.

Soon. Looks good.

It's happening.


OK, there we go. My dad used to make this. This is one of those male things. Kind of like lasagna, it's the big, big, heavy thing that seems to be something men like to do. Kind of like grilling in American culture.

A lot of presentation.

A lot of presentation.

It comes to the table as a big event.

Yeah, so you can see, looking at the dough, see it's very delicate, actually.

And yellow.

And yellow, because of the egg.

So is this the same recipe your family used?

My dad's recipe-- and my brother Jim, who's a really good cook and actually has a cooking certificate-- have a recipe that serves 20 to 30 people.

It's just the two of us today.

It's just the two. So I actually am using a recipe that is in one of my favorite cookbooks, called Big Night In. And it's Domenica Marchetti's book. This recipe has the same ingredients. You can go online and you will find this recipe for 80 people, for 30 people, for whatever. But it's basically the same stuff in different proportions and different preferences.

Well first, I want to put a little flour on the rolling surface, because it is a sticky dough. And I'm also going to take a little bit and put it aside for the very top. Because this has to get large enough-- I'm using a 10 inch spring form pan, and because the dough it so delicate, it really needs to get large enough to flap over the edges. Because otherwise, it will all collapse inside.

And at the very end, you put an egg wash on it, so it gets to be a nice brown.

It looks round. Looks good.

It's pretty good.

Oh, you're going to wrap it over the rolling pin.

Wrap it over the rolling pin. This is the easiest way so you don't tear your dough. Oops. Then you put it back on the rolling pin, and you move it a little further down. So there. As you can see, see how gentle, how delicate the dough is?


You really have to play with it. It's pretty elastic, so you're OK. And remember, this is not supposed to look like French cooking. It doesn't have to be perfect.

So do you prefer to cook Italian dishes?

It's my default mode. It's how I know how to cook. I love to try new things, but it always starts with what I learned from my mom and my grandma. I my dad, too.

Now, your family is not from Sicily.

No. They're from all over. Once you get to America, all those regional divisions disappear, because you're all stuck in one place. You all either in the north end, or the west end, or whatever.

Now's a good time to preheat your oven to 350 degrees. And if you wouldn't mind chopping up the rest of the mozzarella ball.

I can do that.

That's one eight ounce mozzarella ball. Now there are so many different things that people put in pizzagaina. First we start with ricotta. This is one pound of ricotta. The basket cheese is less salty than feta. If you can't find basket cheese, use feta and just rinse it before you crumble it up.

So this is a found of feta. And the feta is delicious too. I like the feta, but it is important to rinse it. OK and then, of course, Provolone. This is about four ounces of Provolone.

A half a cup of Parmesan, a half a cup of Romano. And my kids love Romano and hate Parmesan. So if I'm thinking I'm making this mostly for them, I'll put in the Romano and leave out the Parmesan. And then your mozzarella.

I like prosciutto very much, so I get the deli man to cut the prosciutto thick. And I chose to put prosciutto in there.

How many kinds of meat do you have in there?

There's three. You can put in more. A lot of people like salami. I like the soppressata.


Soppressata. A lot of people love the hot capicola. Now when you're a little kid and you bite into a tort, and there's hot capicola in there, it's like, somebody's playing a joke on me.

You see it's pretty stiff right now, and dry. And the age will provide some moisture and keep it together. It's just a little bit too dry without the eggs, and it doesn't also rise quite the way it should.

OK, So there's what it looks like.

That is gorgeous.

And now your meats go in.

So this is where the seasoning to the dish is all placed.

Right. You can see-- the soppressata has little pieces of pepper in it. And it's all quite salty, so you really don't need to add extra salt. You can always taste though, just to check.

So I have mortadella, soppressata, and prosciutto here.

Now, what else would you have in an Easter meal, if you're serving this?

This is funny, but kind of like an Easter snack. It's something if guests come over, you pull this out. And maybe a green salad with it, but it wasn't exactly the whole meal.

So you would have little wedges.

Little wedges.

Little wedges. So it would be served as an appetizer?

Or like a 4 'o clock. You're having a 7 o'clock meal. A little [ITALIAN] All right, there's the filling.

It's beautiful.

Yep. OK, in it goes. Don't worry about being to neat. Remember this is not, it's not going to show.

This is 10 pounds of stuff.

It is 10 pounds. OK, there we go. So you've got it like that, right? And now you just start to fold over.

OK, you have to let me do this part too.

OK, go ahead.

Because I love working with crust like this.

Now, there's a little bit extra crust over here. So I'm going to give it to you, and if you find a point where you think you could use a little more.

Is this too much crust?

That's all right. Just roll it in.

This is the most fun.

It is fun.

So you just roll it together. Make it kind of tidy, pretty.

Make it a little pretty. You can tuck some in.

So, in the oven?

Not quite yet. First we need to cut a few vents. Now their people would have taken the extra dough, rolled it out, and cut out little chickens like with a cookie cutter. I am not one of those people. Because it's Easter, and there's chickens. And so you could do that.

I just find four slits is fine for me.

That's pretty too.

And then, this is a simple egg wash. It's just a couple tablespoons of water and an egg. And what this does is give the crust a nice brown patina.

So there you go. Now, if you go on the internet--

I did look on the internet. And it said there's pizzagaina and pizza chena. C-H-E-N-A. Same thing.

Same thing. In the oven it goes. 350 for an hour.

Joanne, this is absolutely amazing, the pizzagaina. It's out of the oven for what, an hour?

An hour or so, yeah.

And that's so everything can come to room temperature, still warm. I'm dying to see what this looks like inside.

We'll pretend it's Easter morning, Easter afternoon. And all the relatives are yakking away.

In the other room.

In the other room. This is a big piece.

Is it?

I would cut a smaller slice.

That's beautiful.

There we go.

That is gorgeous. This is my favorite sort of thing, because I'm not a lover of cheesecake. So it's like a savory cheesecake.

It's a savory cheesecake.

And I love crust. Mmm, mmm, mmm. That is wonderful.

I'm glad you like it.

Just the right amount of salt from the meats.

From the meats and the--

And then the cheeses just balance out that piquant saltiness. That is delicious.

Traditionally, you make it on Good Friday. The end of Lent, and you're not allowed to touch any of the cold cuts. And so it sits, and then on Sunday you can eat it. But if you want it warm, you can make it Easter morning.

But I like that idea, because it's made ahead.

It's made ahead, so you don't have to worry about it.

So you're fussing with your Easter bonnet on Sunday morning, and not baking the pizzagaina.

Yeah, yeah. Hiding the kids' Easter baskets.

Right, right. That's great.

Pizza Gaina
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