Pie Day


For as long as I can remember, the women of my family have gotten together every Good Friday to bake Easter pies at my parents' house. Being Italian-American, we were headed by my Italian grandmother, who was known to us as "The Colonel" because, as sweet as she was, she ruled with an iron fist when it came to baking and cooking. Though, compared with my great-grandmother, even The Colonel seemed like a big softie in the kitchen.

This was the first Easter season we baked without my grandmother, who unfortunately passed away last October. Producing a savory pie, pizza rustica (a tender crust encased with ricotta cheese and dried Italian meats), and the sweet Easter pie, pastiera di grano (a ricotta and wheat berry pie), we did a good job of carrying on her tradition this year. With my grandmother, everything had to be perfect. If not, she would just "fire" members of the family—though I can happily say I was never one of them. Instead, my grandmother often took notice of my abilities in the kitchen, especially with the rolling pin. To this day, I'm still the "roller," while others peel and quarter hard-boiled eggs, cut dried sausage into small pieces, grate orange zest, and finely chop citron. With my grandmother's system in place, we're able to produce about 15 pies every year. The hardest part of the day, though, has to be not eating any of the pies (or any of the ingredients we use to make them). Good Friday is a day of fasting, and we always say this is our penance! And on Holy Saturday this year, when we broke the fast and enjoyed this year's first bites of pizza rustica and Easter pie, my grandmother was definitely in our thoughts. While Gina's pizza rustica recipe is a family secret, you can try our version any time of the year.

Subscribe to Gourmet