Thursday, April 8, 2010

Pizza chiena

Back when people took Lent really seriously (ie the Middle Ages), they didn’t just go without meat for 40 days. They went without all animal products, which meant no eggs, no cheese, and no butter either. In light of this information, my mother’s Italian family’s two traditional Easter recipes, which involve three dozen eggs and three pounds of meat and dairy (and that’s before you start multiplying quantities to feed the extended family) make a lot of sense. You cook up a bunch of decadent food on Mardi Gras to clean out the kitchen before Lent’s privations; and by the time Holy Week rolls around, you’ve got another stockpile of the chickens’ and cows’ output for the past six weeks. (It helps in this scenario if you live on a farm.)

Last year I posted our family recipe for tarrale (Italian Easter cookies); so this year it’s pizza chiena’s turn.

Neapolitan pizza chiena
This recipe comes from my Neapolitan grandfather, with some modifications made in the 100+ years since he brought it to this side of the Atlantic. It’s in the running for my favorite food of all time; it has lots of sentimental associations, of course, but it’s also really savory and really satisfying and I look forward to it all year long.

1 recipe pasta dough

2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
½ cup small soup pasta (orzo, stars, or similar)
¾ lb/375 g hard salami in a hunk
2 dozen L or XL eggs
1 lb/450 g ricotta*
1¼ cup grated pecorino romano cheese

Grease a 13”x9”x2” (33cm x 23cm x 5cm) baking pan generously with 1 Tbsp of the olive oil. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 350F/180C.

Bring a small pot of water to the boil. Add 1 Tbsp salt and cook the pasta for 5-7 minutes. Drain, then return to the hot pan. Mix in oil to keep from sticking together. Set aside to cool.

Cut the salami in ½-inch/1-cm thick slices, then cut these into ½-inch/1-cm dice. Set aside.

Roll the pasta dough into an oblong or rectangle about 18”x15” (46cm x 38cm) and as thin as you can make it. Drape in the baking dish and pat gently into the corners. Leave overhang outside. Set aside.

Break eggs into a large bowl and mix thoroughly. Add ricotta and grated cheese and continue mixing until combined. Add pasta and salami and stir to distribute evenly through the mixture.

Pour the egg mixture into the pasta shell. Fold the pasta carefully over the filling, making sure to cover it completely. Trim off excess to avoid too-thick layering.

Bake for 1-1.5 hours, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in pan for at least 30 minutes before cutting.

Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold from the fridge. It really doesn’t matter.

* I made my own ricotta using this method, and I thought it made a significant difference to the finished product.


Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial said... Best Blogger Tips

Wow. Two dozen eggs! And you don't put any cheese over the top of the pasta before you bake it? How does it turn out - is the exterior hard and crunchy like bread?

Roving Lemon said... Best Blogger Tips

Nope--all the cheese goes into the filling. The pasta bakes up into a thick, chewy crust on the outside; my favorite parts of it are where the crust gets folded and there are extra layers of pasta underneath the crusty exterior. The interior layers have a consistency somewhere between bread and baked pasta that I've never found in anything else. Hmmm, might have to go cut myself another sliver....

mmm said... Best Blogger Tips

Hi, Nancy. I made the mistake of visiting your blog when I should be working. You've made my mouth water sufficiently that I'm fighting the urge to take a break from checking PDFs to go cook something. Happy Easter to all of you.

Roving Lemon said... Best Blogger Tips

@mmm Hi Mary! Hearing that I made someone's mouth water makes my day. Also, cooking is way more fun than checking PDFs any day. Happy Easter to you and yours as well!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...