Buona Pasqua and it is time for pizza rustica
We will soon be wishing friends and family, “Buona Pasqua” as Easter Sunday is less than two weeks away.
If we set aside the religious for a moment and focus on the secular, there are two main food components of Easter that I just adore, especially in Hammonton.
The first is the chocolate, especially the large, foil-wrapped chocolate eggs (I am looking at you Bagliani’s) and the second is pizza rustica or Easter pie.
Now many of you will be wondering, what is pizza rustica.
It’s ham pie.
As Hammontonians, we tend not to use the formal name for things.
We call all stuffed breads, even if they have broccoli, pepperoni bread but with broccoli. Or we could just call them stromboli.
But back to pizza rustica.
A slice of heaven. It is cheese, meat and bread. What is not to like?
In my many years in Hammonton, I have learned to appreciate all the many versions of this Italian dish.
First, a little history from www.giolittideli.com: “The Italian Easter pie is an Italian-Catholic recipe that is traditionally made the day before Easter and served on the holiday to signify the end of Lent and to break the fast. Millions of Italians and Italian-Americans enjoy the pie on Easter, even if they didn’t actually participate in the fast. The recipes for pizza rustica vary from region to region, but it typically contains the ingredients of spring, including eggs and fresh cheese, and ingredients from the larder, such as meats like prosciutto and salami. ... The Italian-American versions of pizza rustica often include American meats such as ham and pepperoni.”
Now that we have finished the history lesson, let’s talk ham pie.
I love it and all the many ways Hammontonians make it.
Some slice the meats neatly and use hardboiled egg. Others mix everything up. Some look like a turnover, others look like a pie and others look like a covered casserole. I prefer mine at room temperature or just slightly chilled. Some use a savory crust and others use a sweet crust.
I like the ones with pepperoni in it because it has that bite from the meat and is decidedly more American. But I do not turn down any kind of ham pie.
Everyone makes their ham pie like their mother or mother-in-law taught them. I have yet to find someone who is in their first generation of making it. I think there is something special about the generational history of the recipes.
Basket cheese also makes it way into many ham pies. Basket cheese tastes like ricotta and mozzarella had a delicious baby. Because it is made in a basket, it has the shape and markings of one.
Many families share wedges of ham pie with friends and relatives. The communal nature of the dish makes it so uniquely Hammonton. Fridges are packed with slabs of ham pie from different friends and relatives. There is nothing better.
The making of ham pie brings together relatives for dicing, chopping, rolling and filling.
It is kind of like making Christmas cookies but this time we are making a savory dish. It is wonderful to experience and even better to be part of leading up to Easter each year.
So tell me, how do you make your ham pie? Is there a family secret that makes yours the best?
Do you have a story about growing up Italian, either in Hammonton or anywhere else? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.