The joy of a pie is the excitement of cutting it open to reveal the interior. It’s a surprisingly versatile dish, and portable too as all the filling is neatly encased inside. With Easter on the horizon, we’ve been baking three Italian-inspired spring pies that all have festive origins. Easter in Italy is the most sacred festival of the year and food is particularly relished after the austerity of Lent. Eggs are of particular importance because people would have abstained from eating them during Lent, but the chickens still keep on laying! Eggs, of course, also signify new life and pies made at this time of year traditionally contained eggs.
All three of these vegetarian pies are firm inside with no runny fillings, making them perfect for taking out and eating in the warm spring sunshine if you get the chance. We’ve used three pie-making methods – one is encased in filo, another in puff pastry and the third, more unusually, in rice.
Torta pasqualina is an Easter pie from Liguria that has whole eggs added raw to the pie, so that when it is cooked you cut through to reveal a perfect hard-boiled egg. Traditionally, this Easter pie has 33 layers of pastry to signify the years of Christ’s life. It’s eaten for picnics on Easter Monday and made with Swiss chard, but it’s also delicious with spinach and foraged spring leaves, such as wild spinach and wild garlic. The traditional pastry is made with flour, water and olive oil and is rolled thin like filo. It was a badge of honour for a cook to be able to roll out all 33 layers of pastry thinly and layer up the pie perfectly. But ivycatfor simplicity for the modern cook, we have used ready-made filo pastry and used 12 layers of filo rather than 33!
Our Italian Easter calzone is made using ready- rolled puff pastry rather than bread dough and is cut into the shape of an egg with pretty slashes in the top to show off the asparagus and baby leek filling. In spring, make the most of fresh green vegetables – in season now are Swiss chard, spinach, baby leeks and the first of the asparagus, all of which would work beautifully in this pie.
Sartu di riso is a risotto pie made all over southern Italy in Naples, Campania and Apulia. It’s a very unusual pie because the casing is made of rice rather than pastry and then it’s filled with vegetables and cheese. There are two varieties: one has a white rice casing and the other is red as the rice is flavoured with tomato sauce. This is not an everyday dish as the rice has to be made in advance and cooled, the filling made and the pie assembled, and it’s then served cold so that it’s easy to slice. It’s made for special occasions such as Easter and is ideal for feeding lots of people. At Demuths Cookery School we run an annual Italian cooking holiday in Apulia and our wonderful host Alessandro makes a very large sartu di riso for our first welcome dinner.
You can read more about these Italians spring tarts in Rachel's April 2018 article in Vegetarian Living Magazine.
For more vegetarian pie inspiration, check out our post, Vegetarian Pies: Perfect Pastry and Favourite Fillings.
Delicious food photography by Rob Wicks of Eat Pictures.
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