Holidays are about families and traditions. While telling my dear friend Julie recently that I would occasionally feature globally-inspired foods in guest posts on my blog, she immediately invited me into her Italian mother’s kitchen on Good Friday to share in the making of Pizza Chiena, a dish I was unfamiliar with. Pizza Chiena is a traditional Easter dish of Southern Italian families. It is essentially a deep dish savory pie chockfull of cured meats, cheeses and eggs. There are as many recipes for it as there are Italian families. This recipe has been in the Sasso-Bravacos family for 4 generations and was brought over by great grandmother Sasso when she immigrated to America in 1910 from Frigento Avellino, in the Campania region of Italy.
Pizza Chiena(Chena), often pronounced “Pizza Gaina”, is a dialect for Pizza Piena or “a very full pie”. And full it is: 4 lbs of ricotta, 14 eggs and 3 lbs of cured meats!!! It is a splurge for having gone without meat during Lent. Because the dish is time-consuming to prepare it is made on Good Friday and served cold for the Easter feast. Julie’s family waits all year for the making of this signature family favorite. Witnessing the joyful collaborative effort of 3 generations of family members exchanging stories while they worked was a sight to behold.
In Italy Pizza Chiena is often enjoyed on the traditional “Pasquetta” or Easter Monday picnic. The pie travels well, is a substantial dish and one hearty slice is a complete meal. There is no reason it could not be made for a picnic at other times of the year if desired.
Seeing grown grandsons join their father, their uncle(the family dough expert extraordinaire) and their grandfather gather in their grandmother’s cozy kitchen for the making of this magnificent pie just warmed my heart.
Great grandmother Sasso’s recipe calls for each slice of meat and cheese to be cut in narrow strips to prevent them from clumping in the ricotta-egg mixture. It is the secret to their family recipe although a time-consuming labor of love. I thought it was a beautiful thing: a most clever way to solidify already strong family bonds around a communal work table. And for me, looking in, it was the love of 3 generations of a wonderful family coming together in this kitchen that made the Pizza Chiena a most memorable and magical dish. Great Grandmother Sasso would be proud.
Dough Makes two 9 X 13″ pies with lattice top
- 5 cups flour
- 2 eggs
- 4 t. baking powder
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 T. canola oil
- Make a well with flour, baking powder and salt on flat surface
- Add eggs and then add water slowly, then oil, knead until smooth
- Refrigerate the ball of dough, wrapped in wax paper for at least an hour
- Cut dough in half
- Roll dough thin and put into greased 9×13 pan and refrigerate the other half of dough until ready to use; save trimmed pieces to roll cut strips for the lattice top
Filling for Pizza Chiena
- 1 lb. Cappocola
- ½ lb. Salami
- 1 lb. Prosciutto
- 1/2 lb. Pepperoni
- few slices of ham
- 1/4 lb. Provolone
- 2 lbs. Fresh Cheese
- 4 lbs. Ricotta
- Handful of grating cheese
- Small glass of milk
- 14 eggs
- (May add other meats – Dry sausage or sopressata)
- Thinly slice all the meats and cheeses
- Mix well with all the ingredients
- Put into pan lined with dough
- Press down and bring dough up over the edges about a half of inch
- Place strips of dough over the top making diamond shapes
- This makes two 9 x 13 pans
Bake 350 oven for about 50 to 55 minutes
Cool on rack for about 2 hours before refrigerating until ready to serve.