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Chef Fritz Blank and Mariella

Sicilian Easter Pizza - Torta Pasqualina

By Chef de Cuisine Frederick Carl (Fritz) Blank Jr
Easter, April 2010

For the first time in about almost 16 years, this spring I have not made "Easter Pitz" (as my Sicilian mentor "Old Man Tony Amato" back in the late-1950's/early-1960's called these wonderful seasonal Italian culinary hallmarks). The recipe I use today (when I do make them) is the same one that he taught me way back then. I have never forgotten his instructions and techniques, and it stands as one of the very best renditions I've ever sampled (Of course I am prejudiced).

Chef Fritz Blank - A Chef & His LibraryMr. Amato and his wife, Carmella, operated a Pizza/Spaghetti restaurant on East Marlton Pike near Rt 130 in Pennsauken NJ when I was just barely a teenager. I worked next store to "Amato's" in a drug store as a part time "Soda Jerk" and Tony soon saw in me an inborn spark regarding my interest and ability to cook... so on Saturday evenings and all day and night on Sundays he let me 'help' "cook-a inna da kitsch". He paid me whatever he happened to find in his pocket at the end of the day -- usually a $5 or rarely $10 bill. In retrospect, even at the early age of 12 through 16, I learned much about the madness of running a restaurant... and although the venue was basically considered a "Pizza Joint" Mrs. Amato was a consummate Italian Home cook and was raised on a peach farm in Hammonton, NJ. What wonders came from her kitchen. Although these were reserved for the family and rarely appeared on the restaurant's menu, these recipes (culinary methodologies) remain embedded and re-callable in my memory. I suspect I should restore them while my memory is still intact, record them, and maybe even publish them, since I am now retired here in sunny funny Thailand - in between beach-bumming, that is.
- Fritz Blank

Easter Pizza
- Torta Pasqualina -

Which is an elaborate Easter variation of Italian "Peasant’s Pie" Sometimes known as Pizza Rustica.

A modern and liberal translation of the Italian word pizza is "pie". The most familiar form of pizza is, of course, "Neopolitan Marguerit" which is flat, single-crusted, prepared from yeast bread dough and dressed with tomatoes, cheese, and fresh basil leaves. It is perhaps surprising to learn that there are a great variety of Italian pies - both single and double crusted. Single crusted renditions, including Focaccia, probably arose in order to use up small amounts of left-over bread dough.

Most double crusts are associated with Easter or other holidays. Specific fillings and toppings vary from town to town and family to family.

For sweet pies, rice, ricotta cheese, and cooked macaroni are used along with candied fruits, pistashio and pine nuts. Chocolate too is sometimes found as an embellishment.

On the other hand, for various unsweetened renditions of "Torta or Pizza Rustica" the stuffing can be quite varied depending on what is at hand. for example: 1 lb sauteed spinach, 9 oz filletto del pomma d’oro, 6 oz cooked ham beaten eggs and milk. Artichoke bottoms are often used.

These savory renditions are usually layered or mixed with several kinds of cheeses and cured pork charcuterie products, such as salamis, hams, and dried sausages - with the entire structure being held together with a custard of beaten eggs.
The dough I use for my rendition of "Easter Pizza" is a standard pâte brisée, bound with a mixture of eggs and egg yolks rather than water.

The following recipe makes four 8-inch diameter x 2-1/2-inch deep pies.

I. For the dough:

Note : Dough should be prepared at least one day in advance - a 24 hour rest is recommended.

3 lbs all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons salt
1-1/2 lbs ice cold butter cut into one-inch cubes
9 whole eggs (USDA grade "large")
8 egg yolks

1. Mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl (Hobart 20 quart mixer).
2. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and yolks together.
3. Add the butter cubes to the flour and using your hands, crush together until the butter is incorporated and is the size of uncooked oatmeal.
4. Add the beaten eggs and yolks and quickly toss into the dry mixture. Knead just until a dough ball is formed. Divide the dough into four equal brick-shaped pieces; wrap in plastic film and refrigerate overnight.

II. For the filling:

24 whole eggs - USDA grade "large"
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon freshly cracked black peppercorns
1/4 lb aged provolone cheese cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 lb formaggio de tabola de Roma cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 lb mozzarella cheese cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3/4 cup grated Locatelli picorino sheep’s milk cheese
1 cup shredded Gruyère or other Swiss-type cheese such as Jarlsberg
1/4 lb cooked country ham (Groff’s® preferred) cut into 3/4-inch x 1/2-inch batons
1/4 lb Coutigeeno salami cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 lb dried Sicilian fennel scented sausage cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1/4 lb Genoa salami cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1/4 lb Suppressata salami cut into 1/2-inch x 1/4-inch sticks
2 oz pepperoni ground coarsely

III. Rich egg wash:

1 whole egg
2 egg yolks
1 ounce sour cream

IV. Final Assembly and baking:

8-inch diameter x 2.5-inch deep round Baking-pans

1. Preheat oven to 350° F
2. Remove dough from the refrigerator and rest at room temperature until malleable. Roll dough into two 12-inch rounds (bottoms + sides) and two 9-inch rounds (lids).
3. Carefully fit the 12-inch pastry rounds into a 8-inch diameter by 2-1/2-inch deep springform cake pan.
4. Prepare the rich egg wash (IV. above) and set aside.
5. Beat the 24 eggs, heavy cream and, salt and cracked black pepper together Add and mix the prepared assorted cheeses, charcuterie.
6. Divide the custard mixture evenly into the two lined cake pans. Place the 9-inch pastry lid over the top of the pie and pinch the side and top edges together. Cut vents into the top, and use scraps of dough to decorate.
7. Place the pans onto a cookie sheet or bun pan and bake at 350°F for 1-1/2 hours. Brush the top with egg wash and bake for an additional 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature before serving.

Frederick Carl (Fritz) Blank Jr

Fritz Blank: What a delicious journey - September 19, 2014

A visit from much-missed Fritz Blank - November 15, 2009

Chef Fritz and His City: My Education in the Master’s Kitchen by Samuel Young

View of a University of Pennsylvania 2002 exhibition based on chef Fritz Blank's culinary collection




Pizza Rustica alla Carmella Ciervo
By Pat DeCarlo

2 cups flour
2 eggs
1-1/2 tbsp shortenng
1 tsp cold water

1. Sift flour in a mound or pastry board, make a well in the center, and add eggs, shortening and water.
2. With fingers of one hand, mix into a ball, and add more water if too dry.
3. Divide the dough in half, pat into a ball, then roll out thin on a lightly floured board.
4. Place in a shallow 1-1/2" straight-sided 10" cake pan or deep pie plate.
5. Roll out dough for the top, and set aside.

1/2 lb pepperoni, cubed
1/2 lb ham, cubed
1 lb ricotta cheese
1/2 lb mozzarella cheese
3 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup Romano cheese
Black pepper to taste

6. Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl.
7. Pour the mixture into the prepared pie crust.
8. Place the reserved dough on top, crimp the edges, and cut off excess.
9. Cut four air holes in the top.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 egg yolk, beaten

10. To make the crust shiny, mix the oil and egg, and brush the top of the pie.
11. Bake at 375°F for one hour.

Pizza Rustica
by Yole DeSantis, Campania Region

1-1/2 cups flour
1/8 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick butter or lard
3 egg yolks, beaten
3 to 5 tbsp ice water

1-1/4 lbs ricotta cheese
4 whole eggs
6 oz mozzarella cheese
1/4 lb prosciutto, chopped
1-1/2 tbsp Romano cheese
1/2 tsp coarse pepper

1. Mix flour, sugar, salt, and cut in lard until you get coarse crumbs.
2. With a fork, stir in egg yolks and 3 tbsp water.
3. Form a ball and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
4. Drain the ricotta.
5. Beat the whole eggs, then beat in the ricotta and stir in the remaining ingredients.
6. Cut off 1/3 of the dough ball and reserve for the topping.
7. Roll out the remaining 2/3 of dough into a 12" circle, and put in a pie plate.
8. Spoon in the ricotta filling.
9. Roll out the reserved dough into a 10" circle, place over the pie, and pinch together.
10. Bake at 350°F for 1 hour, until top is lightly browned.

This is a treasured family recipe from the region of Campania. The custom of combining sweet and savory was carried through the Renaissance and it has survived to this day.

La Grande Tradizione Della Cucina Italiana
Compiled by the Culinary Arts Committee of the Columbus '92 Commission