Pizza Rustica, also known as Italian Easter Pie or pizzagaina, is a double-crusted savory meat and cheese pie traditionally served on Easter by Italians and people of Italian descent. This is my family’s recipe, bursting with ricotta cheese, pepperoni, salami, mozzarella, and hard-boiled eggs. A premade pizza dough crust helps this come together in no time! Be sure to make this the night before.
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This Italian Easter pie is tried and true by generations of my family. Each year, my sisters, mother, aunt, cousins, and I all bake our pies and share photos with each other from our various cities and states across the US. It’s just that good.
I even hosted an annual Easter party beginning in college just so I could share this delicious pizza rustica with all my friends — and they still speak wistfully about Easter pie a decade later!
While this recipe has Italian-Catholic origins, you don’t need to be either to enjoy a slice or three. For those unfamiliar with pizza rustica, I like to describe it as basically a giant calzone in pie form. (In fact, I even have a recipe for a smaller Italian Easter Pie Calzone in case you don’t want to commit to an entire deep dish springform pan pie!)
Why do Italians eat Pizzagaina on Easter?
This indulgent, hearty Italian Easter pie originates from the Catholic practice of fasting and abstinence from meat and other foods during Lent.
Back in the day, meatless Fridays were every Friday of the year, so during Lent (every day, not just Fridays) people gave up All The Things — Pope St. Gregory wrote in the 6th century, “We abstain from flesh, meat, and from all things that come from flesh, as milk, cheese and eggs.” They gave up fat and butter. Lenten bread was commonly unleavened. And they only had one meal a day. Sheesh!
Curing meats into things like salami, pepperoni, mortadella, or prosciutto/ham, and boiling the eggs would help preserve them until Easter.
By the time Easter came around six weeks later, a nice savory ricotta pie, bursting with — you guessed it — cured meats, cheese, and hard boiled eggs, was JUST the sort of thing that you’d want to break your Lenten fast with. And of course, it was encompassed in a yeasty double crust decorated with imagery symbolizing springtime and the resurrection of Jesus.
The pie is traditionally made on Good Friday and eaten after Mass on Easter Sunday. I usually make it on Holy Saturday so I can sneak tastes of the salami while I cook!
Ingredients you need for Italian Easter Pie
Remember, pizza rustica is supposed to be the most indulgent meal of the liturgical year, so be sure to use good, full-fat ingredients! Here’s what you’ll need:
How to make traditional Pizza Rustica
This Italian Easter meat and ricotta pie is super simple to make!
To make pizzagaina, you just:
- Mix ricotta cheese with seasonings and raw egg
- Add in all the diced filling ingredients (meats, cheeses, hard-boiled eggs)
- Prepare a bottom crust from homemade or premade dough
- Fill the pie and add the top crust
- Decorate the top, brush with egg, and snip a couple holes for venting (so air bubbles don’t form under the top crust)
- Bake and chill overnight
To serve, release the whole pie from the springform pan and display on a platter or cake stand to cut.
Expert Tips & Tricks
- Look for premade pizza dough near your grocery store’s deli section; otherwise, use frozen bread dough or canned (in a cardboard tube) pizza dough. I’ve also used refrigerated crescent roll dough!
- If your pizza dough keeps shrinking back as you try to roll it out for your crust, let it rest for about 5 minutes and try again. This gives the gluten network some time to relax.
- Ask the deli to cut your salami and pepperoni half an inch thick. This will make dicing your meats a cinch! You’ll need 3-4 thick slices of each meat to equal half a pound. If your deli doesn’t have large sandwich pepperoni, you can get an uncut stick of pepperoni and dice it from there (rather than little pizza-ready slices).
- If the pie is browning too quickly when you bake it, lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and cover the edges with aluminum foil halfway through so it doesn’t get too dark!
- If you’re making deviled eggs to go with your Easter brunch, set aside any hard boiled eggs that fall apart during peeling to be part of your Easter pie filling. Or go the lazy/easy route like me and get pre-peeled eggs. I won’t tell anyone!
- If you end up with extra pizza dough, spread with butter and cinnamon sugar, roll up, and cut into cinnamon rolls you bake next to your pie.
Decorating your Pizza Rustica
It’s traditional to use excess dough to make an Easter or springtime decoration on top of your pie before baking. This part is so much fun for kids and adults alike! You can be as creative as you’d like with your dough designs, but some classic and favorite options are:
- A simple cross
- Three crosses on a hill
- The empty tomb
- A flower
- A bunny rabbit
I find it easier to cut pizza dough with kitchen scissors into thin strips for decorating rather than trying to roll snakes, since dough snakes will shrink back a lot when you try to roll them longer.
Another decorative option is to add whole peeled hard-boiled eggs (colored or not) to the inside of the pie. Instead of adding all the filling to the pie at once, you can add half the filling, nestle some eggs in the filling in a ring pointing toward the center of the pie, and then top with the remaining filling. Then, when you cut the pie, you’ll end up with beautiful cross-sections of egg peeking out of the sides of your pie slices!
The only real equipment you need to make pizza rustica is a medium or large springform pan. This will give you the deep pie with LOTS of filling that is traditional for Italian Easter pie!
You can make this pie in:
- One large 10-inch springform pan (recommended)
- One medium 9-inch springform pan + one 8-inch cake pan (perfect for gifting)
- One medium 9-inch springform pan + half a dozen “Easter pie cupcakes” made of extra dough stuffed with some of the filling and baked in a muffin tin alongside the main pie (perfect for sneaking a taste the night before)
- Three 8-inch cake pans (only do this if you don’t own a springform pan — you really want the high filling-to-crust ratio)
The one in these photos was made in only one 9-inch springform pan, and it was a little too full and dripped a little during baking.
NOTE: If you use any option other than a single springform pan, you will probably need extra pizza dough.
FAQs about Italian Easter Pie
More Italian recipes you might enjoy
Pizza Rustica (Traditional Italian Easter Pie or Pizzagaina)
- 10-inch springform pan
- 2 lbs premade or homemade pizza dough or 3 refrigerated tubes of pizza or crescent dough
- 1/2 lb hard salami diced
- 1/2 lb genoa salami diced
- 1/2 lb pepperoni diced
- 1 lb whole milk mozzarella diced
- 3 lbs whole milk ricotta cheese
- 6 hard boiled eggs chopped
- 2 beaten eggs
- 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1-2 tsp black pepper
- 1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp water (for brushing the top of the pie)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Divide the pizza dough into approximately 2/3 and 1/3. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the larger portion into a large circle to form the bottom crust of your pie and the smaller portion into a second circle to be the top crust. Line a large springform pan with the larger dough circle and set aside the other dough circle.
- In a large bowl, mix the ricotta, beaten eggs, salt, and pepper until combined. Add hard salami, genoa salami, pepperoni, hard boiled eggs, and mozzarella, and mix until evenly distributed. Add filling to the pie and smooth out the top.
- Top with other half of pie dough. Trim dough with kitchen scissors so there is about an inch of overhang on top and bottom, and roll edges in to seal. Try to get out as much air from inside the crust as possible – if you notice an air bubble forming as you roll in the edges, open up the seam between the top and bottom crust and push out the bubble.
- With trimmed dough, decorate the top of the pies with spring-themed pictures. Brush the top with the egg+water mixture. The water makes it go on smoother.
- Cut several small holes (3 or 4) in the upper crust with kitchen scissors to allow steam to escape so bubbles don't form in your crust during baking.
- Bake for 1 hour — lower temperature to 325 degrees or cover edges with tin foil if browning too quickly.
- Let cool and refrigerate until filling is set, or overnight.
- Slice and serve hot, room temperature, or cold!