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Savory Italian Easter Pie

Makes two 9-inch pies, plus one small

The first time I tasted Italian Easter Pie I knew I had to get the recipe. It took over twenty-five years. This recipe comes from Ann, a friend of my mother. It is an old family recipe that Ann adapted to present day standards. For example, the original recipe called for air-drying the sausage for 2 days before cooking. Ann tried that the first time she made the pie and, as you might expect, the sausage spoiled, so she omitted it from the recipe. If you are like me, you will think the amount of eggs listed is a typo, but it does take 18 eggs, not counting the one used to brush the crust. This recipe was formulated to serve a large gathering of family and friends at an Easter celebration dinner. However, leftovers reheat very well, and you can freeze one pie for a future quick and easy dinner, so do not hesitate to make the entire recipe. You need to start the filling one day ahead to give it time to set. See the notes below for some helpful tips.

Ingredients

Fry the sausage in a large pan until cooked through. Drain on paper towels. Chill for about 30 minutes to make cutting easier, then slice thinly.

Meanwhile, place ricotta cheese in a large strainer or colander lined with cheesecloth or paper towels and let set for about 30 minutes or until most of the liquid has drained off. Place the ricotta in a large mixing bowl with the mozzarella and combine well. Add the ham and sausage and mix well. To incorporate the 12 eggs, lightly beat 6 at a time before adding to the mixture and mix well after each addition. Add cinnamon, salt and pepper. Cover tightly and place in the refrigerator overnight to allow flavors to combine.

The next day, prepare the pie shells by placing a bottom crust in two 9-inch pie pans and one 6-inch pan. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Add the remaining 6 eggs, lightly beaten, to the cheese mixture and mix well. Place in the pie shells. Roll the remaining dough and place on top of each pie. (see notes below) Crimp edges. Cut several slits in the top crusts for ventilation. Brush each with the lightly beaten egg. Bake for about 1 hour or until crust is golden and filling is set. Remove from oven and let cool at least 30 minutes. This pie is best served warm or room temperature.

Notes: You can use part-skim ricotta, but not nonfat. The sausage can be sweet, hot or a mixture as desired. Ann does dry the overnight by placing it, uncovered, on a rack in the refrigerator, but it is not necessary. The pie dough can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated until needed. Most homemade pie dough recipes yield more dough than is needed per pie, so you should have plenty for the recipe. However, if you do not have enough pie dough for the small pie, omit the bottom and use a top crust only. You can also use a small square baking dish if you do not have a 6-inch pie pan. I believe this recipe deserves a good homemade crust, but you can certainly use store-bought pie dough. If you do, purchase one extra for the small pie. Leftover pie can be covered with foil and reheated in the oven just long enough to remove the chill.