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Ask Chef Walter: Rice Easter Pie – Chef Walter Potenza

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Friends: 

Picture this: 

It’s Easter, and the air is filled with anticipation and the promise of something extraordinary. One cannot overlook the significance of Ricotta and Rice Easter pie in the Italian American kitchen.

Back in the day, Lent meant abstaining from meat, a solemn observance leading up to the joyous celebration of Easter. It was a time of reflection and sacrifice, honoring a tradition that dates back generations. The reasons behind this prohibition are as varied as they are intriguing. Some say it was to support fishermen, while others believe it symbolized abstinence from blood, a nod to Jesus on the cross and Jewish tradition.

But Easter, ah, Easter was a feast for the senses. 

It was a time of renewal, marked by vibrant flowers and new beginnings. The sight of fresh tulips and daffodils clashed in a riot of color. At the same time, new clothes and hats adorned every family member. And let’s not forget the excitement of Easter baskets, brimming with chocolate eggs and hidden treasures.

Yet, amidst all this splendor, the Easter pies truly stole the show. In my family, we crafted four distinct varieties, all centered around the creamy goodness of ricotta cheese. From sweet to savory, each pie told a story of tradition and taste. Picture the simple delight of ricotta cheese tinged with hints of orange and lemon or the savory richness of spinach and ham mingling with perfectly boiled eggs.

But my journey with Easter pies didn’t end at home. At sixteen, I embarked on an adventure to Italy with a passion for tradition and a hunger for discovery. It was there, in the heart of Sorrento, that I stumbled upon a familiar sight: a ricotta pie, just like the ones we enjoyed back home. At that moment, I felt a connection to my roots, a reaffirmation of the power of tradition and taste.

Today, as I look around, I see a world that’s changing, where traditions are fading into memory. But amidst the chaos of modern life, there’s something timeless about gathering in the kitchen, sharing stories, and savoring past flavors.

So, let’s keep the tradition alive. Let’s embrace the art of making Easter pies, honoring the rituals of our ancestors, and delighting in the simple pleasure of a well-crafted dish. With every bite, we pay homage to our heritage, ensuring that the flavors of the past continue to touch and enrich our lives for generations to come.

Classic Rice Pie with pineapple, the popular version of the Italian immigrants

Follow me in the bake shop and tackle this recipe together!

Italian American rice pie with pineapple

Ingredients for 8

Nine x 13-inch straight-sided pie plate

Unsalted butter for greasing

Nine large eggs

1 ½ cups white sugar

2 pounds of ricotta cheese

One teaspoon of vanilla extract

2 cups heavy whipping cream

1 cup cooked white rice

1 (15-ounce) can of crushed pineapple, drained

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325F (165 degrees C). Butter a 9 x 13-inch pan and set aside.

Beat eggs in a vast bowl. Add sugar, mixing well. Stir in the ricotta cheese and vanilla until smooth and creamy. Add heavy cream and stir. Fold in cooked rice and crushed pineapple; pour into prepared pie pan.

Bake in the preheated oven until the top of the pie is golden with brown touches scattered and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean for at least 1 hour. Refrigerate until thoroughly cooled. 

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