Thursday, January 19, 2012

How is Pizzagaina Cooked?

Pizzagaina is an Italian tradition, served customarily during the Easter holidays. Also known as pizza rustica and Italian Easter pie, pizzagaina is a quiche that contains a variety of Italian cheese and meat favorites. The number of recipes for pizzagaina is vast, with variations dependent on which region of Italy inspired them. Despite subtle differences in ingredients and flavorings, the basic method for preparing pizzagaina begins with the preparation of a tasty pizza dough crust.

Crust Types

For pizzagaina crust, you can either incorporate premade pizza dough into the recipe or make one from scratch using healthful ingredients. Basic pizzagaina dough begins with a flour of your choice, baking powder, salt and sugar. Butter and shortening, along with eggs and milk, bind the dried ingredients when kneaded by hand. A 1-hour refrigeration, followed by separation of the dough into two portions, is the usual procedure before rolling out the dough to a thickness of 1/8 inch. One-half of the dough is then pressed into the bottom of a baking pan, with the second set aside for later.

Cheese and Meat

While ricotta is a constant in many recipes, it is not unusual to see provolone and Parmesan added to enhance flavor. How much additional cheese you add, and which type, depends on your dietary preferences. Meats added to pizzagaina vary as much as cheese. Prosciutto and ham are among the most common meats added to pizzagaina, with salami, pepperoni, capicola and mortadella often making the recipe list. Much like cheese, the amount and type of meat added to pizzagaina is variable.

Nutty Filling

Some pizzagaina recipes forgo meat in favor of nuts. While the ricotta is often still part of the filling mix, a lighter variation replaces the meat with almonds, pine nuts or other savory nuts of your choice. Whipping ricotta cheese, sugar and eggs in a large bowl produces a hearty filling that you can flavor with tangy citrus zests, cinnamon and semisweet bits of chocolate before adding the nuts. The amount of nuts and other flavorings added to the cheese filling is a matter of taste and personal preference.

Wrapping It Up

Once your filling is complete, it’s time to add it to the crust that’s waiting in the baking pan. Simply scoop the filling into the crust and cover with the second sheet of rolled dough that you set aside. Crimp the top crust around the edges of the quiche using your fingers or a fork. For beginners, crimping tools are available to make the job easier. A few slats cut into the top of the pizzagaina allow steam to escape and add an attractive finishing touch to the crust. Depending on the filling, a 1- or 2-hour cooking time is necessary before the pizzagaina is ready for the family table.

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