Storified by Arya McLean· Sun, Mar 31 2013 18:09:30
This pie is an Italian-Catholic recipe and is traditionally made the day before Easter and served at noon to signify the end of Lent and to break the fast. Nothing says breaking a fast like pie crust and the biggest collection of Italian meats and cheese.
Speaking of cheese, Italian Easter Pie contains one special ingredient: basket cheese. It’s a specialty item that most stores only carry around the Easter holiday. The cheese is made and then formed inside of a plastic basket, which is how it gets its name. It’s a soft cheese and very mild in flavor, tasting like a cross between ricotta and mozzarella. I bought mine at a local Italian grocery, however the next day, I saw an entire display of basket cheese in the cheese counter section of my local grocery store. If your supermarket is on the large size, you will probably be able to find it there, otherwise you can substitute any other soft, mild cheese of your liking.
1) Mix and knead together all of the dough ingredients — by hand, in a mixer, or in a bread machine — until you’ve made a soft, smooth dough.
2) Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and allow it to rise for 1 to 2 hours, until it?s quite puffy, nearly doubled in bulk. While the dough is rising, make the filling.
3) Hard-boil and peel 6 of the eggs.
4) Place the hard-boiled eggs, ham (cut in chunks), and fresh parsley (1/2 cup or so) in the work bowl of a food processor. Process until chopped and combined. Don’t over-process; the ham and eggs should still be a bit chunky. You can also simply dice the eggs and ham, and chop the parsley, if you don’t have a food processor.
5) Combine the ham, boiled eggs, and parsley with the raw eggs, ricotta, and Parmesan. Season to taste with salt and about 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper. If the ham is salty, you may not need any salt at all.
6) Deflate the dough, and divide it into four pieces.
7) Roll two of the dough pieces into rounds about 13” in diameter, and place them on lightly greased or parchment-lined 12” pizza pans. Or roll into ovals about 10” x 14”, and place on two lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheets. Note: If you’re using parchment, it’s easiest to roll right on the parchment, then lift the crusts, parchment and all, onto the pans.
8) Divide the filling evenly between the two crusts, covering them to within 1” of their edges. You’ll use a generous 3 cups (about 27 ounces) for each crust.
9) Roll out the other two pieces of dough, and place them atop the filled crusts, gently stretching them, if necessary, to cover the filling. Seal the crust edges by rolling the bottom crust up over the top, and pinching together.
10) Using a sharp knife or pair of scissors, cut a 1” hole in the very center of each top crust; this will allow steam to escape.
11) Make the topping by whisking together the egg and sugar until the sugar has dissolved. Paint each crust with some of the topping; this will yield a golden brown, shiny crust with mildly sweet flavor, a perfect foil for the salty ham.
12) Allow the pies to rest while you preheat your oven to 350°F, about 15 minutes. They don’t need to be covered.
13) Bake the pies for about 25 minutes, until they’re a deep, golden brown. Remove them from the oven, and carefully slide them off the pan/parchment and onto on a rack to cool.
14) Serve warm or at room temperature. Refrigerate any leftovers.