You think you know cheesecake, but have you noticed the cheesecake that’s been eyeing you from across the room? She’s a bit unusual, and she demands your attention. This cheesecake is a complete 180 from the sweet, cream cheese-centric dessert of your childhood. It’s called a pizza rustica, and it’s a cheesecake that you can eat as a meal. It’s savory, studded with salty cubes of meat and cheese, and every bit as decadent as a cheesecake should be.
What is pizza rustica?
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Pizza rustica is an impressive Italian dish that goes by many names (including pizza di pasqua, Easter pie, or pizza-gain), but it isn’t the name that makes the cheesecake, it’s the contents. Primarily consisting of ricotta cheese, eggs, meats and cheeses, the decadence doesn’t stop there. Baking the filling alone would be irresistible, but how about encasing the entire thing in buttery pie crust? It’s salty, gooey, rich, umami-forward, and a perfect main course. You deserve to have it for dinner.
Dessert cheesecake has its time and place, but pizza rustica is much less finicky. The filling doesn’t require any intricate method of mixing, there’s no water bath or turning the oven temperature up and down, you just have to bake it and come back later when you’re hungry. Some recipes have you layer the meat, alternating it with the cheesy filling, and it has a pleasing look, but I just keep it simple and evenly distribute the chunks of meat throughout the batter. It’s more fun to stumble upon a quarter-inch nugget of salami, in my opinion.
Key tools to achieve your pizza-gains:
How do you make pizza rustica?
Line a cake pan with any pie crust recipe you enjoy. Roll out a second portion of pie crust into a circle about an inch wider in diameter than the top of the cake pan. Place both in the fridge as you mix the filling. Add the ricotta cheese to a large bowl and mix in one egg at a time. Add salt, chopped herbs, the meat and cheese, and mix well.
Take the crusts out of the fridge. Egg wash the top edge of the pie crust in the cake pan (the top will adhere to this). Pour the filling into the crust-lined cake pan and level it out, trying not to touch the egg washed top rim. Place the circle of crust on top of the filling and sit the edges down into the lip of the pan so both pieces of crust make good contact with each other. Trim any shaggy crust edges. The egg wash will secure the seam, but if you like a patterned edge, you can crimp it decoratively with your fingers or a fork. Egg wash the top and cut a vent into the top crust. Bake at 350°F for one hour, or until evenly browned and slightly puffed in the center.
Although this cheesecake looks impressive served on a dish with its tall, straight sides, there are no rules regarding what type of pan you can use. You can build this pie in a cast iron skillet and serve it straight from the pan, or keep things low-maintenance and pour the filling into a pre-made, store-bought, frozen pie shell. You could even leave it open, or top it with strips of another frozen pie shell.
If you’re going to use a straight-sided cake pan, I recommend using a press-in pie crust recipe. The straight sides break easily, and a press-in crust is ideal for patching up holes with few negative consequences. If you make this savory cheesecake for dinner, and a sweet one for dessert, you’re a national hero, and I applaud you.
- Double crust recipe of pie dough
- 15 ounces ricotta cheese
- 3 eggs
- 8 ounces Salami, chopped into ¼-inch chunks
- 4 ounces fontina, chopped into ¼-inch chunks
- ½ cup shredded mozzarella
- 2-4 scallion greens, sliced
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- Egg wash
- ¼ cup shredded parmesan (optional garnish)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Divide the double recipe of pie crust into two portions, one third and two thirds. Press the larger portion of pie crust into the cake pan so it evenly lines the bottom and walls of the pan. Roll out the smaller portion into a circle about an inch wider in diameter than the cake pan. Put both in the fridge to stay cool while you make the filling.
Put ricotta cheese in a large bowl, and mix in the eggs one at a time. Mix in all of the remaining ingredients, except for the optional parmesan. Take the chilled pie crusts out of the fridge. Egg wash the top inner rim of the pie crust in the cake pan. Pour the filling into the cake pan, and level it out. Place the circle of crust on top of the filling, tucking it into the edge to seal both crusts together via the egg wash rim. Trim away excess crust on the top. Egg wash the entire top and cut a vent into the center.
Bake the pizza rustica for 60 minutes at 350°F. If using parmesan, sprinkle it over the top crust during the last five minutes of baking. Allow to cool in the pan for about 20 minutes. Run a small paring knife around the edge to make sure it releases. Flip the pizza rustica out onto a wire rack. Flip again, so it’s right-side up, onto a serving dish. Serve warm.