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Buongiorno amici:

In this column, we’ll talk about Easter Rice pie. At Easter time, every Italian family makes rice pies or Torta di riso in Italian. One of those pleasant memories that immigrants brought with them in the crossing path to the New World, and one that ritually reappears on every table. It is not complicated to make, but you will need time and patience. My suggestion is to make more than one batch and give it away as a token of happiness and renewal. Let’s find out more about it and make it together. Rice torta is a typical dessert of Emilian cuisine: a simple and straightforward cake made with rice and milk. The soft and creamy filling enhanced with pure vanilla melts on every bite with an incomparable and luscious fragrance. It is a dessert with very ancient origins and prepared in Bologna, already around 1400, on the occasion of Corpus Domini, at the end of May. During the event, balconies and windows were richly decorated with colored drapes and festive ribbons, while relatives and friends sampled portions of the diamond-shaped rice pie. And like any traditional recipe, there are several versions. Some have candied fruit, pine nuts, almond liqueur, cit of chocolate, and whatever else excites your palate.

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{Rice pie image attribution via Tony’s Colonial Providence USA}

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Classic rice and ricotta torta for the Easter celebration and Christmas.

Makes 10-12 servings

Makes (one) 10.5-inch pie

Crust:

1 – 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, or Italian 00 flour

¼ cup of kosher sugar

½ teaspoon of kosher salt

½ teaspoon of baking powder

¾ stick of unsalted butter (chilled)

One extra-large egg or two small eggs (organic)

1-2 tablespoons ice water, or as much as needed

Filling:

1/2 cup uncooked Arborio rice

4 cups water or whole milk*

Seven large eggs (organic)

1 cup sugar

Two teaspoons of orange water or orange-flavored liqueur

Two teaspoons of pure vanilla extract

1 pound of fresh cow’s milk ricotta cheese (drained on a cheesecloth for 1 hour)

Procedure

For the crust, combine flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade; pulse several times to combine. Add the butter and pulse about ten times until the dough becomes pebbly in texture. Add the eggs and repeatedly pulse until the dough begins to stick together. Slowly add the ice water by the tablespoonful while using a few long pulses. Add more drops of ice water as necessary until the dough holds together well.

Invert the dough onto a floured work surface.

Form into a circle, flatten into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate while preparing the filling. (Dough can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 2 days before continuing.) If you don’t have a processor, combine the dry ingredients in a bowl, add chunks of chilled butter, and use a pastry blender or two forks, chop the butter until it resembles little pebbles.

At this point, add the eggs and ice water, and stir with a spoon until the dough begins to form. Using your hands and working the dough as little as you can transfer it to a lightly floured surface. Knead until the dough holds together. Form the dough into a ball, flatten it into a disc, wrap it in plastic, and chill while preparing the filling.

(Dough can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 2 days before continuing.)

To make the filling, place the rice and water in a medium heavy-bottom saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook the rice, uncovered, occasionally stirring for about 15-20 minutes, or until the water is absorbed and the rice is sticky. The rice should still be firm as it will finish cooking in the oven. Remove from heat and set aside. Add the eggs and sugar to a large bowl, and using a hand mixer, beat until well combined. Add orange water or liqueur and vanilla extract, and beat on low for about 10 seconds. Add the drained ricotta and beat on low for a few seconds until just combined. Add cooked rice and mix with a rubber spatula until well combined, making sure there are no rice clumps.

Place in the refrigerator.

Place a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F. Coat the 10.5-inch pie plate with cooking spray. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll into an 11- inch circle. Transfer the dough to the prepared pie plate, gently pressing it into the bottom and sides. No fluted crust is necessary since, like a tart, the crust is flush with the filling. At this point, set the crust in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes to get it chilled, which will make for a flakier crust. Remove the chilled crust from the freezer and pour the filling to about 1/4 of an inch below the top of the crust, as it will puff up slightly when baking.

Note: If you have some extra filling left over, you can pour it into a small baking dish or ramekins for a crustless version and follow the exact baking instructions.

Bake for 1 hour or until the filling puffs up, turns golden, and is “set,” meaning it should not be jiggly when you gently move the pie plate from side-to-side. Remove from the oven and let cool on a rack. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Note: Though 1/2 cup arborio rice to 4 cups water or milk usually works perfectly, depending on the brand of rice, some absorb more, some less. If you find the rice still has water left after cooking, you can drain it.

Note: I use a 10.5-inch pie plate, slightly larger than average. You can also make it in a 10-12- inch square or rectangular glass dish.

Note: Leftover rice pie can be stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.

 


 

Thanks for reading. Eat safe and wear a mask! Ciao Chef W

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Note: The views and opinions expressed in the Flavors and Knowledge newsletters are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect Flavors and Knowledge’s official policy or position. Our blogger’s or authors’ content is of their opinion and not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual, or anyone. Any general advice posted on our blog, website, or app is only for informational purposes and not intended to replace any medical or other advice.

There is a constant, recognizable thread in Walter Potenza's career to elevate the level of Italian culinary culture in the United States. Besides his unquestionable culinary talent and his winning business perspective, Chef Walter has been a relentless educator with passion and knowledge who contributes to defeating stereotypes. His life, career, and values are a model, an example to follow, by any Italian gastronomy chef working outside Italy. A native of Mosciano Sant' Angelo in Abruzzo, Italy, is known as one of the most passionate and accomplished practitioners of traditional and historical Italian cooking in the nation. His fields of expertise include Terracotta Cookery, Historical Cookery from the Roman Empire to the Unification of Italy, the Cuisines of the Sephardim Italian Jewish Heritage, and the Mediterranean 21 Health & Wellness, with major emphasis on Diabetes, Celiac and the Cuisines of the 21 countries present in the MED basin.

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