Pizza Gran Gets a Gluten-Free Makeover
Between our April 2011 Celiac Central Newsletter and posts on www.GlutenFreeHotProducts.com, we’re as hopped up on Spring as the Easter Bunny himself. So when gluten-free blogger Paul Biscione emailed me about a special holiday treat he’d been working on, I couldn’t resist. Paul has contributed several gluten-free recipes to NFCA, and this time, he included a story along with it. Read about the inspiration behind this dessert, then learn how to make it by visiting NFCA’s Gluten-Free Recipe of the Week.
If you aren’t Italian or haven’t lived in Brooklyn, you may not know what Pastiera is. It is an Italian dessert seen around Easter time. It has many names, such as Pastiera, Pizza Gran (as we call it in our family), Grain Pie and Italian Easter Pie. However, calling it something as vague as “Italian Easter Pie” is a mistake, since there are two traditional pies made around Easter: Pizza Gran and Pizza Rustica. Pizza Rustica is a savory meat and cheese pie, while Pizza Gran is a sweet dessert pie.
All names and differences aside, what is Pizza Gran? Simply put, it is a sweet ricotta-based pie with citron and grain…and still my personal favorite dessert of all time! This pie brings back childhood memories when I so much as smell it being baked, and yes, my Mom still makes it to this day.
My Mother used to bake about five of these pies at a time; we would keep one and give away the rest to family and friends. The only problem with her giving away the other four was that the pie was so popular in our house – one was just never enough. Inevitably, she would start making individual mini pies just to appease us. I still remember her yelling at me and Dad for digging into our mini pies only an hour or so after they came out of the oven. “It’s still too warm and has to set!” she said. But we didn’t care, and to this day I still love to eat these sinfully delicious pies while they’re warm.
Family tradition continues, and only a few years ago I was so happy to introduce my own daughter to this favorite childhood memory of mine. Just as I expected, she went to town on it. Between the two of us, the pie was gone almost as fast as Easter Sunday itself, and a new happy family memory was made.
Since then, we found out that Gia is gluten intolerant. This is a big issue because one of the main ingredients in this pie is grain from wheat, and the pie crust is made with gluten-containing flour. Would this be the end to Pizza Gran? Nope. Gia may not be able to have the pie crust or the grain in the filling, but what is stopping me from making a gluten-free version?
To be honest, it’s not the crust or the grain, but the decadent sweet ricotta filling that makes this pie so delicious and flavorful, in my opinion. If I can make this like a custard and simplify the recipe, it should be just as delicious, right? Well, it is!
What’s great about removing the grain and pie crust is that it saves the time and mess you generally get when baking. It would take my Mom days to make this. She would have to go to the Italian specialty store for the grain, soak the grain overnight and make loads of pie crust the day of the actual baking. She would line our entire kitchen table with brown paper and form a baking assembly line.
Without the grain or crust, I can whip up a batch of these in no time flat. I have also opted to remove the milk from this recipe to make these even easier to make. I’ve already made this recipe for numerous gatherings at my house, and each time gotten rave reviews from even the toughest critics.
Since my new recipe has no grain in it, nor is it a pie, “Pizza Gran” just didn’t seem to fit. So, I’ve dubbed my creation “Sweet Ricotta Ramekins” (that’s “Tazza Con Dolce Ricotta” in Italian).
The recipe is simple, takes very little time and still holds true to the flavors of this traditional Italian holiday favorite. They also look so dressed up in their little individual ramekins, guests will think you spent hours making them. And the very best part of all is that my daughter can once again enjoy this holiday favorite with me. Childhood memories restored; new ones being made.
Now if I can only stop her from eating them less than an hour after they come out of the oven. Heck, I think she’s worse than I was.