Carrying on family traditions is extremely important to Judy and me. They identify who we are as a family and they are special and unique because they are ours! Passing down these shared experiences shows great love and brings in the all the stories from holidays past and this unites a family and builds a strong bond. We can see this already in our older children as they follow in our footsteps.
Our Easter traditions are just as special. Recipes from 100 years ago are still made today and we remember each relative that made them and miss them terribly. But, we must get busy… finally getting around to the most important question of the day, “Whose turn is it to have Easter this year?”
“What are we going to make? Who is going to make Nana’s pies? And color the eggs? Should we still fill the the plastic ones, or are the kids too old now? Will we make the grilled lamb or try a fresh ham this year? Or both? We realize we should stop obsessing and just relax, and get started with a list.
We finally decide we will have garlickly grilled lamb (to die for!) and this year we will try a fresh ham, which has a very different flavor than the traditional ham. Fresh herbs will flavor the roasted veggies and the aromatics in the kitchen will be amazing! Mashed potatoes whipped with fresh cream, butter and chives are still the all-time favorite. We always share the duties of making the traditional Italian Easter pies for dessert. Jackie will make a wonderful lemony rice pie, Judy will make the sweet citrus flavored wheat pie and Joy will make the show stopper, Nana’s 100-year-old recipe for Italian ricotta pie!
Joy is the only one in the family who can make it just like Nana (she is the only one who thinks this). A thick, creamy ricotta filling is blended with vanilla sugar, homemade vanilla extract and a hint of fresh lemon zest. Nana used a special cookie crust for this pie, not a regular pie dough. The cookie-like dough is delicately sweet and very crunchy when baked. The kids love making little coil-shaped cookies with the left-over dough. They are crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside with a little hint of vanilla! Yum! Enjoy this traditional Italian Easter pie: we know it will become a part of your Easter table too! Enjoy!
Nana’s Italian Ricotta Pie
This recipe from our Nana is truly treasured and we feel her even closer to us as we prepare her favorite Easter pie.
Nana’s cookie crust (recipe below)***
1-1/2 pounds of ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup vanilla sugar**
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (decorating)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the ricotta and flour in a small bowl. In a medium-size bowl beat the eggs well.
Add the sugar and vanilla gradually and continue beating until smooth. Now add the ricotta mixture and beat well again. Pour into prepared pie crust.
Sprinkle the 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon over the top of pie and swirl with a sharp knife to make a design. Bake for approximately 45 minutes. Enjoy!
Nana’s Cookie Crust
1 stick butter, softened
1 cup vanilla sugar**
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup milk
3 tsp. baking powder
4 cups flour
Cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix baking powder and flour together and add to creamed mixture along with the milk. Mix and chill 1 hour.
Cut in half or use as much as you need for the pie crust and save the rest for cookies.
Pie dough note: Rolling between 2 sheets of wax paper is neat and quick; no need to flour anything! Peel off one side and place face down in 9-inch pie plate, then peel off second sheet of waxed paper; fill with ricotta filling.
**Vanilla Sugar — 2 cups granulated sugar and 1-2 vanilla beans, split. Using an airtight container, push vanilla bean gently into the sugar. Letting the bean perfume the sugar for several days before using is best.
*** or use your favorite pie crust or store-bought