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I find food ideas and recipes in the oddest places.
A couple of weeks ago, I learned about a dish called pizzagaina from, of all people, my wonderful neurosurgeon. During a recent visit, he asked me if I knew what a “pizzagain” was. I asked him to say it again, then spell it. I had never heard of it, at which time Dr. Russo’s technician said, “See, I’m not the only one who never heard of it.” By the time procedure was over (I’ll spare you the details other than to say it all went well), we were still talking about pizzagain. Dr. Russo was thrilled that he could come up with something I didn’t know about.
Once I got home, I got on my computer and found pizzagaina, a rather complex savory pie of cheese and meats Italian families serve at Easter and other holidays. It could be difficult, but if you use a prepared crust, it is pretty simple. I do think it should be served with a very good marinara, so I made both. The recipe makes two, two-crust pies and, except for the chopping and grating, it is pretty simple. As always, ingredients matter; use good full-fat cheese and excellent meats My marinara is even simpler, and I made enough for more than the 16 servings; freeze the rest. I tasted the dish hot, heated, and refrigerated; it is best at room temperature. The marinara should be warm.
Lee White of Old Lyme has been a food editor and restaurant reviewer for more than 25 years. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adapted from a recipe on allrecipes.com
Yield: makes two pies
4 unbaked 9-inch pie crust, divided
(I use Oronoque frozen deep-dish 9-inch pie crusts
2 16-ounce containers whole-milk ricotta cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
¼ cup pepperoni,
½ pound sweet capicola
½ pound hot capicola
1 egg white, slightly beaten
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and place a half-sheet pan into the oven. Press one pie crust each into the bottom of two 9-inch pie pans. (If you use Oronoque Orchards crusts, you can use the aluminum plate it comes with.)
Mix ricotta and mozzarella cheeses and eggs together in a large bowl. Roughly chop the meats and fold them into the cheese-egg mixture. Pour half into each bottom pie. Place each of the other crusts on each top and make a seal so it stays together. Place both pies on the preheated sheet pan and cook until crusts are golden brown, from 45 to 60 minutes. Cool before serving. If not serving immediately, covered with aluminum foil, and refrigerate.
About ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium to large sweet onion, chopped
5 to 6 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes and juices, mashed or
crushed by hand
Salt and pepper, to taste
Minced fresh basil
Warm the olive oil into a large skillet. Place onions and garlic into the oil and cook, slowly, over low heat, until fragrant. Add the mashed tomatoes. Taste seasoning, and cook until hot, about 20 minutes. Add chopped basil. (I purée the mixture in my big Ninja, because many people do not like big chunks of the onion-garlic-tomatoes sauce.) Refrigerate when cool or freeze until ready to use again.
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