Pizzagaina vs Ham Pie.. it’s all good

Its spring and that means its time for me to make the Pizzagaina or “Meat Pie”.

Which in itself is no small task. It takes planning, shopping and lots of prep. I wrote about this in the past here.

So last night after work and while doing some recording, I started the baking the batches. I had already prepped the meat and cheese earlier in the week and did the dough the night before.

Now, this isn’t your standard hand pie. This is the Italian older cousin. It’s dense, rich with eggs and cheese and full of dried and cured meats. Think “cheesecake meets quiche” but without the jiggle.  You will hear this called by many names from including; Easter Ham Pie, Pizzagaina, Pizza Rustica but they all mean essentially the same thing.

I have several versions but as I’ve written before this is my favorite basic version recipe. You should feel free to swap out the meats for what you can find locally to you. I also started to try out doing them as mini loaves as they freeze and are great house gifts for pals


Bringing Easter in with old favorites and a new fav of Vietnamese Coffee Cake

I got big Easter reviews at home today from the patient!

This is the text that I got while in the office, after prepping for this afternoons dinner and making sure that Paul got his coffee and Easter Ham Pie.

“The House of Dino has done it again. Chef Frank and sous-chef de cuisine, Shadow, have brought an Italian tradition into the 21st century. Their Easter Ham Pie is moist, salty, and creamy. All your favorite breakfast foods… eggs, bacon, ham…rolled up into one beautiful pie. Served warm or cold, it simply melts in your mouth. The crispy flaky crust holds the magic together. Just like your Italian grandmother made…only better.  Well done, boys!

Later today we planned a very last minute meal with just a few pals doing a potluck. But since we had a ham a few weeks ago, I decided to go super simple with some baked ricotta & herb shells, meatballs, grilled sausages, and peppers.

Then as a surprise to Paul who has been out of the action of late. I test baked one of the recipes from the October 2017 edition of Milk Street magazine for Vietnamese Coffee Cake with Espresso Cream. 

Overall a nice easy day with enough leftover for Monday and some treats the rest of the week.





Its time for Easter Ham Pie aka Pizza Gaina

This years first batch of Italian “ham” pie aka “Pizza Gaina”is cooling. It’s a family favorite dish I have only been making for a few years, starting when my Mom stopped mailing me hers each year!

But with way to much happening here at home, it was to much to do the big batch for now. I am thinking this will work for now and get us through the holidays and then I can make a few more later this week.

See last years post on the recipe here (

The Italian Easter Ham Pie aka Pizzagaina has now risen

One of the things I have been trying to do is run through some of my Mom’s old recipes in her club’s cookbooks that I haven’t ever made before. This year on request from the house; I was asked to attempt the Ham Pie in case my mom’s didn’t come. The traditional Easter ham pie is something of a must have in our house growing up and was left to me to chop for many years. It goes by several names aka “Pizza gaina” (or pizza ghan, puzza rustica, pizza china) and seems that the variations on the name is as abundant as the variations on the dough type; from crisp, flaky, savory pie to doughy pizza style. and yes I am sharing: for the full recipe see here

The Shopping

The shopping for this dish always proves to be expensive, but well worth it. Luckily many of the same meats and cheeses can be purchased at some of your better grocery stores if you don’t have a traditional Italian market. But plan ahead  – and don’t skimp on the eggs. Its often cheaper to buy the flat of eggs than a dozen or 18 count.

I opted to do most of my shopping at a small italian place in the Mission district of San Francisco, as it is closer to me than trekking to North Beach.  Lucca Ravioli Co has been around for almost century – and still holds a lot of that old world charm – just with a lot more younger faces. Lucca’s is a classic. Small and cramped with inventory that some people may never have seen in its “non ready to eat” form – it is  home to a wide assortment of imports and local artisan version of italian classics. (Hint: the Panettone just came in!)

Lucca Ravioli Co.  

1100 Valencia St. (Corner 22nd St.) call (415) 647-5581

Step 3 – And now the make; 

Once the dough is chilled – it is really mostly about putting it all together in order and baking. I thing of it as making a “quiche on steroids”.

  • Cut Meats & Cheese  ✅
  • Prepare your dry ingredients  ✅
  • Make dough and chill dough  ✅
  • Crack and whisk the eggs  ✅
  • Add meat & cheese to layed out dough ✅
  • Cover with egg mixture ✅
  • Do some fancy stuff on top ✅
  • A little sprinkle of grated cheese ✅
  • Baked till solid and toothpick comes out clean ✅
  • Let sit in the pans till cool, then remove and finish cooling on a rack

Hint: Give it a little foil “condom” in case the springform pan leaks

And the bake

Depending on the stove you use; they will back for anywhere for 52 – 90 min. Some recipes use a start high, reduce heat to 325 degree method, while others use a standard 350 degrees temp.

When they are fully cooled – you can wrap them in plastic wrap and  then in foil to freeze (they do that great), eat or leave in refrigerator and serve cold or room temp the next day. Mostly personal choice.

As luck would have it – my larger one was underbred and had a wet center – but you can slice them and toss them on a cookie sheet to back further – they won’t be as impressive but will taste the same.

Another fun fact- as a test I also made one in a loaf pan and it came out great. So don’t be afraid to play with the shapes of the pans.

Post Easter update: 

The full recipe for that amount meat will probably make 8 to 9 pies using a standard 8″ or 9″ cake pan. This will vary based on amount of eggs and the thickness of crust. 

Below are a few other recipes I found 

Clara Corrado’s Ham Pie (this is the one closet to my Mom’s version of the dough )

Pizza Gain Aka Pizzagaina, Pizza Rustica, Italian Easter Ham Pie

Easter Pie – A Family Feast

Another Easter Classic: Pizza Gaina

For the full recipe see here

Easter Bread; the Saga of the Risen

Yes.. Its a bundle of something …Because not only does my Mom’s Easter Bread dough recipe use “active live yeast” instead of dried (which was harder to find than you would think) ,  it also indicates that prior to the first rise overnight; you need to make the “sign of the cross” over it and then swaddle it in a blanket too…

Did I mention how much I hate the chemistry of baking. It’s true. I will cook over bake anytime. But I wanted to see how close I could make mine to hers.

And 8 hours later (or was it 9 months because it sur looks full term) a very “risen” dough is ready to handled for a second short raise before shaping and baking.

Unwrapping the baby after 8 hours.

And now for a short 3 hour rise

All done… Oven on

 Now it’s time to shape & bake

A little egg wash

Maybe a little color..

Going classic


  and 30 minutes later

But my oven runs hot so the next batch goes in at 325 degrees

Otherwise the taste and texture is good. I can taste the citrus and sugar,  it’s dense with out being heavy. Will be perfect for toasting or as use in a bread pudding if I get tired of eating as is. 

Full recipe to follow shortly.