Sunday, March 9

Traditional Italian Easter Rice Pie

An actual conversation between Food Blogga and her mom last week:

"Hi, Mom. Can I have your recipe for rice pie?"

"You mean Nan's recipe? I've always made Nan's recipe."

"OK, then can I have Nan's recipe for rice pie?"

"What for, your ba - log?"

"Yeah, I want to do a post on Italian Easter pies."

"Ooh, isn't that nice, honey."


"So, do you still have the recipe?"

"Yeah, first you start with -- "

"What, you found the recipe already?"

"Aaaa-y I've been makin' rice pies for so many years, I know it by heart. First, you start with 2 dozen eggs, then you add --"

"Two dozen eggs? Ma, it's just Jeff and me, remember?"

"Yeah, but you want it to come nice and thick. Plus, you only have it once a year, so you might as well make a big one."

"How big?"

"Make it in like a deep 15 X 13 inch dish."

"Ma, I couldn't even fit a dish that big in my kitchen cupboard."

"Well, if you had told me sooner, I would have sent you one. I've got a couple extra in the basement."

This is the essence of an Italian mom -- she always wants you to eat, and she's always ready to give you something.

Growing up in my family, Easter was defined by my mother's Italian rice pies and my grandmother's famous Italian Ricotta Pie with Pineapple, which was so good, it practically caused a family feud back in the day.

Of all the Easter pies, my favorite has always been rice pie (torta di riso). Though there are regional variations for it, most sweet rice pies are made from eggs, rice (usually Arborio), ricotta cheese, and citrus (orange, lime, or, most popularly, lemon).

What makes Italian rice pie so irresistible? It's like having two pies in one. When it bakes, a bottom layer of dense, chewy rice forms that is topped with a separate layer of creamy, lemon-laced custard. (I even added Meyer lemon zest because there is no such thing a rice pie that is too lemony.)

Rice pie is traditionally served alongside ricotta pie for Easter Sunday dessert, but I'll let you in on a secret: the best time to eat it is Monday morning. Rice pie is served at room temperature, and Easter Sunday night, the leftovers get wrapped and refrigerated. Come Monday morning, that same rice pie is even better -- imagine rich, ricotta pie, creamy panna cotta, and old-fashioned, chilled lemon pudding all rolled into one amazing pie.

You don't have to be Italian or celebrate Easter to enjoy rice pie; it's a wonderful dessert anytime of the year. Since it's not overly sweet, it also makes a lovely brunch dish. Plus, for a pie, it's pretty low maintenance. All the ingredients get mixed together, and it only has a bottom crust, so there's no fussy lattice work to worry about.

There is one caveat: Never use Uncle Ben's rice.

My mom used it once instead of the starchier Arborio; the rice separated and became mushy, causing the custard to collapse. It happened about 20 years ago, and she still mentions it every year. (I think she has PTPS -- Post Traumatic Pie Syndrome.)

Nan would be happy to know that her rice pie recipe is being sent to the lovely Barbara of Winos and Foodies who is hosting LiveSTRONG Day 2008. To celebrate her own survival of cancer and to raise awareness of the Lance Armstrong Foundation, Barbara would like you to share a recipe that contains yellow food and send it to her by April 19th. Need some inspiration? Check out last year's round-up of 149 yellow colored dishes including my Swordfish with Pineapple Mango Salsa.

Italian Easter Rice Pie
Makes 10-12 servings.
Print recipe only here.

Makes (one) 10.5-inch pie

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
¾ stick unsalted butter (chilled)
1 extra large egg or 2 small eggs
1-2 tablespoons ice water, or as much as needed

1/2 cup uncooked Arborio rice
4 cups water or whole milk*

7 large eggs
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons lemon extract (or the zest and juice of 1 Meyer lemon)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 pound ricotta cheese (drained)

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 10 times until the dough becomes pebbly in texture. Add the eggs and pulse repeatedly 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, then combine the dry ingredients in a bowl; add chunks of chilled butter, and using 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 into a disc, wrap 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 medium heavy-bottom saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook the rice, uncovered, stirring occasionally 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 lemon extract 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 clumps of rice. 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 in 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 really 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, then you can pour it into a small baking dish or ramekins for a crustless version, and follow the same 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 is completely cooked after the 20 minutes and there is still some water left, you can simply 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.

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Proud Italian Cook said...

Wow, That looks absolutely delicious, I can almost taste it! and your Mom is precious!!

Kalyn Denny said...

Very funny. I can almost hear you talking to your mother. Never heard of this type of pie before, but it sounds delicious.

Mandy said...

so, what happen to the leftover? Can I have a slice? This sounds like the kind of pie I love. :)

Bron said...

aaawww yum! This sounds fantastic, just my kind of comfort food and a beautiful entry for "A Taste of Yellow" too!

Suganya said...

I won't even mind making the crust. Scoop 'em onto ramekins and bake 'em as single servings, quite big ones ;).

Johanna GGG said...

I love the conversation with your mum - - even 7 eggs seems a lot to me - 2 dozen is crazy!

I really hope that one thing blogging can do is keep some family recipes alive - this one looks fascinating, like a fancy cold version of rice pudding.

Alejandra Ramos said...

Oh this is perfection!! I'm going to make this. (Even though it's just me) lol...

Anonymous said...

that looks incredibly tasty, susan! i've never had a rice pie before....mmm mmm it's making me drool.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Excellent! I think that I will be making such a pie for Easter! In Switzerland, we have something very similar (



MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

That is really beautiful Susan! And a wonderful and grand conversation with your mother!

Michelle | Bleeding Espresso said...

Love that conversation with Mom and I love this pie! Funny I've been thinking of making a Calabrian Easter ricotta pie this rice in it, but still delicious.

Now I just need to find some *really* good ricotta or I won't even waste my time ;)

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Once again, you make me wish I had an Italian mother. I've never tasted rice pie, but this one looks irresistible.

Chris said...

Yum! Looks delish! Again - you make me laugh about Italian Moms. My mom literally sent me a moving truck of stuff when she moved - 47 years of marriage accumulated a whole bunch of stuff that wouldn't fit in her NYC apt. So...on to me! :)

Asha said...

This is a new dish to me and looks gorgeous. Happy Easter in advance, I will be off blogging from March 20th for a month or so!:)

Gretchen Noelle said...

This looks lovely and I certainly enjoyed a bit of insight into your family! Ha! What a great dish!

Anonymous said...

Your mother is great!
I have to try your rice pie. We usually make the traditional ones, sweet ricotta, and savory.

Anonymous said...

Ooh... this totally goes on my "gotta try that!" list. And WHAT a beautiful dish and photo!

Anonymous said...

Spectacular, Susan!

Finla said...

Hi hi I loved reading the conversation between you and mom.
I think Italian mom sounds like my MIL.
U woudn't believe when i say how many pots i have from her kitchen:-)

Karolina Beaudet said...

It's as if I heard my grandmother ;) She always makes you eat and no matter how much you eat she always wants to give you more ;)

The pie looks delicious!!!

Susan @ SGCC said...

Wow! That pie looks just like MY mom's! I love the sunny yellow dish too. Since I hate to make pie crust unless absolutely necessary, I make my Easter Pie a little differently. Even though you beat me to the punch, I'll be making some closer to Easter. I don't want to spoil my family TOO much! ;)

Namratha said...

Aww that's so sweet of your mom!! :) Love the pie and had no idea they made this for Easter.

RecipeGirl said...

Wow, I'm so excited to learn about something new! I've never heard of rice pie. Sounds like a terrific dish to include in an Italian Gourmet dinner club party. Thank you for sharing your pie (and your mom) with us!

Aparna Balasubramanian said...

I have never seen this pie before. Looks delicious. We make a semi-liquid dessert with rice in sweetened milk.
Your mum reminds me of mine and my MIL. Both of them also grew up cooking for lots of people and big families where almost everything revolved around food.

Lisa Johnson said...

Such beautiful pictures Susan! Oh those colors and that pie! It sort of reminds me of rice pudding, but taken to a higher level. Very nice. : )

aforkfulofspaghetti said...

Fantastico! Sounds and looks delish. But only 7 eggs in the end? How can you even look your mother in the eye?? ;)

Ivy said...

Have you ever heard saying "una fazza una razza" that's what they say in Greece for Greeks and Italians. That they are very much alike. I laughed with you mom because she reminded me of all Greek moms.
Your rice pie looks great and for such a noble cause.

Deborah said...

I have never tried a rice pie before, but I can imagine that's going to be changing soon, though!

Meeta K. Wolff said...

I had this in Italy a few times but you make it sound so delicious - now I have to try it out - you've got me sold with the leftovers talk. Gorgeous!

Nora B. said...

This recipe sounds delicious. Having a ba-log is great, huh? You have an excuse to document and share all these wonderful family recipes :-) Lucky me! I still haven't gotten round to making your grandma's ricotta pie, but it has been printed & just waiting for the right occasion. :-)

Dani Spies said...

I love that story:)
Growing up my parents made something similar; this recipes sounds amazing.

glamah16 said...

This looks great.Its great that you can up your mom and share recipes.

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

An early Easter treat! I love your take on traditional holiday dishes! This looks lovely and that sunny yellow lemon zest just makes me smile! (I'll stay away from the Uncle Ben's - I guess that goes for Minute Rice, too? :-D

Annie said...

My mother is orginally from Northern Italy and she has never made rice pie. Isn't that weird?

I have always wanted to make one for her (and me of course). This sounds like the recipe to try. Sounds like an authentic Rhode Island Italian rice pie to me. What could be better??

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

This is perfect for the event Susan.Such a worthy cause!! I grew up next to Italian neighbours who always wanted me to eat.."Let me pinch your cheek" and "Eat, are too thin" are still what I remember to this day:D

Peter M said...

LOL...Susan, at least you got measurements out of your mom. I have to interrogate my mom for any measurements beyond "roughly this, about that"!

The photo is stunning, my neighbor will be sending an easter care pkge to us.

Unknown said...

gosh this one is so interesting. gotta try soon, but...tat plate wont fit anywhere in my teeny weeny hong kong flat :)

Susan from Food Blogga said...

marie-I think she's precious too. :)

kalyn-It's really amazing. For me, it's not Easter without it.

mandy-Um, leftovers? Didn't happen. :)

bron-Thanks! It is the ultimate comfort food.

suganya-Half the time I don't even eat the crust. So making them in ramekins is fine with me.

johanna-It's funny, after my mom read this post, she told me how much it meant to her that I would be carrying on the tradition of Nan's Easter rice pies.

alejandra-Trust me, once you taste it, you'll end up eating a lot more than you thought you would (or should). ;)

amanda-Hope you have one soon!

rosa-My mom swears by Nick Malgieri!

tanna-Oh, thanks so much!

michelle-SO true, about the good ricotta--I buy mine at a local Italian deli--its extra thick and creamy, none of that wimpy, watery stuff. ;)

lydia-I love my Italian mom to pieces. :)

chris-Trust me, if I had the room, my parents would drive cross-country with a truck load of stuff too! Aren't Italian parents the sweetest? :)

asha-You will be missed!

gretchen noelle-I'm glad you liked it.

maryann-We made the sweet ricotta pie too.

ann-Ooh, thanks a bunch!


happy cook-I can believe it! :)

karolcia-That's exactly how my grandmother was! Exactly! :)

susan-I'll be looking forward to seeing yours too!

namratha-It wouldn't be Easter without it.

recipegirl-I'm so glad I introduced you to it. It would be fabulous for an Italian dinner club party!

aparna-Everything revolves around food in my family. Everything. :)

anali-Thanks for the sweet words. :)

aforkfulofspaghetti-It wasn't easy. ;)

ivy-I haven't heard that one, but Greeks and italians do share a lot of wonderful traits, don't they?

deborah-I hope so!

meeta-The leftovers are the best!

nora-I hope you print this one up too--it's my favorite!

dani-It really is amazing, trust me.

glamah16-I love to call her up for recipes; she is too funny.

tw-I'm hoping to inspire people to make them for Easter! And heavens to Betsy, no Minute Rice!

annie-You're not the first one to mention that. Maybe it's just a Southern Italian tradition?

bellini valli-If I had a nickel for every time an Italian woman told me
"You're too thin" I'd be rich! They think everybody is too thin! ;)

peter-Trust, me, "measurements" are a relative thing. I usually have to make the dish a couple of times myself because it's usually "as much flour as it needs" or "as many eggs as it takes." ;)

mochachocolata rita-Maybe you'll have to borrow one. ;)

Julie said...

This is such a great easter food. I have a lot of easter recipes from my grandma, but they're Eastern European in origin. Basically, if your grandmother was from a catholic country, easter and easter food is a big deal!

Swati said...

Authentic italian Pie...looks so tempting!!
lovely photographs Susan..

Tempered Woman said...

It's also in time for National Pi Day (3.14). My grandpa was Basque and use to make a rice pudding pie- this sounds so familiar! I'll have to whip this up and see cause we never got the recipe. This looks so sinfully good- thanks much!

Katy said...

ha! i think your mother has a point -- if you only have it once a year, how sad would it be if there were no leftovers?!? we all know that "once a year" means once at easter, and a few more times before the end of the post-easter week! :-)

Anamika:The Sugarcrafter said...

Dear Susan
Visting your blog for the first time and i must say, lots to learn ! Greetings from Botswana to you. Will drop by frequently.

Anonymous said...

you make this pie look and sound so tempting! bookmarking this one...

Anonymous said...

Reading your blog always makes me wish I was italian, or at least had an Italian Ma or 99 year old grandmother...

I can't wait to try this rice pie. Everything I've tried while lurking on your blog has been fabulous!

David Hall said...

Thanks for a fab recipe Wendy. We are going to make this on Easter weekend, it really looks something else!


MeloMeals said...

I just love when you write about your family... it leaves me all warm and fuzzy inside.

Annemarie said...

*And* she wouldn't be a good Italian mother if she didn't have a spare giant cooking dish. I was just musing today how there are many fewer cooking traditions at easter than at Christmas, and anything that stands as an easter food tradition gets my approval.

Unknown said...

Strewth - 2 dozen eggs! (Strewth is Australian slang for OMG).
This sounds brilliant. I'm thinking seriously of making it for Easter.
Thanks for Supporting LiveSTRONG With A Taste Of Yellow Susan.

Anonymous said...

This looks so homey and wonderful! I love rice pudding so I'm sure I will love this rice pie!

I loved reading your conversation with your reminds me of when I ask my great-aunt for recipes and she says things like "take one pork leg and one cow leg"...I'm like, "I'm not feeding my whole building!" :)

Cakelaw said...

This looks so good Susan. I am a fan of rice pudding and citrus, so 2 in one is a bonus.

Katie Zeller said...

That sounds divine! Perfect for Easter Monday breakfast!
I wouldn't be able to fit a pan that size in my oven, either....

Susan from Food Blogga said...

julie-Isn't that the truth? :)

swati-Thanks so much!

tempered woman-My next post will be for Pi Day!

katy-Absolutely, leftovers for breakfast are the best.

anamika-Thank you for the compliments; I'll look forward to our future visits.

insankitty-That is so kind of you to say. You just brought a big smile to my face. :)

david-I really hope you do.

melody-Aw, your comment just made me all warm and fuzzy. :)

linda-Thanks! I'm happy to hear it!

annemarie- I do think Easter gets overshadowed big time by Christmas. Here's to Easter Pies!

barbara-"Strweth!" I've got to remember that one! ;) Gosh, I hope you do make it--it's really fabulous. A great pie for a great cause!

joey-A cow leg? Hah! I love it!

cakelaw-Bonus, indeed!

katiez-Just cut the recipe in half and try it. You'll thank me come Easter Monday morning. :)

Stella said...

Gosh that sure tastes heavenly!!!
Love your photos Susan, they're beautiful & make me wanna grab your dish from my screen!

Dwiana P said...

Hi, stumble on your blog here. Very interesting pie recipe you have. I am sure it taste so delish!

Mike of Mike's Table said...

That looks amazing! This is the second time I'd ever seen Arborio rice in a non-risotto form, and it still blows my mind. I'd happily take a gigantic one of those...*drools*

Elle said...

Your Mom is a kick...and this is a gorgeous pie! Family recipies are so special, too.

Jaime said...

neat! i love the story behind this pie :) would love to make something else w/my arborio rice than risotto and this looks perfect :)

Helene said...

French and Italian women have a lot in common I see :) I can totally hear this conversation with my mom or grandmother! The recipe is terrific as well as your pictures!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

valentina-Well, that makes me feel good. :)

dwiana-Thanks for dropping by; glad you like it.

mike-The texture is mind- blowing. It is one of my all-time favorite desserts.

elle-She is a sweetie. :)

jaime-Try it, you'll like it. :)

helen-It is a small world after all, isn't it? :)

Sharon said...

I'm making this right now, but having problems. The ratio of 1/2 cup arborio rice to 4 cups of water isn't working. After 25 minutes, the water still hasn't been absorbed. I ended up dumping a cup and a half of water off the rice. And now I'm ready to mix everything but I'm wondering if 4 cups of milk, which I think equals 1/4 gallon of milk can possibly be right?
(16 cups=One gallon)

A.C. said...

This sounds delicious, there is nothing better than sweet rice dishes.

Sam said...

I have never heard of this pie. It looks amazing. There is little chance I would make it, so I'll need to find someone to make one for me sometime! Your mum sounds like a hoot!

Anonymous said...

At first I thought this recipe would be exactly like my Nana's. Hers was also a favorite and a perfect Monday AM breakfast. Nana's recipe called for lots of pecans and cinnamon, with a cookie-like crust laid across the top.

maya said...

wow this looks fab, have never tried it but I will.

Barry Acai said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Kim Edge said...

I was trying to find an Italian Rice Pie recipe for my blog project with my RI Italian mom and the internet led me to you. Gorgeous pie and genius blog entry. My mom's dealing with the later stages of MS and when up for it gives me topics for my painting blog. Our most recent topic was when she was able to make all the holiday pies, with an added entry for the ever important "Italian Rice Pie."

Colon Cleanse said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Susan from Food Blogga said...

I am so sorry to hear about your mom, Kim. MS is a cruel disease, difficult on both the patient and the caregivers. I think it's lovely that you're painting your mom's food memories. It's a beautiful tribute to her.

Abdul Mannan said...

hi, it's looking delicious and I'm making this right now, I've never tasted rice pie before but having problems. I have Indian Rice, problem is that rice are brown, suggest me can i make this recipe with brown rice. Thx in advance

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Hi Abdul,

I have never made rice pie with brown rice, so I can't say for sure. But I do know that the rice needs to be very starchy and thick. So I don't think brown would work well. Can you get any type of white, starchy rice, like the kind used for risotto?


TheAngryClam said...

Thank You for posting this recipe. I have been looking for this for a long time. Not something that is generally written down, but in someone's head for many years and then passed down. It is also good with yellow raisins added. That is how my old boss from Salerno used to make it. Gracie!

Tiffany said...

Oh YUM! I could definitely see a fight breaking out over the last slice of that rice pie. And I haven't even seen the pineapple!

Tasty Eats At Home said...

I have never heard of anything like this before, but then again, I live in Dallas - we're not exactly known for our large Italian populations. Let me ask you - do you think it would be possible to make this without the bottom crust? Like instead of a rice pie, it might be like a crustless rice custard? I am imagining like so many other custard-filled pies that the bottom part would bake and sort of harden and make its own "crust". (Just thinking of gluten-free alternatives - the other is for me to whip up a gluten-free crust, of course.) Thanks for sharing this. It sounds decadent!

one haute plate said...

It was awesome--we ate it tonight. I love those three words together- Italian-rice-pie!

DJ said...

a friend's mother used to make a pie she often served on Christmas eve --was made with acini de pepe anyone have such a recipe

Judy&Joy said...

To DJ that sounds so great making this rice pie w/ acin de pepe.

Unknown said...

I just made this!! My mother is trying to find my grandmother's recipe for it.. but I couldn't wait so I made yours!! It looks like it came out wonderful! I did have some leftover and I put in to ramikins to bake.. just tasted those YUM!!!! Easter is tomorrow, we will slice into heaven then. :) Thanks for posting! Ooo yeah I also put lemon zest in the crust too. :)

EllenS said...

I was just talking with an older male co-worker who grew up in South Philly and he said that this was his favorite pie, but he didn't have a recipe. This is great--reading your Mother's comments brings back the voices of my Italian lady neighbors who have gone to the big kitchen in the sky. I miss them!

Michelle said...

I just made a crustless version of this pie, since pie crusts are not my forte. I grew up in an Italian family too and rice pie was a staple for Easter dessert. Thanks for sharing! Check out my post on your pie here: