Family Recipe: Easter Rice Pie

Family Recipes: Easter Rice Pie

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Rice pie is one of my favorite Easter holiday sweet pies, but for several years I never would even taste it. Being from the South, I grew up on Pecan and Sweet Potato Pie, but marrying into an Italian family… well my taste buds soon changed. I must say though – I still get cravings for “my” pies!

I still remember my first Easter in an “Italian” family, surrounded by pies with unfamiliar names and ingredients… like rice, wheat, ricotta, and ham. My first response was, “No Thank You” – it took years before my taste buds developed for them; and now I can’t imagine an Easter without them!

Before I wrote down actual recipes for the Easter pies – there were none! Every holiday my husband’s Grandma Minnie was called, usually by her daughters, to ask about ingredients and amounts. Grandma had no written recipes – they were all in her head!

Once I began baking the pies, I knew I needed to create a recipe; those recipes led to me eventually creating two family cookbooks. I soon planted myself across from Grandma Minnie at her kitchen table – watching and measuring every ingredient. She cooked like all the older cooks, by eyesight and the feel to the hands. I happily left with scribbled notes to create a recipe.

The crust for the sweet Easter pies like rice and wheat use a sweet crust instead of a regular flaky pie crust. My “go to” sweet crust is one Aunt Mary gave me years ago and I use it faithfully! I love its taste with Easter pies. It can be made days ahead by wrapping tightly and storing in the fridge – just let it sit out about twenty minutes before rolling; it rolls better being just a little chilled!

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Easter Rice Pie

  • 4     Large Eggs
  • 1     cup rice – cooked (Or 1 bag of “boil in bag”
  • 2     cups Italian cream (recipe below)
  • 2     cups Ricotta cheese (abt 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 3/4 cup sugar (can add more after tasting)
  • 1-2 lemons
  • 1-2 oranges
  • 1/2  cup heavy cream (If I use more Italian cream, I often omit this)
  • sweet pie crust (recipe below)
  • (If I double this recipe, it usually gives me 3 pies)

In mixing bowl, cream eggs, and sugar beating well with a fork. Stir in ricotta cheese, rice, Italian cream and heavy cream if using (it can be optional). Sometimes I don’t even use the heavy cream – it’s a judge thing; there could be times you may not even need or want to add it, especially if you’re adding Italian cream. I don’t use a mixer, only a wooden spoon, and a whisk to smooth it out.

This pie is a taste-along as you mix and add what you want – more of this, or more of that. I usually add more sugar later after tasting – you want it sweet but not overly sweet. When you reach the time when you think, I’ll just add a little more – Stop! (Not everyone uses the Italian cream in the mixture, they just use heavy cream, so it’s your decision; I’m told my pies are nice and creamy, not dry.)

Before cutting the lemon, I zest the peel into the mixture, then after cutting,  I squeeze one lemon into the mixture – squeezing the juice through my fingers so I catch the seeds. I also pull out some of the lemon pulp for extra flavor. Repeat the same procedures with the orange; I like both citrus flavors in mine, but it’s a matter of choice and there’s no right or wrong – if you don’t like citrus then leave out.  Some people add vanilla extract instead of citrus, but I’m not fond of it in my sweet pies.

I can never make just one pie, so I usually double this recipe, adding different amounts and often end up with more pie mixture than I have pie crust for. The pie can be baked crust-less, but I love the taste of the sweet crust!

Roll out your pie crust, placing one crust on the bottom of a greased deep dish pie plate  – add filling. You should have enough pie crust left to add a lattice-style top crust; you can leave off the top crust, but it gives a nice appearance. Before serving sprinkle with confectionery sugar.

Bake 350 oven until pie is set and no longer “giggling.” It takes about 30-45 minutes. If you’re cooking more than one pie in the oven – they will take longer to cook.

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 Italian Cream  (pudding in English)

  • 4    cups milk
  • 3    egg yolks
  • 1    cup sugar
  • 1    teaspoon vanilla (add at the end) (I don’t add vanilla when I’m using the cream in the sweet Easter pies)
  • 4  tablespoons cornstarch (slightly heaping)
  •  semi-sweet chocolate chips or other dark chocolates   (judge amount)

In a large saucepan, add milk, egg yolks, cornstarch, and sugar – mix together well with a whisk as you bring to a medium boil. Stir with a wooden spoon constantly so it doesn’t burn on the bottom. As soon as it comes to a rolling boil, lower heat and keep stirring until the mixture has thickened to pudding consistency; you still want a slight bubbly boil. (If you find it’s lumpy at the end, whisk slightly and stir a few times through and it will smooth out.)

If you are making both chocolate and vanilla, then you need to divide the batch in half after it’s cooked. To one half add the vanilla extract and to the other half add the chocolate. (I usually add chocolate chips until I get the color and taste I want)

This recipe can be doubled if you need a larger batch. If you aren’t using the cream right away, then lay a piece of saran wrap over the top of the cream in the bowl so it doesn’t form a film layer. If you are adding this cream to the rice and wheat pies – Do not add the vanilla extract – you will be using citrus flavors instead.

My mother-in-law adds the flavorings different from me; I changed them to my taste. She added lemon flavoring to the vanilla and vanilla extract to the chocolate. You might want to experiment with that to your taste.

This is my go-to recipe whenever I need pudding! It’s great for Ice Box Cake or my Southern Banana Pudding!

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Aunt Mary’s Sweet Pie Crust

  • 3/4     stick butter (and a little more) soft
  • 1/2     cup confectionery sugar
  • 2        egg yolks
  • 2        cups flour (all-purpose)
  • 2        teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2    cup milk (use a little at a time: may not need it all)

Mix all ingredients in mixing bowl in order. After the dough is blended together, turn out onto a well-floured surface and form 2 balls – one larger and one smaller for lattice top. Keep smaller ball covered in saran wrap until ready to roll for the top crust. If not using right away, chill in the fridge; dough can be made the day before.

One minute my table is full of flour – and the next minute – it’s clean!

My trick to rolling out crusts, and having a clean table immediately afterward is using a plastic tablecloth to roll crusts on. After I’m done with all crust making – roll up the tablecloth and throw in the trash! You can also roll out dough between two sheets of wax paper to help in not sticking to a floured tablecloth. Even though you use a tablecloth – you still need a well-floured surface to help keep dough from sticking. I have a metal flat utensil that I use to loosen dough as I roll onto my rolling pin – if it’s sticking.

There are sometimes when it rolls right up for me and other times when I’m not happy with it! But if you have enough flour on the table – you’re good to go! I love the taste of this sweet dough – it’s such a tender sweet addition to your Easter sweet pies.

Happy Easter!

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© 2017, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

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