Lee's Kitchen: Pizzagaina, just what the doctor ordered

I find food ideas and recipes in the oddest places.

A couple of weeks ago, I learned about a dish called pizzagaina as I was face down on a table waiting to get a needle into the sac of my sciatic nerve.

As my wonderful neurosurgeon numbed the area where the needle would go, 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, who was taking pictures of my sad little nerve, said, “See, I’m not the only one who never heard of it.”

By this time, the procedure was over. 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.

Pizzagaina

Adapted from allrecipe on the Internet

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

2 eggs

1/4 cup pepperoni,

1/2 pound sweet capicola

1/2 pound hot capicola

1 egg white, slightly beaten

 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and place a half-sheet pan into the oven. Press 1 pie crust each into the bottom of two 9-inch pie pans. (If you use Oronoque crusts, use the aluminum plate it comes with them.)

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 bottom and make a seal so it stays together. Place both pies on the preheated sheet pan and cook crusts until golden brown, from 45 to 60 minutes. Cool before serving. If not serving immediately, covered with aluminum foil and refrigerate.

Marinara Sauce

1/4 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 puree 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.

 

On the Side: The Arc Eastern Connecticut's chocolate chip cookies

Twice last week I bought groceries at Stop-Rite. While at the checkout counter, I noticed bags of chocolate chip cookies made for The Arc of Eastern Connecticut. That organization provides programs for life skills, job training and home support to help people with intellectual disabilities. How could I not buy those cookies?

But here is something better: They are all natural and made with no artificial colors or preservatives. In addition, these are the best chocolate chip cookies I have ever tasted. For more information, go to thearcect.org and try not to eat them all at once.

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