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1 rating: 5.0
An Italian meat pie.

A traditional Italian meat pie made around Easter time. It is also sometimes called "pizza chena." It features several types of Italian meats and cheeses and is very rich.

1 review about Pizzagaina

Italian meat pie: a potential heart attack, but a classic nonetheless.

  • Nov 6, 2009
I want to share this recipe with the rest of you Lunchers, mostly because I've NEVER heard of this dish outside of my own family!

Every year around Easter for as long as I can remember, my dad's family gathers to make Italian meat pie to give out to the whole family - my dad has 7 brothers and sisters so this is a hefty task. My grandmother and aunts would herd in the kitchen to mix together HUGE tubs of Italian meats and cheese to make what is called "pizzagaina".

I think they would make about 12 of these pies or so each year, one or two for each individual family in my overall clan. This took about, oh, an entire 20 hours total. It takes a surprising amount of human strength to mix meat and cheese for 12 pies!

The pie is filled with what my family calls "pot cheese" but the recipe below calls "basket cheese". I have never seen this cheese in any other circumstance. I always thought this was weird...secret Italian ingredient?

Each pie is filled with a heaping amount of capicola, prosciutto, genoa salami, sausage, pepperoni, and mortadella. You can pretty much mix-and-match the meat you use to your preference.

This pie is H.E.A.V.Y, as I'm sure you can imagine, but delicious nonetheless. I haven't eaten meat in several years but I can still remember it's salty excellence. You WILL love it, especially if you love Italian meats.

If you do go ahead and make this recipe, I suggest doing what we always did and eating a small sliver and freezing individual portions for later. Or I guess you could eat a slice and then run 20 miles. No one wants a massive coronary on Easter.

Ok, I kid. Try it, you won't be disappointed!


Makes approximately 2 pounds.

1 packet of active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon salt
2 cups of warm water
5-6 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 pound fresh, hot Italian sausage (in casing)
1/2 pound capocollo, thinly sliced
1/3 pound Genoa salami, thinly sliced
1/3 pound pepperoni, thinly sliced
1 pound fresh basket cheese***
1/2 pound mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
1 dozen eggs (8 will be beaten, 4 will be hard boiled)
1/3 cup minced fresh flat leaf parsley
15-20 cranks freshly ground black pepper
1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water for egg wash

In a large bowl, dissolve in 2 cups of warm water, yeast, sugar, and salt. Using a spoon, gently blend. Add 5 cups of all-purpose flour and 2 tablespoons of olive oil to start. Blend with a spoon just until the dough starts to form, then using your hands, transfer to a floured surface.

Knead well, adding flour if it’s too sticky, until the dough becomes springy and smooth. It should take a good 5-10 minutes of vigorous kneading. It will be soft and silky when done.

Place the dough ball in a large, clean bowl coated with olive oil and rub some olive oil on top of the dough. Cover with a clean, dry dishtowel and let rise in a warm, draft-free area until doubled in size (at least 2 hours). (For more tips on making fail-proof pizza dough, click here.)

Meanwhile, fill a large, heavy-bottom saucepan halfway with water. Bring to a light, rolling boil, and place four room temperature eggs in the water. Maintaining a light, rolling boil, cook them for 18-20 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the eggs, place in a colander, and run under cool water. Tap the eggs against the counter top to crack the shells; remove the shells, and rinse the boiled eggs under cool water. Slice thinly and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Remove the sausage from its casing and add to the pan. Cook for 5-6 minutes, or until browned and crispy. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

Place oven rack in center of oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Brush the inside surface of a 10 X 3 spring form pan with olive oil.

***Fresh basket cheese is a semi-soft cheese that is used primarily for binding ingredients together. It can be found at Italian markets and cheese shops. If you can't find it, then substitute one (15-ounce) container of ricotta cheese (drained) and whisk it with 2 large eggs.

(recipe from Food Blogga, because no written version exists in my family!)

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March 22, 2010
Hi, do you know of any bakeries in Chicago that make pizzagaina that you would recommend?
March 22, 2010
No, I wish! I have only seen it in my family members' kitchens.
December 01, 2009
me want meat pie! I wonder if this inspired Chicago Italians to make the Chicago style pizza. Thanks for posting the recipe. I *will* be trying this at some point.
December 01, 2009
Hmm..I never thought of that but I think you might be onto something! When you try it, let me know what you think!!
November 06, 2009
This looks absolutely delicious! I'm not Italian, but grew up around many Italians where I was a part of the family. I'm well aware of the meat and cheese factor. Thanks for this recipe. Can't wait to try it.....I'll let you know.
November 06, 2009
o...m...g... This looks and sounds so good! I've never heard of this before, but now I need to try it! It looks kind of like a quiche... Thanks for sharing! :)
November 06, 2009
It IS very similar to a quiche! Slightly less moist, but still has a really incredible flavor!
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