Dad Makes Pastiera for Easter

This is one of my favorite Easter stories….

On Holy Saturday he wore a mopine…a dishcloth tucked in his belt while he scurried about the kitchen on an Easter pilgrimage; cooking pastiera, the traditional Easter rice pie.
Dad found his recipe years before and wrote it on a 3×5 card, as if he had invented it. It became his Easter contribution, his signature dish. His hands and shirt were covered in flour. Pans cluttered the kitchen. Egg shells were stacked in the sink. The smell of baking bounced from the kitchen walls and ceiling. “Try my pastiera.” He beamed as he passed his precious offering. To my surprise, it was good, very good.

 Dad, 1973

Dad, 1973

“Have you tried Pete’s?” was the refrain when other samples were passed.

“Ummm.Great, Pete. The best.” He smiled as his chest expanded.

As the years passed, the pies got better, so he made more, distributing them to friends and relatives, much as a supplier might deliver a specialty product.
He was convinced that if he did not make pastiera, Easter would be a flop. Over years, Dad’s pastiera remained consistently perfect; until the year of the overcooked pies. We arrived on Easter morning to a smell like burned toast that blended into the pie, like a stale log the day after the fire. “I think I burned them.”
He knew he did but could not bring himself to the truth. His dejection was palpable, his disappointment great. “Bad, huh?”

No one had the heart to tell him.” No, not bad, not that bad, Pete. Not your best, but still good.”

“Keep ‘em comin’. We’ll be back next year.”

“Can I have one to take home?”pastiere

It took him a while to recover, but optimist that he was, he did.
The following year he was back in his kitchen; his mopine tucked into his belt, the stained recipe card propped on the counter, pans and dishes everywhere. The smell of toast was replaced by the familiar smell of rice and eggs.
It was a great comeback. The pies were good, no excellent. They were moist and rich…crammed with rice and bits of orange and lemon peel that crunched softly to a gentle bite. The taste of citrus was married to the taste of egg and rice. I took a second piece.

“Have you tried Pete’s? They’re great, the best.” He smiled.

“I burned it last year. Remember?”

“You did?”

© 2016

By | 2017-07-10T16:10:07+00:00 March 21st, 2016|Holidays|27 Comments


  1. Janice March 21, 2016 at 2:13 pm - Reply

    Great story

    • Ed March 21, 2016 at 5:04 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Jan. Buona Pasqua!

  2. Carolyn Corvese March 21, 2016 at 2:28 pm - Reply


    Uncle Pete made the best rice pie. My family and I were just talking about this yesterday.Believe it or not, I have his recipe for the crust. I was going through my mom’s Easter recipes this week and came across it. The best!! Easter brings a lot of happy memories of our brunches and dinners together. I miss those days.


    • Ed March 21, 2016 at 4:34 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Carolyn. Would that we could retyrn to those wonderful and…memorable…times. You have the crust recipe, Eh? We’ll be over!
      Buona Pasqua

  3. Pam Carey March 21, 2016 at 3:58 pm - Reply

    Love the ending of this story, Ed! I remember my Italian neighbor ‘s Pastiere well in Cumberland. I even copied the recipe but never made it – too much work!

    • Ed March 21, 2016 at 4:31 pm - Reply

      My father loved doing it, Pam. Would that we had it today.
      Buona Pasqua.

  4. Frank Joly March 21, 2016 at 4:16 pm - Reply

    Great story, Dr. Ed.

    What is the name of the Easter pie that contains eggs, ham, and cheese ?

    • Ed March 21, 2016 at 4:30 pm - Reply

      Frank, I believe it is Pizza Rustica. Buona Pasqua

  5. Steve Mascena March 21, 2016 at 5:02 pm - Reply

    In addition to the rice pie my mom would make a wheat pie. You would soak the wheat berries overnight and drain them and then proceed as you would with a rice pie. I preferred that over the rice pie but both were delizioso!

    • Ed March 21, 2016 at 5:04 pm - Reply

      Oooooo, sounds wonderful. I’ll bet the class would love it. Ha!
      Buona Pasqua.

  6. Karen March 21, 2016 at 5:38 pm - Reply

    Ok , so where is the recipe? I still have time to gather the ingredients. Help! I’m now dying for PETE’sRICE PIE…you can’t write a story like that and not include a recipe. I can taste it!

    • Ed March 21, 2016 at 6:16 pm - Reply

      Gotta find it. I will check with you-know-who.

  7. Bob Tyzbir March 21, 2016 at 5:47 pm - Reply

    Uncle Pete would deliver a “rice pie” to our house on Easter morning. I would have eaten the entire pie had my Mom, his sister-in-law, not stopped me. Uncle Pete’s rice pies were hands down the best I have ever tasted.

    Alla Famiglia, ti amo. Buona Pasqua!

    • Ed March 21, 2016 at 6:15 pm - Reply

      Funny, Bob. Buona Pasqua.

  8. Nancy Earle March 21, 2016 at 7:45 pm - Reply

    Spent many an Easter Sunday at Gram and Pop’s house and I can say that Pop was so proud of those rice pies. Never liked rice pie until he insisted I try his. So yes, they were the best. Great memories with great people. Miss them.

    • Ed March 21, 2016 at 8:48 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Nance. You sure were part of the family. Too bad we could not capture those times in a bottle.

  9. Barbara Bordieri Spiezio March 21, 2016 at 9:06 pm - Reply

    Yes, Ed, those wonderful holiday memories are often wrapped in special foods and the people who made them. My mom and grandmother were great cooks, but they didn’t bake. Holiday baking was left to other relatives, Aunt Anna, Aunt Nancy, Aunt Mary and Aunt Helen. Each one had a specialty and the holiday meal overflowed with all the wonderful sweet tastes. It wouldn’t be Easter without Easter bread and ricotta pies. When you live close to your relatives and share holidays, those special delicacies magically appear. We’ve lived 500 miles away from our family and Italian bakeries for over 50 years, so in order t
    o give my kids and grandkids a taste of those holiday goodies, I had to become the baker. I’ll be making ricotta pies with the help of my 15 and 18 year old grandkids on Friday. My daughter will bake an Easter bread in the shape of a dove, and we’ll delight in carrying these taste memories forward.

    • Ed March 21, 2016 at 11:03 pm - Reply

      I love this stoy and your wonderful memories, Barb
      And it so nice to see you continuing traditions. Save a place for me!!

  10. Mary Croft March 22, 2016 at 12:21 am - Reply

    Such happy memories. Bittersweet! Mary

  11. Bob Conroy March 22, 2016 at 12:29 am - Reply

    Hi Ed
    love the stories do not know ow you remember all these things.
    Norma just finished makeing six rice pies. keep the sories comeing
    love them

    Bob/ Norma Conroy
    Happy Easter to you and your family

    • Ed March 22, 2016 at 12:18 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Bob. I will keep ’em coming. My best to you, Norma and Family. Buona Pasqua!

  12. Alan Ashare March 26, 2016 at 9:41 pm - Reply

    Great story. I would have really liked your Dad’s pies.
    I would have even liked the burnt pie.
    Happy Easter.
    Sue and Alan

    • Ed March 26, 2016 at 10:33 pm - Reply

      Thank you, Al. Yes, you would have loved his pies.

  13. June Champagne March 29, 2016 at 12:15 am - Reply

    Dr iannuccilli,

    My mom always made a rice pie for Palm Sunday, at the request of my dad. He would say to mom, “you have to make a “practice rice pie” for Palm Sunday because you want to be sure you remember how to do it”! Now my mom had been making rice pies forever; my dad just used that as an excuse to have the ” pastiere”! I still make the “pastiere” for Palm Sunday in honor of my dad and bring a piece with me to St Ann’s cemetery along with a cup of coffee! Bouna Pasqua Dad and Mom!

    • Ed March 29, 2016 at 12:08 pm - Reply

      Beautiful, June. Thanks for sharing. The memories and the pies are so very good.

  14. Paulla Lipsey April 27, 2016 at 2:07 pm - Reply

    Loved the story about your Dad’s rice pie. Hope you find the recipe so I can try his version. Glad you got to taste mine. It only took me six years after my Mom’s passing to get the nerve to try it!

    • Ed April 27, 2016 at 8:24 pm - Reply

      We think we have the recipe. I will have Diane check to see and send it. The one recipe we will never have is my mother’s ravioli, made from scratch, simply the best. She never wrote anything down and when asked, her standard reply was, “Oh, get off. They’re not that good.”

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