Dad’s Pastiera. My Easter Story

Dad 1973On 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.pastiere
“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.
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, Dad.” “Great. Keep ‘em comin’.” “We’ll be back next year.” “Can I have one to take home?”

“Happy Easter.”

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. 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?”

By | 2017-07-10T16:10:12+00:00 April 1st, 2015|Humor, Ingredients, Recipes|18 Comments


  1. Elia Germani April 1, 2015 at 7:03 pm - Reply

    What a wonderful memory.Buona Pasqua

    • Ed April 1, 2015 at 10:01 pm - Reply

      Thank you, Elia. Altrettanto.

  2. Bob Tyzbir April 2, 2015 at 3:08 pm - Reply

    Ed: I have been hunting for a pastiere like Uncle Pete’s forever. Do you have his recipe? Cousin Bob PS: and yes, his was the best!!

    • Ed April 2, 2015 at 4:08 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Bob. yes, they were delicious but no… unfortunately…we do not have his recipe. Nor do we have a recipe for my mother’s awesome ravioli. She never wrote it down.

  3. Karen and Ed Renola April 3, 2015 at 6:50 pm - Reply

    Your story of your father was so touching to us. Have a Happy Easter. and Ed are you making the rice pies?

    • Ed April 3, 2015 at 7:05 pm - Reply

      Thank you, Karen and Ed. Buona Pasqua to you and Family.

    • Ed April 3, 2015 at 7:06 pm - Reply

      Sorry, but I am not a cook. However, Diane makes the best pastiere, near matching my Dad’s.

  4. Tina Muccillo Rizkallah April 6, 2015 at 3:25 pm - Reply

    Hi Doctor Ed!
    I grew up eating what my Nana called “Rice Pie”. Sadly since her passing in 1996 we’ve not made it. I’ve got my Nana’s recipe, but like all really good cooks all she wrote down was the ingredients and instructions… quantities. I would love to make it and surprise my Dad. Can you ask Dianne if she would pass on her recipe? Maybe if I saw it, my Nana’s recipe would make some sense and I can help revive this wonderful memory. Thank you so much!

    • Ed April 6, 2015 at 6:07 pm - Reply

      Tina, so many recipes remained in the minds of the now departed. My mother’s recipe for ravioli…none better…is long gone. Yes, indeed, Diane will send along her recipe for pastiera. Thanks for writing.

  5. Deanna Wright April 6, 2015 at 4:51 pm - Reply

    I make the “rice pie” every Easter from my mother’s recipe which I found at her home after she died over 20 years ago. I don’t know how to cut it down because I don’t want to lose any of the flavor or texture so the recipe makes eight pies, I keep one and give seven away at Easter! Everyone looks forward to it and it’s a tradition don’t want to lose!

  6. Deanna Wright April 6, 2015 at 6:00 pm - Reply

    I make the “rice pie” every Easter from my mother’s recipe which I found at her home after she died over 20 years ago. I don’t know how to cut it down because I don’t want to lose any of the flavor or texture so the recipe makes eight pies, I keep one and give seven away at Easter! Everyone looks forward to it and it’s a tradition I don’t I want to lose!

    • Ed April 6, 2015 at 6:09 pm - Reply

      Deanna, I love this story. Yes, we never want to change a winner, no matter how many pies. Thank you, again, for sharing your story…always a good one.

  7. Ginny Kearns April 6, 2015 at 6:30 pm - Reply

    Hi Doc,
    I use to help my mom make her Easter rice pie. One day I sat her down and we tried to get the right amount of eggs, etc. I have the recipe that we wrote down. My mothers rice pie was a very light custard with rice and citron in a deep cake pan. My mothers sister ‘s pie was made with ricotta and it was a little firmer. But as you know when I make the pie my family tell me it is almost but not quite like grandma made.

    • Ed April 6, 2015 at 6:53 pm - Reply

      There were so many ways to conjure the rice pies, Ginny. To me, they were all great. Thanks for weighing in. Best to you and Family.

  8. June Rocchio CHampagne April 6, 2015 at 10:12 pm - Reply

    As a child I remember eating Rice Pie (“Pastiere”) for Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. After Easter we were eating Rice Pie for a week. My mother made it in her big aluminum lasagna pan and she always made a crust (the pasta frolla). As years went on, the quantities became smaller; who developed gall bladder problems, cholesterol and heart disease. But my most memorable time is Palm Sunday; my father had a “sweet tooth” and loved desserts. He would tell my mother; “Palm Sunday is coming you need to “practice” making the “pastiere” and don’t forget the cherries and pinapple!!!! To this day I make a “practice” “pastiere” for Palm Sunday!!!! In rememberance of my dad, I bring a piece of “pastiere’ along with the Palm to the cemetery and enjoy a piece with him!!!!!

    • Ed April 6, 2015 at 10:16 pm - Reply

      I need to write our Palm Sunday story next year. Thanks for reminding me, June.

  9. Gino Pagnani April 7, 2015 at 1:33 pm - Reply

    I also grew up with pastiera. My mother always made it for Easter. I just remember all the egg yolks that were used and the weeks of angel-food cakes that followed to use up the egg whites. My mother is now 87 and still cooks like crazy, but the pastiera she now feels is not very “heart healthy” !!! At 87 she should worry??????

    • Ed April 12, 2015 at 9:24 pm - Reply

      Not heart healthy but sure delicious. For once a year, why not. Thanks, Gino

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