Pizza Chena, sometimes pronounced “Pizza Gaina,” is a southern Italian savory “pie” made with a variety of cheese, cold cuts, and eggs baked within a bread crust. There are many different recipes for this traditional Italian specialty, but this is the one I prefer. You can play around with the fillings as you see fit and use your own favorite cold cuts or cheeses, or even add some grilled vegetables if you like, though vegetables are not traditionally used.
This tasty pie is traditionally made on Good Friday to be eaten on Easter Sunday or to be taken on the traditional Pasquetta, or Easter Monday picnic and is made to celebrate the end of lent. The pie can be made in a 15 x 13-inch rectangular baking dish or in a 10-inch springform pan, and though I prefer it served at room temperature on it’s own, you could offer some tomato sauce on the side for dipping also. I used sliced meat and cheese, but you could also use cubes of meat and cheese instead of the slices. If you want to simplify things even more, you could even buy pre-made pizza dough in place of making your own. I hadn’t made this Easter specialty for years, and after making it this year I remembered how delicious it really is and I plan on making it through the summer to pack for picnics. Pizza Chena travels great, and a good sized slice is a complete meal!
Yield: Serves 6 - 8
Prep Time: 30 mins
Cook Time: 40 mins
A Neapolitan dish often made for Easter.
1 Tablespoon Active Dry Yeast
2 1/2 Cups Warm Water
5 to 6 Cups All-purpose Flour
1 Teaspoon Sea Salt
2 Teaspoons Olive Oil
3/4 Pound Sliced Fresh Mozzarella
1 1/2 Pounds Sliced Cold Cuts Of Choice - Choose Three Varieties (I used Soppressata, pepperoni, and ham)
1/2 Pound Sliced Cheese (I used Provolone, but Swiss, Gruyere, or Asiago all work well)
2 Roasted Red Peppers Cut Into Strips
6 Large Eggs
1/2 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
1/3 Cup Chopped Fresh Parsley
Salt & Pepper
1 Egg Beaten With 1 Teaspoon Water
In a large bowl mix the yeast and1 cup of water and let sit until bubbly.
Add the remaining water and mix.
Place 5 cups of the flour into a mound on a counter with the salt, and make a well in the center.
Add the water and yeast mixture into the well along with 1 teaspoon of oil and mix with a fork until a sticky dough forms.
Knead by hand until the dough is smooth, adding additional flour as needed.
Lightly oil a large bowl with the remaining oil and place the dough in the bowl turning it to lightly cover with oil to prevent sticking.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm spot in your kitchen until the dough has doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. and lightly oil a 10 inch tart pan with removable bottom, or a 10 inch spring-form pan.
Divide the dough in half, and roll out one ball to a circle at least two inches wider than your pan.
Fit the dough into the pan, pulling up along the sides.
Layer the sliced meats, cheeses, and red pepper in the pan.
In a small bowl, beat together the eggs, Parmesan cheese, parsley, salt & pepper, then pour this over the meats and cheeses.
Roll out the other half of the dough, then use it to cover the pie, sealing the edges by pinching the bottom and top pieces together, cutting off any excess.
Brush the top of the pie with the egg wash, then bake for about 35 to 40 minutes or until puffed and golden brown.
Cool, remove from the baking pan and serve in slices.
Adapted from Ciao Italia recipe by Mary Ann Esposito. Published in Celebrations Italian Style.