Mastering the Art of Pizza Chiena: Insider Tips and Expert Techniques for Success

Indulge in the rich and timeless flavours of pizza chiena, a traditional Italian Easter pie that’s as hearty as it is delicious. Hailing from rustic Southern Italy, this beloved dish embodies the essence of Italian countryside cuisine. Bursting with a sumptuous filling of cheeses, cured meats, and eggs encased in a buttery pastry crust, pizza chiena is a true culinary delight. Join me as I delve into the art of making and savouring this classic dish, perfect for any occasion.

Servings

 

20

Ready In:

 

3 hours

Calories:

 

620

Good For:

 

Good Friday 

What is Pizza Chiena?

By: Silvana Lanzetta

What captivates me about Neapolitan cuisine is its penchant for extravagance, especially in celebratory dishes. During Easter, the array of delectable options is overwhelming – from casatiello, both sweet and savoury, to pastiera, tortano, and pizza chiena. The term “pizza chiena” translates to filled pie, and indeed, it lives up to its name! While its filling shares similarities with casatiello and tortano – abundant cheese, eggs, and cubed cured pork – the preparation sets it apart. Unlike casatiello, where cheese and ham meld into a peppery bread dough, pizza chiena boasts a rich shortcrust pastry embracing a tantalising filling of ricotta, eggs, various cheeses, hams, and salami. What’s not to love?

Pizza chiena wasn’t a staple in my family’s Easter tradition; we leaned towards casatiello instead. However, my introduction to pizza chiena came through a neighbour of my grandmother’s who was a devout enthusiast. With the first taste, I was completely captivated – it was sheer delight. The filling alone was so irresistible that I could have indulged in it endlessly. If you share my fondness for cheese and cured pork, then this dish is a must-try. Simple to prepare and reliant on quality ingredients, like all Italian recipes, it promises culinary satisfaction.

pizza chiena, neapolitan easter pie
page from galanti's il cuoco galante showing the pizzachiena recioe (called here alla Napoletana)

Extract from Vicenzo Corrado’s “Il cuoco galante” showing the recipe for pizza chiena (here called “Alla Napoletana”)

page from cavalcanti's cucina teorico-pratica showing the pizzachiena recioe (called here pizza rusteca

Extract from Ippolito Cavalcati’s “Cucina Teorico Pratica” showing the recipe for pizza chiena (here called “Pizza Rusteca” – bottom recipe)

Origin of Pizza Chiena

This delicious dish hails from the heartlands between Basilicata and Campania and is a beloved part of the countryside culinary tradition, especially in places like Potenza, Benevento, Avellino, Caserta, and southern Lazio. It’s a real treat during Easter time, with each region adding its own twist to the recipe while sticking to the same basic dough ingredients. Depending on where you are, it goes by different names. In Campania and Lazio, it’s famous as pizza chiena or canascione, while in Basilicata, you might hear it called scarcedda, cazzola, cuzzola, or pasticcio.

Back in the 1970s, Rocco Palese, originally from Potenza but living in Chicago, took inspiration from the scarcedda to create a spin-off called stuffed pizza, which became a hit in the US.

So, what’s in it? Well, the dough is pretty standard – flour, water, salt, yeast, and oil or lard. But the filling? That’s where the magic happens! In Campania and Lazio, you’ll find it stuffed with beaten eggs, cured meats like salami or ham, and cheeses like pecorino or provolone. In Basilicata, they might throw in some hard-boiled eggs, sausage or soppressata, and pecorino and toma cheeses (sometimes ricotta instead of toma).

Traditionally, Good Friday is pizza chiena day! It’s a special part of the Easter celebrations, with families making it fresh on the day. The process usually starts early in the morning when they’re making bread, and some of that dough gets saved for the pizza. One of the oldest recipes we know of is from Ippolito Cavalcanti, featured in his book “Cucina teorico pratica.” It was a hit right from the start, even surpassing Vincenzo Corrado’s famous “Il Cuoco Galante.” Corrado, a culinary genius, included pizza chiena in his works too, showing just how beloved it was across different circles.

It’s truly a noble dish, evolving from rustic pies to the refined version we know today. And with so many variations and historical roots, it’s no wonder pizza chiena holds a special place in our hearts and stomachs!

Best Italian cheeses - parmesan
Eggs
sliced salame on wooden board
Ricotta

Nutrition

 

Pizza chiena, while delicious, is a dish that tends to be quite indulgent due to its rich and hearty ingredients. It’s essential to enjoy pizza chiena in moderation, considering its high calorie and fat content. Opting for smaller portions can help balance out its nutritional profile. Additionally, homemade versions may allow for more control over ingredients and portion sizes, making them a slightly healthier option compared to store-bought varieties.

  • Proteins 16% 16%
  • Carbs 43% 43%
  • Fats 41% 41%
pizza chiena slices

Ingredients for  the perfect pizza chiena

Cheeses

At the heart of this traditional recipe lies provolone – either the sweet or spicy variety. However, sourcing these cheeses outside of Napoli can be a bit of a treasure hunt. But fear not! I’ve got some tasty alternatives that’ll still make your pizza chiena shine.

For the spicy kick of provolone, consider swapping in some extra mature cheddar. It’ll give your filling that perfect punch. And for the sweet provolone flavour, look no further than gruyere. Its nutty profile is almost a perfect match.

When it comes to cheese, I’m all about mixing things up! I love to blend both types to give my pizza chiena that perfect spicy kick that matches my current mood!

Now, onto the ricotta. Finding the freshest ewe ricotta outside Southern Italy can be near impossible. Often, what’s available is packed and made from cow’s milk, resulting in a softer, waterier texture. But don’t despair – I’ve got a handy trick up my sleeve. Simply let your ricotta drain in a sieve or cheesecloth for a couple hours to remove any excess moisture.

But here’s where things get exciting. Grate some pecorino cheese and mix it into your ricotta. This not only thickens up the texture but also infuses it with a rich, savoury flavour. Be sure to taste as you go to find that perfect balance – you want the pecorino to complement the ricotta, not overpower it. As a general rule, I aim to add around 10% to 20% of the ricotta’s weight in grated pecorino.

Now, what about the parmesan? Luckily, this cheese is more readily available, so you can easily follow the rest of the recipe without any hassle.

 

Eggs

Traditionally, we beat the eggs and then mix in the cheeses and meats, similar to making a quiche. It’s straightforward and fuss-free. However, there’s a common variation that adds boiled eggs to the mix. In this version, the beaten eggs are layered with cheese, salami, and boiled eggs, akin to assembling a lasagna.

Personally, I prefer the former version, as it keeps the filling from becoming too overwhelming with richness. But hey, everyone’s taste is different! If you’re feeling adventurous, go ahead and try the richer version. Experiment with the ingredients until you discover the combination that suits your palate best. After all, cooking is all about finding what brings you joy in the kitchen!

 

Cured Meats

Traditionally, Neapolitan salame or soppressata take the spotlight, but the beauty of this dish lies in its versatility. In central Naples, we’re all about that Neapolitan salami and capocollo combo. Meanwhile, in Irpinia and Basilicata, it’s all about the soppressata – a local delicacy that steals the show.

Now, when it comes to personal preference, the sky’s the limit! Some folks like to throw in some pancetta or cubed mortadella for an extra flavour boost. But me? I like to keep it simple. Just a generous helping of Neapolitan salami does the trick for me. After all, often less is more!

I’ve found that sticking to fewer ingredients in the filling lets the true flavours of pizza chiena shine through. This dish is already bursting with richness, so adding too much can tip the scales into heavy territory. Let’s keep it balanced and let those delicious flavours speak for themselves!

 

Dough

Traditionally, it’s made using pizza dough that’s often enriched with lard for that extra flavour kick. However, if you’re not a fan of lard or prefer not to use it, you can easily swap it out for extra-virgin olive oil. Both fats bring their own deliciousness to the dough, so feel free to choose whichever works best for you.

Now, if you’re not up for making dough from scratch, don’t worry! There are alternatives. You can opt for premade pizza dough or even shortcrust pastry. I’ve noticed some friends taking the shortcut with ready-made shortcrust pastry, but personally, I’m not a fan. It just doesn’t quite hit the mark flavour-wise.

If you’re set on using ready-made dough, I recommend going for pizza or bread dough and kneading in some olive oil or lard to enhance the taste. It might not be as perfect as homemade dough, but it’ll still be a step up in flavour.

 

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Pizza chiena recipe

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pizza chiena slices

pizza chiena


  • Author: Silvana Lanzetta
  • Total Time: 3 hours 20 minutes
  • Yield: 20 portions 1x

Ingredients

Units Scale

For the dough

  • 700 g of strong flour
  • 500 g of water
  • 100 g of lard (or olive oil)
  • 7 grams of dry yeast
  • 10 g of sea salt

For the filling

  • 500 g of ricotta cheese
  • 400 g of Napoli salami
  • 100 g of spicy provolone cheese (or extra mature cheddar)
  • 200 g of sweet provolone cheese (or gruyere)
  • 100 g of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 50 to 100 g of Pecorino cheese (optional)
  • 8 eggs
  • Sea Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Prepare the dough by forming a well with the flour and adding water and yeast. Mix well until you get a rough dough.
  2. Once the water is absorbed, gradually knead in salt and lard (or olive oil). Knead for about 10 minutes to get a smooth, elastic dough, then let it rise until doubled in size.
  3. Drain the ricotta in a fine sieve or cheesecloth for a couple of hours. Once ready, optionally mix in grated pecorino for extra flavour.
  4. Prepare the filling by cutting cheeses and salami into cubes. Beat the eggs with salt, pepper, and Parmesan, then mix in ricotta and cured meats.
  5. Divide the dough in half and roll it out into two disks. Line a greased a 30 cm springform cake tin with one. Pour in the filling and cover with the second disk, sealing the edges.
  6. Grease the pizza with lard or olive oil and let it rise again for about 1 hour.
  7. Bake at 160Β°C (320Β°F – Gas Mark 3) for 1 hour or until golden brown. Allow it to cool completely before serving.

Notes

The pizza chiena requires resting before serving. Allow at least 1 hour. For best results and taste, serve the day after.

It can be stored in the fridge for up to a week when sealed in an airtight container.

Avoid using the microwave for reheating as it can make the pizza soggy. For best results, opt for reheating in the oven.

For reheating pizza chiena, preheat your oven to approximately 180Β°C (350Β°F). Arrange the slices on a baking sheet and loosely cover them with aluminium foil to retain moisture. Reheat for 10-15 minutes or until warmed through.

The filling can be customized according to taste and availability. Check the ingredient notes in the blog for more information.

If desired, you can freeze the pizza chiena. For convenience when serving, consider slicing it before placing it in the freezer.

  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Rest Time: 120 minutes
  • Cook Time: 50 minutes
  • Category: Baking
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: Italian
Recipe Card powered byTasty Recipes

FAQs

What is the origin of pizza chiena?

Pizza Chiena originated in Southern Italy as a traditional Easter dish, symbolizing the end of Lent.

Can I use store-bought dough?

While homemade dough yields the best results, store-bought dough can be used as a time-saving alternative.

How long does pizza chiena last?

Pizza chiena can typically last in the refrigerator for up to three to four days when stored properly in an airtight container. 

Can I freeze pizza chiena?

Certainly! I recommend to slice pizza chiena before freezing for easier portioning and reheating. Simply wrap individual slices tightly in plastic wrap or aluminium foil, and place them in an airtight container before freezing. This helps preserve its freshness and allows for convenient reheating. Frozen pizza chiena can last for up to three months in the freezer. When you’re ready to enjoy them, thaw the slices in the refrigerator overnight and reheat them in the oven until warmed through.

What are some serving suggestions?

This pizza is versatile enough to be served as both an appetiser and a main course, or it can be sliced into wedges and offered as a savoury addition to a buffet. In the latter case, it doubles as a delightful finger food option, ideal for entertaining guests or as a tasty addition to picnic baskets.

How do I reheat pizza chiena?

To reheat pizza chiena, preheat your oven to around 180Β°C (350Β°F). Place the slices on a baking sheet and cover loosely with aluminium foil to prevent them from drying out. Reheat for about 10-15 minutes or until heated through. Alternatively, pizza chiena is delicious even when served cold straight from the fridge, making it a convenient and tasty option for any meal or snack. 

Silvana Lanzetta

Silvana Lanzetta

β€œCiao, I’m Silvana, a fourth-generation pasta artisan from Napoli with a lifetime of experience! I began making pasta at the tender age of 5 under the watchful eye of my pasta-making generalissimo, my granny. Through her guidance, I’ve become a master in crafting traditional pasta dishes. Since 2014, I have been teaching pasta making classes in London, sharing my expertise with aspiring pasta enthusiasts. I’ve also had the privilege of showcasing my knowledge on BBC and in national newspapers like The Sun and iNews, and held pasta making demonstration in Harrods. Join me in exploring the world of Italian pasta and let’s create unforgettable culinary experiences together!”

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