Rice pies embody Italian Americana. My grandmother made a few pies every Easter when my dad was a child. She baked rice pies a few days before Easter and stored them under blankets in the closet until Easter Sunday.
Rice pies are an Italian-American thing. I think–but I’m not positive–that early Italian immigrants used rice as a substitute for hard to find farro or hulled wheat. Today, dried farro and grano cotto, cooked wheat, is readily available in most stores and online.
My grandmother usually added candied citron to her rice pies, but we usually don’t. For a long time, it was hard to find citron here. It’s more available now, but usually not until shortly before Thanksgiving. It disappears sometime around Christmas. Truthfully, I don’t like candied citron, so I don’t spend much time looking for it (it’s true). With all the sweets we serve with Easter dinner, and the baskets full of candy, we’ve down-sized our Easter Rice Pie to an 8 x 8-inch pie. That’s significantly less than the many pies my grandmother made every Easter.
Easter Rice Pie Recipe
For the pastry
- 3 cups all-purpose flour plus ½ cup for dusting
- 1 cup sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 4 egg yolks
For the rice custard
- 1¼ uncooked rice
- 4 cups whole milk
- 1½ cups sugar
- Pinch salt
- 1 tablespoon shortening
- 6 eggs
In a food processor, combine the 3 cups flour, sugar, and salt. Pulse once to mix. Add the butter, and pulse once or twice, or until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add the eggs, and pulse once or twice, or until soft dough forms. Don't over pulse or the dough will be soft and sticky. Lightly dust board with about 1/4 cup of the remaining flour. Knead dough until a soft ball forms. Roll dough into square that will fit the bottom and sides of the pan with overlap. Fit the dough in the pan, but do not trim overlap. Set aside while you prepare the rice custard.
Add milk and salt to pan. Bring to a boil; add rice. Cover, and reduce heat. Stir frequently to keep milk from sticking or scorching. Cook until rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Add sugar, shortening, dash or two of cinnamon (to taste), and stir. Cool for about 15 minutes, then add eggs and mix well, working quickly to keep eggs from cooking in the mixture. Pour filling into prepared crust. Fold the overlap on top of pie (covers about 1-inch on all sides). Bake at 350°F for 1 hour, or until knife inserted about an inch from the center of pie comes out clean.
Cool completely, and refrigerate overnight or for several hours. To serve pie, remove from pan onto cutting board. Cut the pie in half, and then cut each half in ½ to 1-inch slices.