When I think of Easter, I don’t think about the Easter Bunny or chocolate eggs. I think about ricotta pies.
From Palm Sunday to Holy Saturday, my mom used to bake a litany of Easter treats like pizzelli, biscotti and anisette cookies. But my all-time favorite was my Mom’s ricotta pies.
As a kid, I remember sitting in our kitchen and watching her work. In front of her, she placed a cold marble slab on the kitchen table for making the dough for the pie crusts. Within arm’s reach were two dozen eggs and four pounds of fresh ricotta.
Perched on the bridge of her nose were her reading glasses. Her reading glasses were Sophia Loren frames. They had light blue tint on the top part of the lens and pink tint on the bottom part. She got them this way because the handsome young man at the eyeglass store told her it was almost like wearing eye shadow and blush. She never wore glasses in public but needed them to read her recipe book.
On the kitchen radio, the “Tony and Anna Pace Show” were playing on WRKO. As Tony and Anna bantered in conversational Italian and played Italian songs, my mother hummed. I watched her intently as she measured ingredients and cracked eggs with dexterity. Her movements were quick and efficient and occasionally she’d look at me over her eyeglasses and ask me to “get the milk, hold the bowl or move her hair from her face” or whatever.
We were a team. We baked ricotta pies for family, friends and neighbors. Every year, for the three days leading up to Easter, our kitchen was the ricotta pie capital of the world.
As years passed, her glasses transitioned from Sophia to Versace, “Tony and Anna Pace” were no longer on the air and I got married and moved out. Yet despite all that every Easter, she and I still lugged out the marble slab and huddled over her recipe book and made her world-famous ricotta pies.
After my mom died, I kept a lot of her kitchen items like her coffee pot, her Le Creuset Dutch Oven and her recipe book. The first Easter after her passing, I told my sisters, "I’m going to make Ma’s pies."
“They’ll never be like hers” my sisters said.
I said, “I helped her make those pies for over 30 years, I know what I’m doing and besides I have her recipe.”
So there I was, the first Easter without mom, standing in my own kitchen, wanting to bake a ricotta pie and was befuddled as to where to begin. I opened the recipe book and felt overwhelming grief seeing each page, written in her hand. I turned to the page where she had the recipe for “Ricotta Pie.” Along with the stains and splatter marks of many years ago, were fresh splatters from my own tears.
What was I thinking? How can I bake this pie without her? After a good cry, I pulled myself together and made two pies. My crust wasn’t as good as Mom’s but the filling was spot-on. Even my sisters agreed it was good.
Now, it’s at about this time every year, I make my Mom’s ricotta pie just as it’s written in her recipe book. I think of mom, have a good cry and get it done.
Have a happy Easter, dear readers. Enjoy the day, be good to your mom and eat lots of pie. Buona Pasqua a tutti!