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Not My Mother’s Easter Pie

Two years ago I shared a recipe for a vegan version of my mother’s traditional Easter Pie, a savory pie made with hot Italian sausage and ricotta cheese. As I mentioned in that post, I tweak my recipe a little each year. The filling is usually a 2 to 1 ratio of seasoned tofu to vegan sausage. (See recipe.)

This year, I tried something completely different. First, instead of making it as a pie, I shaped it into a roll for something a little different. The second big change was that instead of using already-made vegan sausage in the filling (combined with a tofu “ricotta”), I combined the tofu in a food processor with the ingredients for homemade vegan sausage (vital wheat gluten, spices, etc.). I also used approximately equal amounts of tofu to the sausage mixture, resulting in a firmer texture. I then shaped the mixture into a log and baked it. Once cooled, I wrapped it in a sheet of puff pastry and baked it until golden brown. (The recipe for this new version is below.)

While the flavor is similar to my traditional “pie” version, the texture is much firmer (owing to the ratio of tofu to “sausage”) making it a dream to slice. My family always ate a slice of Easter Pie cold for breakfast, but this new version also makes a lovely main dish served with roasted asparagus, carrots, and small red potatoes. Any way you slice it, this is definitely not my mother’s Easter Pie — it’s way better.

Not My Mother’s Easter Pie
Allow to cool at room temperature for at least 15 minutes before slicing with a serrated knife. (It’s also great served cold or at room temperature.)

1 cup wheat gluten flour (vital wheat gluten)
3 tablespoons tapioca flour
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
10 to 12 ounces firm tofu, crumbled
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 Pepperidge Farm puff pastry sheet, thawed

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil a shallow baking pan and set aside.
2. In a food processor, combine the wheat gluten flour, tapioca flour, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, whole and ground fennel seeds, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Pulse to mix.
3. Add the tofu, water, soy sauce, olive oil, and ketchup and process until well mixed.
4. Shape the mixture into a 7-inch log, wrap it in foil and place it in a baking pan. Bake for 45 minutes, turning once about halfway through. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool completely.
5. Roll out the pastry sheet on a floured surface. Place the cooled sausage log on the lower third of the pastry and fold in the sides. Roll up the pastry to enclose the sausage and use your fingers to seal the ends. Place the roll on a baking sheet, seam-side down, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
6. Bake until the pastry is nicely browned, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes before slicing with a serrated knife.

My Vegan Easter Pie Tradition

When I first went vegan, one of the first things I needed to veganize was a traditional family dish: the Italian specialty we call Easter Pie. Each year my mother would make this savory pie with hot Italian sausage and ricotta cheese — about as non-vegan as you can get. We never ate the pie hot or even warm — in fact, we usually enjoyed it cold for breakfast. Over the years, I’ve tinkered with her recipe and I must say that the recipe in Vegan Fire & Spice comes pretty close. The recipe is below and includes my latest “tweaks” (I’m always zeroing in on just the right balance of flavors so it tastes as close to my mom’s version as I can get it.) The photo shows the slice I had for lunch today with a side of red beets on a nest of beet greens. Mmm.
It seems as though everyone who makes (traditional) Easter Pie (called “pastiche” and “scachette” in different places) includes something different in their recipe — some people use rice, others use noodles, and some make it on the sweet side. If you have a family Easter Pie tradition (and a vegan version!) I’d love to hear about it.

Italian Easter Pie
Called by many names in different regions of Italy, my family just called it Easter Pie because my mother only made it at Easter time. This is an adaptation of the recipe in Vegan Fire & Spice — the original version makes enough filling for a larger pie, and I decided to make a smaller one this year. Note: to save time, you can use ready-made pie shells, if you like.

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup non-hydrogenated vegan margarine
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup water
8 ounces vegan sausage, crumbled (homemade or purchased)
1 pound extra-firm tofu, drained and crumbled
1/4 cup vegan parmesan or nutritional yeast
1/4 cup minced parsley
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon paprika

Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a food processor, combine the flour, margarine, sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. With the machine running, add enough water until a dough ball forms. Separate the dough into two equal balls, and refrigerate until needed.
In a large bowl combine the vegan sausage, tofu, soy parmesan, parsley, remaining 1 teaspoon of salt, pepper, ground fennel seed, cayenne, red pepper flakes, and paprika. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Roll out the dough into 2 11-inch rounds. Place the bottom crust in a 10-inch pie plate, and spread the filling mixture over it. Cover with the top crust, pinching the edges, and prick with the tines of a fork. Bake for 1 hour or until the crust is golden brown.
Serves 6