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Italian Rice Pie (Pastiera di Riso)

This is an amazing authentic recipe for Italian rice pie (pastiera di riso) that is straight from Italy. It is traditionally served for Easter dessert in the Naples region of Italy. Many Italian American homes here in the USA also enjoy this pie for Easter.

two plates with a slice of rice pie and a lemon twist on white background
Italian rice pie for Easter

This is a very popular Neapolitan Italian dessert recipe for Easter. The basic ingredients include a sweet pie crust and a rice- and ricotta cheese-based filling. The filling is made by first cooking the rice with milk and lemon peel. The cooled mixture is then combined with ricotta cheese, eggs, sugar, and other flavorings.

This was something my mother made every single year for Easter along with Easter bread and pizza rustica (meat and cheese pie). And boy, did I look forward to eating it! There is something very special about baking things only once per year, as it makes for something that you really look forward to making and eating!

two plates with a slice of rice pie and a lemon twist on white background

Finding a recipe for Italian rice pie

Probably one of the most challenging aspects of passing down recipes from Italian parents in the USA is that they measure exactly nothing! And so you can imagine how difficult that is to share. Thankfully, I was able to find this recipe, which is nearly identical to what my mom made for many many years!

This recipe was adapted from a very popular Italian blog site (Giallo Zafferano). I have found that the recipe that my mom used to make (rice, ricotta, lemon, eggs, sugar, vanilla) is not too easy to find on US sites (and as I’ve explained before, she bakes by touch and feel..no measurement involved ever!).

Step by Step Instructions:

To make the pie crust…

To make the crust, you will add the flour, sugar, butter, and zest to a bowl

Using your fingers, squeeze the butter into the dry ingredients until it resembles coarse sand like the photo shown here:

Keep pressing together and eventually the dough will become more lumpy like so:

Press down and form into a dough:

To make the filling..

To make the filling, you will start by cooking the rice with the milk and lemon peel – you must be careful to stir the ingredients on the rice will stick!

Continue to cook until the rice has absorbed most of the milk. Then set aside to cool.

While the rice mixture is cooling, combine the ricotta, sugar, eggs, and flavorings in a separate bowl and mix until well combined.

After the rice mixture has cooled (it probably will stiffen), combine it with the well combined ricotta mixture.

Pour into the prepared pan that has been lined with the pie crust and bake until the filling is set (should be at least 1/2 inch below rim).

Tips for Making the Pie

  • After making the crust and before refrigerating, it helps to gently shape the crust into a large flat circle. I place on parchment and slide it into a plastic bag for at least an hour. 
  • Roll out pie dough using plenty of flour on both sides! Flour the rolling pin as well. Turn the pie crust as you roll to ensure it’s not sticking. 
  • Place parchment paper under crust when rolling to help prevent sticking and also moving the crust, and use flour under and on top of crust to roll (can’t stress that enough). 
  • Turn/rotate the pie crust after rolling 2 to 3 times to ensure it doesn’t stick.
  • To transfer the pie crust to the pan, roll it gently around your rolling pin and place on top of pan. 
  • If the dough breaks or falls apart, it can easily be pieced back together in the pan – just press it back into shape. 
  • Check the pie 20 minutes and 10 minutes before finished time; you may need to place a sheet of aluminum foil on top to prevent over browning. 
  • If you want to make a lattice, read some tips beforehand here (my best advice is to keep the dough on the thicker side at least 1/4 inch or so, to refrigerate/firm it up before attempting to work with it, and to use less strips than used in other pies because this dough is very fragile).
  • More tips on rolling out pie dough from Smitten Kitchen who I agree with wholeheartedly.

Other Easter Recipes to Try:

📖 Recipe

side view of Italian rice pie on white plate with fork

Italian Rice Pie

This delightful dessert is a cherished Easter tradition in many areas of Italy as well as Italian American communities in the USA. Made with creamy rice pudding and infused with the bright, tangy flavor of lemon, this rice pie is a truly delicious! This dessert is an absolute must-try.
4.84 from 18 votes
Author: Marie
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine Italian
Servings 16 slices
Calories 343 kcal

Equipment

  • 9 inch springform pan

Ingredients
 

For the Crust (OPTIONAL, this can be made without crust)

  • 2.5 cups (312.5 g) all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (50 g) sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 10 tablespoons (147.87 g) unsalted butter cut into cubes or slices, not melted
  • 1 tbsp grated lemon from 1 small lemon (optional)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 large eggs large

For the Filling

  • 4 cups (473.18 g) whole milk
  • 1 cup (185 g) rice I prefer short (arborio) grain rice
  • 1 lemon peel optional; yellow part only (minimize pith [the white part])
  • 1 pound (2 cups) ricotta cheese firm (drain over cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer if too wet)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup (200 g) sugar
  • 2 tbsp lemon zest from 1 medium lemon
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract or rum extract, or lemon juice

To Bake the Pie

  • egg wash (one egg with a splash of milk, beaten with fork) (if you made with pie crust)
  • sugar to sprinkle on top, if using top crust

To Serve/Decorate

  • powdered sugar enough to decorate top of pie
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon optional

Instructions
 

For Best Results

  • Read through all directions before starting!

To Make the Pie Crust (optional; pie can be made crustless)

  • Makes ~650 grams or 23 ounces of pie crust.
  • In a large bowl, add the sugar, flour, salt, baking powder, lemon zest, and cubed butter. Using your hands, cut/squeeze the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse sand
  • In another bowl, lightly whisk the eggs and then pour into the dry sandlike mixture and stir until all of the egg has been incorporated
  • Press down and form into a dough and then turn out onto counter and knead a few times until there are no dry bits remaining.
  • I like a thicker crust so I split the dough unevenly; that is, I use about 60% for the bottom and 40% for the top crust – no need to be too accurate just "eyeball" it when you divide the dough.
  • Butter and flour an 9-inch springform pan. After the dough has chilled, roll it into a circle that is about 12 to 13 inches wide and then carefully transfer it over to the prepared pan and line it with the dough. Use PLENTY of flour under and on top of dough before and while rolling and also on your rolling pin. Return dough to fridge if it gets too warm or sticky.
  • If the dough falls apart you can simply pinch it back together in the pan. Use plenty of flour on both sides of the dough when you are rolling out the dough to prevent sticking
  • After you line the pan with the dough, you can freeze the pan with crust for an hour or so or place in fridge for at least an hour or overnight. This helps to prevent shrinkage.
  • If you want to top the pie with pie crust lattice, roll out the crust using plenty of flour on both sides and the rolling pin, and cut into strips. Place strips on baking sheet or dish and chill until ready to use.

To Prepare the Filling

  • If you're not using a pie crust, prepare your springform pan by buttering and dusting the pan with flour. Set aside.
  • Using a medium sized pot, begin by adding the rice, milk, and (if using), lemon peel to a gentle boil over medium low heat. You MUST stir very often or the mixture will definitely stick to the bottom of the pan!! Scrape the bottom as you stir.
  • After the rice has begun to slightly bubble, reduce the heat to low and continue cooking for about 30 to 50 minutes until the rice is almost cooked (it's okay if rice is just a bit undercooked as it will keep cooking as it cools and in the oven). Keep a lid on the pot, slightly ajar during this process. Set aside to cool.
  • While the rice mixture is cooling, preheat the oven to 325F.
  • In a separate bowl, mix the ricotta and sugar until combined and then add the eggs one at a time until combined. Next, add the grated lemon zest, and vanilla extract and beat until creamy (I mixed by hand using a whisk).
  • Once the rice mixture is cooled (to the point where it won't cook the egg in the ricotta mixture), add it a little at a time to the ricotta mixture and stir to combine.

To Bake the Pie

  • If using a crust, pierce the dough several times all over with a fork
  • Pour the rice-ricotta filling mixture into the pie shell or into the prepared springform pan (ie, buttered and floured)
  • If using top crust, top with second pie crust or the lattice strips and top the pie. Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle sugar.
  • Place the pie on a baking sheet. Bake at 325 degrees F on the center rack until the filling is set (about 70 to 90 minutes).
  • Check the pie after about an hour and if crust is browning too much, place a piece of aluminum foil over the top very loosely.
  • Keep checking the pie every 10 minutes or so during the last 30 minutes of baking. Shake the pan gently to see when it firms up.
  • Pie is finished when the filling doesn't jiggle too much – only very slightly.

To Decorate

  • Once pie is cooled, sprinkle the top with powdered sugar and cinnamon .

Storing and Eating

  • Cool pie completely before eating and before storing in the refrigerator (otherwise, condensation can form when covered). Pie is best enjoyed at room temperature (otherwise, rice tends to harden too much).
  • Rice pie keeps under refrigeration for about 3 to 4 days; do not keep at room temperature longer than 2 hours.

Notes

Tips for Pie Crust: 
  • After making the crust and before refrigerating, it helps to gently shape the crust into a large flat circle. I place on parchment and slide it into a plastic bag for at least an hour. 
  • Roll out pie dough using plenty of flour on both sides! Flour the rolling pin as well. Turn the pie crust as you roll to ensure it’s not sticking. 
  • Place parchment paper under crust when rolling to help and use flour under and on top of crust to roll (can’t stress that enough). 
  • Turn the pie crust after rolling 2 to 3 times to ensure it doesn’t stick.
  • To transfer the pie crust to the pan, roll it gently around your rolling pin. 
  • If the dough breaks or falls apart, it can easily be pieced back together in the pan – just press it back into shape. 
  • Check the pie often; you may need to place a sheet of aluminum foil on top to prevent over browning. 
Recipe updated on April 5, 2023 (now uses 9-inch springform pan; less sugar; and more milk)
 

Nutrition

Calories: 343kcalCarbohydrates: 44gProtein: 10gFat: 14gSaturated Fat: 8gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0.3gCholesterol: 87mgSodium: 140mgPotassium: 204mgFiber: 1gSugar: 19gVitamin A: 512IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 162mgIron: 1mg
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Nutrition Facts
Italian Rice Pie
Amount per Serving
Calories
343
% Daily Value*
Fat
 
14
g
22
%
Saturated Fat
 
8
g
40
%
Trans Fat
 
0.3
g
Polyunsaturated Fat
 
1
g
Monounsaturated Fat
 
4
g
Cholesterol
 
87
mg
29
%
Sodium
 
140
mg
6
%
Potassium
 
204
mg
6
%
Carbohydrates
 
44
g
15
%
Fiber
 
1
g
4
%
Sugar
 
19
g
21
%
Protein
 
10
g
20
%
Vitamin A
 
512
IU
10
%
Vitamin C
 
1
mg
1
%
Calcium
 
162
mg
16
%
Iron
 
1
mg
6
%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

23 Comments

    1. Hi Maria, thank you- I added the cup measurement to the recipe. One pound is equivalent to almost 2 cups, and it’s always sold in pounds here in the USA, so I typically will use the whole container.

  1. Made this for Easter- followed instructions as listed – everything was perfect (rice cooked perfectly in 30 mins- maybe a little less time) This was amazing! Will be included on our annual Easter menu. How long does it keep if not refrigerated?
    Thank you!

    1. Thank you! We love it so much too. You should keep it refrigerated and it will keep for at least 3 to 4 days. I wouldn’t keep it at room temperature for more than 2 hours. I’ve clarified a bit in the recipe card.

  2. 2 stars
    I cooked the rice till all the milk was absorbed. Followed as stated, and the rice was not cooked enough afte 50 min . The top looked dry so I removed it. It is not creamy, but dry with uncooked rice. I’m going to scoop out the rice mix and remake like rice pudding.

  3. Hi, thank you for this recipe. My hubby has been talking about his grandma’s rice pie for 45 years. (She was an immigrant from Naples). Looks like this might be the one! Just one question; you mentioned the ricotta amount would be updated to 2 cups, however, the recipe says 1 cup, please clarify. Happy Easter.

    1. Thank you for mentioning that. I did update the recipe to 2 cups but then eventually went back to one cup because I preferred it that way. I will update soon. Enjoy!

  4. I had this recipe that i got from my mom and i couldnt find it this one that you have is just like my mom used to make thank you i will be making this for my Easter dinner

  5. The recipe for the CRUST calls for 1T grated lemon zest, but the directions never say when to add it. Does it go in with the eggs?

    1. Looking at the photos, I added it into the dry ingredients but you can add it with the eggs I don’t think it matters too much either way. Thanks for pointing that out I’ll update the directions – enjoy!

      1. I’m making this today and just noticed that the directions also say to add lemon peel to the milk snd rice on the stovetop, but also says to add lemon zest to the ricotta/egg/sugar mixture. How much lemon zest goes in with the milk and rice, and how much goes into the ricotta/egg mixture? Thanks!

      2. Yes, I did add a peel to the milk-rice mixture when heating so you can opt to add that; I don’t think it will matter much and I’d avoid the pith (white part of peel) and only use the yellow if you try it. I’ll amend instructions later thanks for catching these!

  6. 5 stars
    Delicious!! Just served this for dessert. I have been searching for this recipe for years but never found the right one. I worked for an Italian family in food service years ago and momma made the best easter rice pie. She made her own candied lemon and orange peels to dice up for the filling. I lost her recipe years ago. This is just short the candied peels but definitely doesn’t need them with the great lemon flavor. Brings back memories. Thanks for sharing.

      1. I had this recipe that i got from my mom and i couldnt find it this one that you have is just like my mom used to make thank you i will be making this for my Easter dinner

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