Italian Pizza Chena

1 packet of active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon salt
2 cups of warm water
5-6 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 pound fresh, hot Italian sausage (in casing)
1/3 pound capicola, thinly sliced
1/3 pound Genoa salami, thinly sliced
1/3 pound mortadella, thinly sliced
1/4 lb prosciutto, very thinly sliced
1/3 lb provolone, thinly sliced
1 pound fresh basket cheese - see note
1/2 pound mozzarella or scamorza cheese, thinly sliced
9 eggs (5 will be beaten, 4 will be hard boiled)
1/3 cup minced fresh flat leaf parsley
freshly ground black pepper
1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water for egg wash

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast, sugar, and salt in 2 cups of warm water, . Using a spoon, gently blend. Add 5 cups of all-purpose flour and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Blend with a spoon just until the dough starts to form. Transfer the dough to a floured surface. Knead well, adding flour as needed, until the dough becomes springy and smooth. It should take 5-10 minutes of vigorous kneading. It will be soft and silky when done. Place the dough ball in a large, clean bowl coated with olive oil and rub some olive oil on top of the dough. Cover with a clean, dry dishtowel and let rise in a warm, draft-free area until doubled in size (approximately 2 hours).

Hard boil 4 eggs. Slice thinly and set aside. Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Remove the sausage from its casing and add to the pan. Cook for 5-6 minutes, or until browned and crispy. Transfer to a small bowl lined with a paper towel and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the 5 eggs, parsley, and black pepper to taste.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Brush the inside surface of an 8 1/2" X 3" spring form pan with olive oil. Once the dough has risen, punch it down to release air bubbles. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface, divide in half, and roll one half into a 12-inch round. Transfer the dough to the spring form pan. Using your hands, fit the dough snugly in the pan, gently stretching it to hang 1 inch over the edge of the pan.

Fill the inside of the dough with alternating layers of sliced meats, cheeses, and sliced hard-boiled eggs. After 5-6 layers, pour half of the egg mixture over the filling allowing it to seep down. Continue layering the meats and cheeses, then pour the remainder of the egg mixture evenly over the top. You should have enough for 10-12 layers.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the second half of the dough to a 12-inch round. Place the dough over the filling, and using a sharp knife, trim excess dough until it just meets the rim of the pan. Using your fingertips, pinch the edges of the dough together, and gently roll the bottom layer over the top layer creating a seal. Then pinch the dough between your thumb and index finger creating a slightly fluted edge all around. Brush the top of pie with the egg wash.

Bake pie for 60- 75 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool at least 20-25 minutes. Release the spring and transfer the pie to a serving plate. Cut into wedges and enjoy at room temperature.

Makes 10 - 12 servings.


Fresh basket cheese is a semi-soft cheese that is used primarily for binding ingredients together. It can be found at Italian markets and cheese shops. If you can't find it, then substitute one (15-ounce) container of ricotta cheese (drained), and whisk it with 2 large eggs.
Leftover pizza chena can be stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for 5-7 days. Individual slices can also be wrapped tightly in tinfoil and placed in a heavy-duty freezer bag for up to two months.
The week before Easter Sunday my Mom, Aunts and Grandmother would start cooking. This dish was my Mom's specialty. To my young taste buds it seemed very spicy and salty. I spent years trying to get this recipe from my Mom. She kept confusing it with another, similar, dish. Finally found it on this website: Pizza Chena Serve very small slices of it at room temperature as a starter. It is very rich!

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