The 2022 Indie Pie Contest, in recognition of Pi Day, 3/14, produced two winners, who were interviewed by Taste Editor Teresa Parker. —Ed.
Golden Goose Award Winner: Carolina Marseglia
Making ricotta cheese was an everyday ritual in the Puglian towns where Carolina Marseglia’s parents grew up. On visits there, Marseglia watched people make their own ricotta from local milk. Leftovers would not do — ricotta was to be eaten the day it was made.
There was a time during her childhood in Bristol, Conn. when Marseglia was embarrassed by ricotta-making and all the other oldways her parents brought with them to America. “They grew everything and made everything from scratch,” she says. Now she appreciates their devotion, but when she was young, she recalls, “I just wanted to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches like everyone else.”
On the Saturday before Easter, she would help her mother make a ricotta pie. “Then you had to wait,” she says. “Growing up Catholic, you always had to wait for everything.”
Ricotta pie has to settle, she says, the way a cheesecake does — it’s better the next day. On Easter Sunday after church, a slice of citrus-scented, creamy, custardy pie was the reward for patience. A percolator on the stove filled the air with the smell of good coffee.
Then her father would get out his homemade anisette, Galliano, and other liqueurs, to be sipped from cordial glasses.
Marseglia lives in North Truro now, but she still makes her pie only around the Easter season. She learned her mother’s method for a very simple version. “But I like to study cookbooks,” she says. Her updates started with a recipe she found in The Cooking of Italy, from the old Time Life Foods of the World series published in 1968. There’s nothing else like that rich, sweet pasta frolla crust, she says. “It’s just delicious.”
The filling has continued to evolve. Instead of candied citron, she uses fresh zests. She also slips in some chocolate-dipped orange rinds.
This prize-winning pie was made truly special by a gift from a local farmer. Marseglia volunteers at the Truro Swap Shop on Saturday mornings. A couple of weeks ago, fellow volunteer Nancy Fenichel came in and announced, “I have a treat for you.” It was a basket of goose eggs. “It seemed to be almost all yolk, and I think is the equivalent of at least two hens’ eggs,” says Marseglia.
A goose egg is not required to make this pie a winner.
Carolina Marseglia’s Ricotta Pie
Makes one 9-inch pie
For the pasta frolla crust:
2 cups flour
¼ cup sugar
½ tsp. salt
12 Tbsp. butter
4 egg yolks
3 Tbsp. dry Marsala
1 tsp. grated lemon rind
For the filling:
5 cups (2½ lbs.) ricotta cheese
½ cup sugar
1 Tbsp. flour
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. grated orange rind
4 egg yolks
1 Tbsp. golden raisins
1 Tbsp. candied orange peel
For the top:
2 Tbsp. slivered blanched almonds or pine nuts
1 egg white + 1 Tbsp. water
Heat the oven to 350o F. Lightly butter a 9-inch springform pan.
For the crust, in a mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Cut in the butter, and stir in the yolks, the marsala, and the lemon rind. Gently roll out the pastry and line the springform pan with it. There will be enough dough to make cutouts or lattices to weave on top.
Combine the filling ingredients and mix well. Spoon it into the pastry crust. Sprinkle the top with almonds or pine nuts and add lattice or cutouts of the excess pasta frolla, brushing it with the egg and water mixture. Bake for 1 to 1¼ hours until golden and filling is just set.
First Pie Ever Award: Michaela Chesin
A reporter for this newspaper, Michaela Chesin arrived at the March 9 editorial meeting smelling of bourbon. Her colleagues worried as she set a foil-covered oval baking dish in front of them.
“This is my first pie,” said Chesin, whose bourbon pecan pie won in the First Pie Ever division. Pitches and assignments were made. But soon enough, the pie, with its boozy aroma, distracted the team’s efforts.
“Is it time to judge the pie?” someone asked. And in a few minutes, it was gone. For a while, deadlines were forgotten and a contented mood ruled the room.
“Well, that was more fun than I thought,” Chesin said, victorious. She had almost given up before she started because the furnished rental she lives in did not come with a pie pan. But she improvised. “It turns out an oval works just fine,” she said.
Next, Chesin said, she got stressed out about the prospect of making her own crust. For help, she turned to Betty Crocker. “There’s no shame in a store-bought crust,” said Indie food writer and pie judge Katherine Alford. If you’re going to cheat, Alford added, a mix is the way to go.
Memories of her brother Jordan’s rich and gooey pecan pies inspired Chesin’s direction for her first pie ever. Studying recipes online, she zeroed in on a New York Times recipe by Julia Reed. She made a few adjustments, though. “The Times called for two tablespoons of bourbon, but I bought a nip,” Chesin said, “and — what the heck.”
She liked one reader’s suggestion, which gave the finished pie its fetching aroma. “I like to soak pecans in bourbon while I am preparing the pie … and layer them on top,” someone named Mark had written. “Don’t forget to finish off the bourbon to eliminate waste.”
A Beginner’s Bourbon Pecan Pie
For the crust:
Betty Crocker Pie Crust Mix. (“Maybe next time I’ll try the real deal,” said Chesin.)
For the filling:
1 cup sugar
½ cup light corn syrup
½ cup dark corn syrup
1/3 cup unsalted butter
One “nip” bottle of bourbon
1¼ tsp. vanilla extract
¼ tsp. salt
1¼ cups pecans
Optional: an additional ¼ cup of pecans, soaked in a few more tablespoons of bourbon, as a garnish.
Preheat oven to 375o F. Melt the butter. Beat the eggs and add the sugar, corn syrups, melted butter, bourbon, vanilla, and salt. Mix well.
Roll out the pie crust and settle it into a 9-inch pie shell, or a baking dish somewhere near that size. Prick the sides and bottom of the pie shell with a fork at half-inch intervals, then spread the pecans on the bottom.
Pour the filling mixture over the pecans and bake 35 to 45 minutes, until the filling is just set around the edges but still slightly loose in the center. The pie will continue to set as it cools.