This time of year, egg hunting and the chocolification of bunny rabbits is not only accepted but encouraged. I prefer the way the Italians ring in the Easter season: with a rustic pastry stuffed with ham, eggs and plenty of cheese.
It wasn’t until about this time last year that I was aware of this tradition.
Working on a book detailing the culinary history of the cradle of Italian culture in Oklahoma, I went to Krebs to meet with the owner of Pete’s Place, Joe Prichard. Prichard invited me to join him in the warehouse of Choc Brewing Co., where a collection of local philosophers meets every week to wax nostalgic and help Prichard with Choc beer quality control.
For this occasion, Prichard outfitted an ice chest with plenty of ice and a variety of bottles from the warehouse and a dish commonly consumed in Pittsburg County around Easter. He called the dish Shetone, and that spelling is his best guess.
I searched high and low for recipes and came up empty.
But Prichard and his beer-tasting professionals insisted this savory, breakfast-friendly pastry was a long-standing tradition among the generations of Italians who occupied the southeastern Oklahoma hill country.
I did find a dish called Torta Pasqualina, common in Liguria, which is commonly served during Holy Week and fit the description of Prichard’s Shetone (or maybe Zhetone, he shrugged).
Prichard gave me a recipe that yields enough to feed the town of Krebs to use in “A Culinary History of Pittsburg County: Little Italy, Choctaw Beer and Lamb Fries,” and I thought enough of what he served to develop a smaller recipe of my own.
This ham and cheese pie can be stuffed with Italian sausage (I recommend Lovera’s or Siegi’s), and the pastry can be a simple rustic, handmade creation, or you can bust out a large spring-form pan and turn this into a miniature timpano. Start with this simple introductory recipe to get a feel for how easy the pastry is to make, then get creative and make it your own for next Easter.
The dish can be made well in advance and refrigerated since it’s meant to be served at room temperature.
It’s a great dish to set on the counter and let people graze on it as pangs of hunger come and go throughout the holiday.
Italian Easter Pie
FOR THE PASTRY
5 cups all-purpose flour, sifted