CNYEats A Taste of Utica: Easter Pies, Babka and Cassata

by Joanne on April 24, 2011

HAPPY EASTER!  The very best to EVERYONE for a Blessed Easter…and now, no running talk, just Utica Easter Recipes.


Utica sure does enjoy Easter.  It’s no wonder with all the mouth watering cookies, cakes, pastries, breads and specialty pies available.  This post offers a sampling of some that peaked my interest.

All recipes are from our book A Taste of Utica

Easter Meat Pie – Posted by Mario  and found on page 119 (Along with the original recipe for meat eaters, I made a vegetarian version using all vegetarian meat substitutes)


  • 2 (9”) unbaked pie crusts
  • 2 lbs ricotta cheese
  • 6 eggs
  • 8 oz mozzarella cheese, grated
  • 1/2 lb cooked Italian sausage, drained (crumble before cooking) *Vegetarians use vegetarian soy “Italian Style” sausages and simply dice.
  • 1/2 pound Genoa salami, chopped  *Vegetarians do not use.
  • 1/4 lb prosciutto, chopped *Vegetarians use soy bacon such as Morning Star Farms brand
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 325 F. Place ricotta in a large mixing bowl.  Add eggs one at a time while mixing on low speed.  Stir in mozzarella, sausage, salami, and prosciutto until all ingredients are combined. 

Spoon half of the mixture in each pie crust.  Sprinkle half of the Parmesan cheese over each pie. Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour or until crust browns. Cool on racks.

Note: You can also place top crust over each pie. Be sure to crimp edges and cut vents for steam to escape.


Easter Eggs – Posted by Toni (Leone) Guzski and found on page 170 *makes 3 doz. eggs


  • 1 egg white
  • 2 TBS light cream
  • *Apple Crumbles added 1/4 tsp of Almond extract
  • 5 cups sifted confectioners sugar
  • 1 TBS cold water

Mix the egg white, cream, water.  Add the sugar, making sure to blend well each cup before adding the next.  Mix until smooth. Form into a ball and cover with a damp cloth. Let sit for 1 hour at room temperature.

Divide into thirds and tint each one with 3 different food colors.  Shape into eggs.  Coat with tinted coconut or roll in chopped nuts. *I had to moisten the eggs before rolling in the nuts so the topping would stick.


There are two Babka recipes.  The following is the one I made, posted by Sonia and found on page 179.  The second Babka recipe is by Marie Sambor and posted by Rainie Piccione on page 180 of our book A Taste of Utica


Here is a recipe for babka that I have made many times over the years.  It came from the cookbook of Polish-American Recipes that was published by the Holy Trinity Church choir in 1965.  It’s a blend of two recipes that were in there.  Since we moved away in 1969, I had to find a way to replace that great babka we used to buy at Bazan’s Bakery, especially for Easter!  Bazan’s was wonderful! I still remember the smells of all those delicious baked goods!  Remember the punseks?  And the apple squares? Enjoy!



  • 2 TBS active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup soft butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 cup hot milk
  • 1 cup golden raisins

Dissolve yeast in warm water.  *Add a tsp of sugar if you want to let proof.  Add lemon zest and cinnamon to yeast mixture.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar.  Add salt and egg yolks and beat until thick.  Add the yeast mixture, flour, and hot milk gradually and beat until smooth.   Add raisins.

Grease hands and knead dough in bowl until smooth and blistered.  Cover and let rise in warm place for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  Punch dough down, fold dough into itself, turn upside down, and let rise again.

Butter large pan or 2 large ( 9 x 3 ) loaf pans and fill.  Beat an egg yolk with a little water. Brush tops of dough.

Streusel topping:  Mix 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 stick butter and crumble with fingers.  Sprinkle on top of unbaked babka.  Let rise again.

Bake loaves at 350 F for 30 minutes.  Top should be dark golden brown.  Remove from pans immediately and let cool on racks.


Esther’s Easter Pie posted by Chris and found on page 174


This is a tried and true very old Napolitan recipe of a cassata given to me by my ex MIL, Esther Panaro. A bit more steps than what most Uticans are used to but well worth the effort.

Esther’s Easter Pie  – Use a 12 x 13 pan for this recipe

Make the crust first:

Pasta Frolla – crust

  • 1/2 lb butter
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 4 cups flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 8 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk

Mix the flour, baking powder, and sugar in a bowl.  Cut in the cold butter, then egg yolks, and finally the milk.  You will have a top and bottom crust. Save some scraps for decorative topping if desired.

Separate the dough into two balls.  Roll out one ball and line the pan bottom and up the sides *NOTE:  Apple Crumbles used a 9” spring form pan. 

Roll out second ball then fold over wax paper.  Store the lined pan and the dough in wax paper in the refrigerator until you’re ready to pour in the filling.

The Filling

Preheat oven to 350 F.

  • 1 1/2 lbs ricotta (about 1 1/2, 15 oz containers)
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Zest of one large orange
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 1 tsp brandy extract *I used brandy liquor
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Optional:  4 oz mixed citrus fruit (candied fruits)
  • 1 small jar of maraschino cherries, drained and quartered.
  • 1 jigger Bacardi rum
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup rose water
  • 1 cup heavy cream, whipped
  • 3/4 cup cooked barley

Cook barley and let cool.

Beat the egg yolks and then add the ricotta and beat until smooth.  Add all other ingredients (except egg whites) but leave the cream and barley for last.

Beat the egg whites until stiff then fold them into the mixture.  Pour into the crust. Top with other crust (unfold from wax paper and place on top, sealing edges. Trim with scraps).

Cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake 1 hour.  Cut slit in crust after removing foil and continue baking about 20 minutes to 30 minutes longer or until set.


The Cassata is an Easter tradition.  It is an Italian dessert where a mold (baking pan, cake pan, spring form pan) is lined with a sweet pastry or liqueur soaked sponge cake.  The “crust” is then filled with a ricotta filling, flavored with candied fruit and mini chocolate chips or shavings.  It’s baked then chilled and served, sometimes with whipped cream. *None of the Utica recipes used the sponge cake crust.

Aunt Mary’s Cassata posted by Eva Russo and found on page 206.  *For additional Cassata recipes, see pages 207, 208, and 209


*Use a large greased 10 to 12 inch cake pan.  For a smaller Cassata, divide recipe in half.

Make the crust first.


  • 1 1/2 cups flour *more needed to roll out dough
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 1/4 cup milk

Beat the eggs.  Mix the flour, sugar, powder, salt, and milk together then add the beaten eggs.

Roll out the dough and line your baking pan.  Crimp the edges if you like. Use leftover dough for strips to criss-cross top of filling.

Set aside or refrigerate until you have made the filling.


  • 3 lbs of Ricotta cheese (strained)
  • 1/2 cup shaved chocolate (*I used mini chocolate chips)
  • zest of one orange
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 doz. eggs
  • 6 – 7 maraschino cherries, diced
  • several pieces of citron chopped small (optional)

Mix all the filling ingredients together in a standing electric mixer, adding the cherries and citron (if using) last.

Pour the filling into the lined pan and bake at 325 deg. F for approximately 1 hour. Test with a knife which should come out clean but may look moist.


When removed from the oven, the Cassata will settle as it is a very moist dessert.

Enjoy your Easter. Don’t wait until next year to try these recipes.  They are all easy and unbelievably good. 

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  • At 2011.04.24 14:39, Pam said:

    Happy Easter Joanne!!

    • At 2011.04.24 15:46, kalli said:

      oh my! i know i would want to be at your house for dinner! happy easter 🙂

      • At 2011.04.24 23:56, The Green Girl said:

        Happy Easter! Those pastel eggs you made are beautiful!

        • At 2011.04.25 07:59, claudia lamascolo said:

          That Cassata looks marvelous, you are right not what most of us are use too, but wow the additions are wonderful… Love the Easter eggs so festive and the pie is just wonderful and rich full of the traditional festivities… you certainly got a lucky family to help devour these riches… Happy Blessing to all of you!

          • […] As for CNYEats A Taste of Utica, enjoy the banana cookies.  The recipe on schedule for the week was actually going to be Babka, but that was actually posted in April.  Check it out HERE. […]

            • At 2013.03.18 01:59, Mary @ Fit and Fed said:

              I love the idea of the homemade little pastel Easter eggs! Why not? And probably healthier than store-bought ones, even with the sugar and coloring.

              • At 2013.03.23 11:53, Joe Mezzanini said:

                Easter food is the best .. thanks for posting..

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