Posted by: Erica Retrochef | June 11, 2012

Pie A La Italiana

I apologize in advance to those of my readers with Italian heritage. And those of you who just happen to like Italian food.

Come to think of it, I should probably just apologize to everybody who eats food.

I do take some solace that I’m not the person who comes up with these dish names, though. What is even vaguely Italian about this, besides “Italian cheese”? Maybe that tablespoon of Parmesan.

Pie A La Italiana

1 can Pillsbury Refrigerated Quick Crescent Dinner Rolls
8-ounce package Italian or Monterey Jack cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
12-ounce can luncheon meat, cut into 1/2-inch cubes or 12-ounce package smoked sausage, cut into 1/2-inch slices
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
2 eggs, slightly beaten

Open can; unroll dough and separate into 8 triangles. Place 5 triangles in ungreased 9-inch pie pan pressing pieces together to form a crust. Reserve 3 triangles for top crust. Combine remaining ingredients in large mixing bowl. Pour into crust. Roll out each remaining triangle so longest side is 9-inches. Cut into 1/2-inch strips. Crisscross strips over filling to form a lattice top. Flute edge. Bake at 325° for 60 to 70 minutes or until knife inserted 2-inches from edge comes out clean. Do not overbake. Cool 10 minutes before cutting in wedges.

I assume that Italian cheese is mozzarella — but who knows. I went with Monterey Jack. And given the choice between Spam and little sausages, little sausages win easily.

One thing I particularly dislike about recipes calling for pre-made dough is that 99% of the time they call for crescent rolls. The taste isn’t the problem. The pre-cut triangles are the problem. Here, for example, we’re supposed to be making a circular pie crust (and then some strips for a lattice top) out of triangles.

Even more frustrating, 5 triangles provided laughably inadequate coverage once they’re squished together enough to seal up the triangle-joints. (I swear I’m using a 9-inch pie pan, not an 18-inch one.) The ingredient — crescent rolls — is being forced to fit a recipe idea, and it fits badly.

Luckily, I’d had the forethought to buy an extra package of crescent rolls. Maybe not “forethought” so much as “there’s probably some other ridiculous recipe calling for these that I’ll find later,” but the end result was still that I had enough extra triangles to fill in the gaping hole.

Next, “combine remaining ingredients” apparently means “lightly coating meat and cheese chunks with egg and Parmesan.” This just doesn’t seem like it’s going to bake into a nice consistency…

When you’re worried about the flavor, make a pretty woven top. Hopefully that will convince everybody to take a bite of your eggy-cheese-sausage casserole. (Sorry, sorry, “pie a la Italiana.”)

After baking it for A WHOLE HOUR, it wasn’t thoroughly burnt (to my surprise). Instead, the cheese and egg had melted all together and then re-solidified.

This was terribly rich, thanks to all that cheese, sausage, and buttery crust. There was nothing about the flavor that reminded me of anything Italian — if anything, it tasted like these ham and cheese croissants made by a local bakery. I could imagine this as a savory breakfast pastry (indeed, that’s probably what we’ll do with the leftovers), but it’s quite heavy and I do not recommend large servings of it for any meal. The light salad on the side was a relief for everybody!

If I re-imagined this, I’d find a more interesting meat, cut the amount of cheese in half, and use the crescent rolls the way they were designed instead of for a lattice top — turning this into cheesy sausage crescent rolls, something that could be a small few bites instead of the focus of dinner. The general theme of “meat and cheese in crust” certainly offers some room for creative variations, so maybe it’s worth trying to improve the next time you want something simple and have an hour to cook dinner!

Various versions of Pie A La Italiana can be found, and lots of people remember it fondly on public recipe sites. This particular one came from Charm and Poise on Flickr, originally from a 1968 Pillsbury recipe contest.



  1. “Pie A La Italiana”? Hahahahaha!!!! In a lot of old cookbooks you’ll see recipes for “Italian ____” or my favorite, “Spaghetti Italiano”. (I suppose there are non-Italian spaghetti dishes, but it’s funny how they emphasize the ‘Italian’ – maybe adding a 1/4 tsp. of garlic salt or a pinch of oregano to give it the authentic Italiano touch.) BUT – I want to inform anyone who uses crescent rolls in recipes that a lifelong dream has come true – there is now, for sale next to the triangles, tubes of crescent roll dough in SOLID SHEETS for just such a purpose as this. No more pinching triangles together. Really, look on the shelf, solid sheets of dough. Woot!

    • I was gonna say the same thing. They’re awesome. I used to use them to make mini appetizers for xmas and Thanksgiving..until my sister went gluten-free. *sigh*

  2. Nicely done! I think your idea for tiny sausage crescent rolls is a great one.

  3. I think just changing to Italian Sausage, partially fried off before hand. THEN build the dish would make a huge difference. I might try this doing just that.

    Otherwise, this is about as Italian as Mickey Mouse!

  4. Wow. There’s a big Father’s Day brunch coming up with a local women’s group, and they wanted us to come up with “big-appetite friendly” brunch foods. I’m thinking… some variation of this might work, but we’ll call it Americana, and leave it at that!!

    Unless, that is, we add oregano, that herb of Italian mystery…

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