Dolci & Desserts Italian Regional Recipes

Pastiera, the Neapolitan Easter Cake

Neapolitan Pastiera, Pastiera Napoletana in Italian, is a typical soft and fragrant Easter cake made in several familiar versions although the main ingredients are always the same: boiled wheat, ricotta and citrus fruit, orange blossom water or orange zest and lemon zest. If you don’t have orange blossom water you can use orange essence or orange peel as we did. Originally lard was used, but it is increasingly being replaced with butter or even half butter and half lard.

The filling is traditionally prepared the day before, as for the cream of wheat which is soaked for about 2-3 days so that the flavours are better released.
Using the pre-cooked is howewer a good and more manageable option that halves the time and makes preparation easier. You can find cooked wheat as ‘Grano Cotto‘ sold in jars on-line.

Pastiera was created in the 16th century and its recipe has been modified and perfected until it was recognised as a traditional food product of Campania.


Serves 8, Preparation 30 mins, Cooking 40-50 mins

For the Shorcrust Pastry

  • Flour 00 250 g
  • Lard 50 g – Butter 50 g or 100 g butter
  • Sugar 80 g
  • Wildflower honey 20 g
  • 1 medium egg
  • Whole milk at room temperature, 40 ml
  • Lemon peel ½
  • Orange peel ½
  • Fine salt, 1 pinch

For the Cream of Wheat

For the Filling

  • Sheep’s milk ricotta, 200 g
  • Caster sugar, 180 g
  • Candied citron 50 g
  • Whole eggs, 2
  • Yolks 1
  • Orange blossom water, 2 ml or orange peel
  • Whole milk 20 ml
  • Lemon peel, to taste

Method

The making of Shortcrust Pastry

Sift the flour, add a pinch of salt and make a well.
In the centre, add the butter, lard – or just the butter – and sugar and beat slowly, then add the honey, 1 whole egg and the milk. Add the orange and lemon peel.
Continue working the ingredients in the centre until you have a soft batter. Gradually add the flour and mix everything together to form a smooth, homogeneous dough. Cover with cling film and leave the dough to rest in the fridge for 1 hour.

The making of Wheat Cream

In a small saucepan pour the pre-cooked wheat, add a pinch of salt and add the milk and the 25 g of butter. Add the ungrated orange and lemon peel for flavouring. Heat the milk, stirring constantly. Once it comes to the boil, turn off the heat and transfer to a bowl to cool.

The making of the Filling
In a separate bowl, sift the ricotta cheese, add the sugar, stir until smooth and refrigerate for an hour.
Take the wheat mixture out of the fridge, remove the citrus peels and transfer to a large bowl. Add the diced candied citron and mix.
Take out also the bowl with the ricotta and sugar, add the honey, mix and add the wheat mixture, mix and incorporate. In another bowl break the eggs and the yolk, pour the orange blossom water if you have it otherwise just orange zest, add also the milk, grate some lemon zest, mix everything.

Add this mixture to the ricotta and wheat cream, stirring continuously. The filling is ready.

Take the shortcrust pastry and on a lightly floured surface roll it out to a thickness of 3 mm using a rolling pin. Line the bottom of the cake tin without greasing or flouring it.

Make the bottom and the edges adhere well, then remove the excess shortcrust pastry by passing the rolling pin over the edges and prick the base with a fork.

Pour in the filling, roll out the leftover pastry and make 6 or 7 strips 1 to 2 cm thick, placing the strips across the edge of the pastiera.
Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350 F / Gas 4, bake Pastiera in a static oven about 45 to 50 minutes on the lowest shelf of the oven.

Take it out of the oven, let it cool completely, sprinkle it with a bit of icing sugar and serve.

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