Pastiera Napoletana Recipe, an Italian citrus scented grain and ricotta pie with the sweet perfume of orange blossom water that is immensely popular in Naples. In la bella Napoli, pastiera is synonymous with Easter and every home in Naples will be dishing out their own version of this pie made with grano cotto, cooked wheat.
Throughout Italy the use of eggs and grains are predominate during Easter time as its said to represent new life and harvest.
This pastiera has many similarities to the one mamma would make but without the grano cotto! At times she would use a whopping 30 eggs in her Easter casata!
I have yet to post mamma’s casata recipe because I haven’t perfected it yet. Last Easter and under the guidance of my zia Maria, I attempted to make my own for the very first time. To say that it was not picture worthy is an understatement! After committing several hours in bringing our coveted Easter dessert to life…you see, I really had high expectations here and did not want to mess it up. However it came out looking much as Mount Vesuvius must looked after its catastrophic volcanic eruption!
Don’t be intimidated by the length or even the many steps of this pastiera because really you can pace yourself by starting three days before your ready to serve this ricotta pie. In fact if using hard wheat berries as I did, you’ll need to soak them overnight or better yet allow them to soak for 24 hours as this will reduce the cooking time by half, otherwise they’ll need a full two hours to cook.
Or take an even shorter cut and buy the pre-cooked wheat variety which are sold in glass jars or cans from Italian specialty shops. You would then simply proceed to the next step of simmering the cooked wheat with milk, vanilla bean and lemon zest to infuse the flavors.
Alternately the wheat berries can be substituted with quick cook farro or even cooked rice such as arborio rice.
You can make the pastry dough a day ahead as well but it will probably need to set at room temperature a bit before rolling out.
One other ingredient quite common in a Pastiera Napoletana Recipe is the use of candied peels such as lemon and orange. I’m simply not a fan of candied peels so I omitted them. I always take great care in plucking them out of my desserts!
I love this pastiera with its grainy texture and the soft bite from the grano cotto, cooked wheat berries. These little grains just pop in the mouth when cooked properly, much like a bowl of rice krispies with milk does.
I can’t stress enough how wonderful this Pastiera Napoletana Recipe tastes when made ahead! Its a symphony of a soft creamy interior perfumed with aromatic orange blossom water, encased in a lovely pasta frolla!
Buona Pasqua , Happy Easter everyone!
If you make this recipe remember to tag @marisasitaliankitchen on Instagram so I can see your creation!
Pastiera Napoletana Recipe
- 3/4 cup wheat berries or wheat kernels I soaked them for 24 hours to reduce cooking time
- FOR THE PASTA FROLLA
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1 cup powdered sugar icing sugar
- a pinch of salt I use fine sea salt
- 3/4 cup cubed cold butter
- 3 large eggs. lightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon orange zest
- FOR THE FILLING
- 1 cup whole milk
- A vanilla bean split open
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 400 grams of full fat ricotta cheese
- 2 whole eggs plus 2 eggs separated
- 1 cup powdered sugar icing sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons orange blossom water
- A tablespoon each of orange and lemon zest
- THE DAY BEFORE
- Rinse the wheat berries well and place them in a small bowl with enough water to cover.
- Allow to soak overnight or up to 24 hours before you plan to bake the ricotta pie as this will allow for quicker cooking time.
- THE FOLLOWING DAY
- Rinse and drain the wheat berries and place them in a pot with 2 cups of water and bring to a boil.
- Reduce the heat and let simmer for about 1 hour or until tender.
- Drain any remaining liquids and set aside while you prepare the pasta frolla.
- FOR THE PASTA FROLLA
- Place the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and stir to combine.
- Add the cubed butter and mix till coarse crumbs form.
- Mix in the lightly beaten eggs,vanilla extract and orange zest until it forms a smooth ball. (takes less then a minute).
- Wrap the dough in cling wrap and allow to chill in the fridge for 1 hour.
- Meanwhile place the cooked wheat in a medium sized stock pot.
- Add in the milk, vanilla bean and lemon zest.
- Bring to a boil over medium heat then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until all the liquids are absorbed while stirring often.
- Makes sure to keep an eye on it so the wheat berries do not stick to the pot and burn.
- Discard the vanilla bean and keep aside to cool.
- While the mixture cools, grease a 25cm round tart tin with a removable bottom and set aside. (I used a 25cm (10 inch) deep quiche pan with removable bottom however any 10 inch pie dish would also work).
- Cut a quarter of the dough off, reserving it for the lattice top.
- Roll out the remaining dough to about 1/8 inch thick and line the tart tin with the rolled dough.
- Trim off any excess dough with a knife.
- FOR THE FILLING:
- In a medium sized bowl mix together the ricotta, the 2 whole eggs plus 2 egg yolks until light and fluffy.
- Mix in the powdered sugar (icing sugar), orange blossom water, orange and lemon zests until combined.
- Stir in the cooled wheat mixture.
- In a separate bowl beat the two remaining egg whites just until stiff peaks form and then softly fold them into the ricotta mixture.
- Pour the ricotta mixture into the prepared pie.
- Roll out the remaining pastry dough and cut out 6 strips slightly longer then the pie tin.
- Place the strips of dough over the filling in a criss-cross pattern and trim off any excess.
- Brush the strips of dough with milk and bake the pie for about 50 to 60 minutes or until a lovely golden brown.
- Allow the ricotta pie to cool completely before refrigerating then dust with powdered sugar just before serving.
- This ricotta pie actually tastes better the day after it is baked making it a great make ahead dessert.