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Pastiera Napoletana: the traditional recipe of the Neapolitan ricotta Easter pie

Total time: 4H30
Difficulty: Medium
Serves: 12 people
By Cookist

The pastiera napoletana, or simply pastiera, is a traditional Neapolitan Easter ricotta pie from Campania region, especially in Naples and its surroundings. It has a fragrant shell of shortcrust pastry and a creamy filling based on ricotta cheese, cooked wheat (or grano cotto), eggs, sugar, milk, orange flower water and candied orange and citron.

This recipe is a springtime ritual that takes about 3-4 days to make, or 6 if you use uncooked wheat as you should soak it for about 2-3 days. Indeed, it is usually made on Holy Thursday and served on Easter Sunday.

The Neapolitan pastiera is decorated on the surface with  seven strips of shortcrust pastry, four below and three above or vice versa. Finally, bake it in the oven until golden brown. Perfect to serve on a traditional Neapolitan Easter lunch, the pastiera is still delicious if enjoyed the next day as the flavors blend perfectly and the texture becomes slightly moist.

This recipe is very popular in Naples area and each family has its own version. You can make a creamier filling by blending it, or leave the grains as they are if you prefer a more traditional pastiera. You can also use sheep'milk ricotta cheese or mix it with a part of cow's milk ricotta cheese. And we could continue indefinitely, since there are so many variants.

Enjoy the pastiera napoletana together with other traditional Easter recipes from Italy such as Easter bundt cake, Italian Easter bread or casatiello.

Pastiera Napoletana Origins

The origins of Neapolitan pastiera are still not clear. Among the many legends, one tells that goddess Partenope (who was the protector of the city) received seven ingredients from the sea with which she made this dessert. In fact, Neapolitan pastiera doesn't contain one less main ingredient. Another legend says Maria Theresa of Austria smiled for the first time while tasting this cake.

Realistically, it is believed that the recipe of pastiera dates back to 1600, when in "Lo cunto de li cunti" (1634) by Giambattista Basile is mentioned the pastiera, as well as in the cookbook by Ippolito Cavalcanti in 1837.

Tips for making Neapolitan Ricotta Easter Pie

For a more intense flavor in the filling, you can also add a spoonful of powdered cinnamon.

The shortcrust pastry shell can be also made without baking powder.

Those with a sweet tooth can also add a few tablespoons of custard to the ricotta cheese and wheat filling.

Make sure your pastiera is completely cool when you unmold it otherwise it will break. Don't refrigerate it to hurry it up.

If you can't find cooked wheat, soak uncooked wheat grains 3 days before you want to make the pastiera. You can also replace it with pearl barley pearls.

How to store Pastiera

Pastiera can be stored at room temperature for 2 days, and for extra 2 days in the refrigerator, covered with a sheet of cling film. You can also freeze it both before and after cooking for 2 months.

for the shortcrust pastry
All-purpose flour
500 g
Granulated sugar
200 g
butter or lard
200 g
Medium eggs
lemon, grated zest
Baking powder
a pinch
Fine salt
a pinch
for the wheat cream
cooked wheat
580 g
Whole Milk
300 g
30 g
for the ricotta cream
Ricotta cheese
700 g
Granulated sugar
500 g
candied orange and citron
100 g
Vanilla Extract
1 tbsp
orange flower water
1 vial
for decorating (optional)
Powdered sugar

How to make Pastiera Napoletana

Drain the wheat well.

Transfer it to a saucepan and add the whole milk.

Also add the butter and put on medium heat to start cooking.

Stir occasionally and cook the wheat in the milk until the milk is completely absorbed and you have a compact cream. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

In the meantime, prepare the shortcrust pastry; arrange the all purpose flour in a heap and add the soft butter into small pieces and the granulated sugar in the center.

Also combine the eggs, aromas and fine salt.

Knead with your hands to obtain a firm and homogeneous mixture.

Shape the mixture into a ball, wrap with cling film and let it rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Prepare the ricotta cheese cream; mash the ricotta cheese in a large bowl.

Add the granulated sugar.

Lightly beat the eggs in a separate bowl.

Gradually pour them into the ricotta cheese mixture, stirring with a hand whisk.

Finish the eggs and mix everything vigorously.

The cream should be of an intense yellow color and fairly fluid.

At this point, add the cooked and now cold wheat.

Mix well and complete with the candied fruit and the orange flower water.

Roll out the shortcrust  pastry dough to a thickness of about a centimeter.

Line an aluminum pan with low edges approximately 24 centimeters in diameter with the dough.

Level out the sides by removing the excess dough.

The shortcrust pastry shell is ready to accommodate the ricotta cheese and wheat filling.

Pour the filling with a ladle.

The filling will have to reach the edge, leaving only about half a centimeter.

Use the remaining shortcrust pastry to create seven strips to cross on the surface of the pastiera. Place three strips on the bottom.

Form a grid by alternating four strips above.

Bake the pastiera at 170° C/340° F for about 90 minutes.

Remove the Neapolitan pastiera from the oven and let it cool for a few hours before taking it out of the mold. Sprinkle it with powdered sugar just before serving.

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