Pastiera Napoletana

Neapolitan Wheat and Ricotta Easter Pie

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Preparation info

  • Makes

    10 to 12

    servings
    • Difficulty

      Medium

Appears in

Great Italian Desserts

By Nick Malgieri

Published 1990

  • About

Along with sfogliatelle ricce, pastiera is the ultimate Neapolitan pastry. It is seen in all the pastry shops in Naples and is also very popular in Rome and throughout southern Italy.

Two versions of the filling are given here: one is very traditional, a combination of cooked wheat kernels, pastry cream, and ricotta. The second filling is less traditional and omits the pastry cream, making the preparation less time-consuming and somewhat less rich.

The wheat kernels are easily found in Italian grocery stores in the United States, especially around Easter. If you have no Italian grocer nearby, try a health food store but make sure to buy hulled wheat kernels and not whole wheat, whose red skin would be tough. See Sources of Equipment and Ingredients for mail order houses.

Ingredients

    Pasta Frolla

  • cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 10 tablespoons ( sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 tablespoons milk or water

    Cooked Wheat Kernels

  • ½ cup hulled wheat kernels
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

    Pastry Cream

  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    Ricotta Filling

  • ½ pound whole-milk ricotta, commercial or homemade
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ teaspoon orange flower water
  • ½ cup candied orange peel, rinsed and chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

    Egg Wash

  • 1 large egg
  • Pinch salt

Method

For the pasta frolla, combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Rub in the butter with your fingertips, making sure the mixture remains cool and powdery and does not become pasty. Beat the egg and milk or water together with a fork and stir into the dough. Continue stirring until the dough begins to hold together. Knead the dough lightly on a floured surface, shape into a thick disk, wrap in plastic, and chill.

Cover the wheat kernels in water and soak overnight, if possible. Drain, rinse, and place in a pan with the salt, butter, and enough water to cover by 3 to 4 inches. Simmer until tender, about 2 hours. Add water as necessary to keep the wheat from drying out and sticking. Cool the wheat and refrigerate until needed.

For the pastry cream, combine the sugar and flour in a small nonreactive saucepan. Stir well to mix, and add the milk slowly, whisking it in smoothly. Whisk in the egg. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the pastry cream thickens and comes to a boil. Boil, stirring vigorously, about 30 seconds. Remove from the heat, stir in the vanilla, and scrape into a clean bowl. Press plastic wrap against the surface and chill.

To assemble the filling, beat the ricotta to soften it, then add the sugar. Beat in the eggs and remaining filling ingredients. Drain and rinse the cooked wheat and add along with the pastry cream.

Butter a 9-inch cake pan that is 2 inches deep. To assemble, cut off one-third of the pasta frolla and reserve it. Roll the rest of the dough into a 14-inch disk and line the prepared pan with it. Allow the dough to hang over the edge of the pan. Pour in the filling and sprinkle it with the cinnamon.

Roll the reserved dough into a 10-inch square. Cut it into ten 1-inch-wide strips. For the egg wash, beat the egg with the salt, and paint the strips with it. Moisten the rim of the dough on the pan with the egg wash, and attach 5 strips in each direction, pressing the edges of the strips lightly onto the rim forming a diagonal lattice. Trim the edges of the dough so they are even with the top of the pan and push the dough off the top rim of the pan so that it rests completely within the pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes, until the filling is set and the pastry is a light gold. Cool in the pan before unmolding. To unmold, invert onto a flat plate, lift off the pan, replace the pan with another plate or platter, then reinvert so that the pastiera is right side up. Serve the pastiera at room temperature.

Variation

To simplify the recipe, omit the pastry cream and use 1 pound ricotta, ½ cup sugar, and 4 eggs in the ricotta filling.