La Pastiera

Neapolitan Easter Cake

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Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Easy

  • Serves

    8 to 12

Appears in

The Italian Regional Cookbook

The Italian Regional Cookbook

By Valentina Harris

Published 2017

  • About

This time-honoured cake originates in the city of Naples and the surrounding region of Campania, and dates back many centuries to ancient Rome. It was traditionally made to symbolise fertility and was always baked to celebrate the beginning of spring. Today it is an essential part of the Easter feast for all Neapolitans. It is quite an unusual recipe as it is made with cooked wheat grain. You should be able to find this in specialist delicatessens or health food stores, but if not you can substitute it (see Cook’s Tip).

Ingredients

  • 400 g/14 oz cooked wheat grain (see Cook’s Tip)
  • 100 ml/3 ½ fl oz/scant ½ cup milk
  • 30 g/1 ¼ oz unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
  • grated rind of 1 lemon
  • 675 g/1 ½ lb/3 cups ricotta cheese
  • 600 g/1 lb 5 oz/3 cups caster/superfine sugar
  • 5 eggs, plus 3 egg yolks
  • 10 ml/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 15 ml/1 tbsp orange flower water
  • a pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 50 g/2 oz glacé/candied citron, chopped
  • 50 g/2 oz candied orange peel, chopped
  • 50 g/2 oz mixed glacé/candied fruit, chopped
  • 1 kg/2 ¼ lb shortcrust pastry
  • plain/all-purpose flour, for dusting
  • icing/confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4 and generously grease a 30cm/12in diameter flan tin or pan with butter.
  2. Put the wheat grain into a pan and add the milk, butter and grated lemon rind. Simmer slowly over a low heat for about 10 minutes, or until creamy.

  3. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the ricotta cheese, sugar, the 5 eggs and 2 of the egg yolks, the vanilla, orange flower water and cinnamon.

  4. Work this mixture together until smooth, then mix in the glacé fruit and candied peel, and the creamy grains.

  5. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface to about 5mm/¼in thick and use to line the flan tin. Cut all the excess pastry into 1cm/½in-wide 30cm/12in-long strips to make the lattice topping of your pastiera. Set aside.
  6. Beat the remaining egg yolk. Pour the ricotta and grain mixture into the tart case and arrange the strips of pastry over the top in a lattice pattern.
  7. Brush the pastry with the beaten egg yolk. Bake for 1 ½ hours, or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
  8. Sprinkle the pastiera with icing sugar just before serving. Once baked, the pastiera can be kept in the refrigerator for 3 days, during which time it will improve daily.