Today I want to show you how to make the old recipe of true Neapolitan heritage: The Pastiera Napoletana.
When I was a child, my grandmother used to bake pastiera every Easter’s time. This was for me a special occasion to visit her. So I grew up loving culinary traditions of the South of Italy. Bakings pastiera is like reliving childhood memories.
Pastiera Napoletana is a type of Italian cake made with ricotta cheese. It originates from the area of Naples. It is a typical cake during Easter time.
It was used during the pagan celebrations of the return of the Spring time. This explains why it become sweet Easter. During these celebrations Ceres’ priestess brought an egg, symbol of new life in procession. Because of the wheat or the einkorn, mixed with the soft ricotta cheese, it could come from the einkorn bread called “confarreatio”, an essential ingredient in the ceremony of the type of ancient Roman weddings named after it “confarreatio”. Another hypothesis we may consider is that it comes from ritual bread used, which spread during the period of Constantine the Great. They were made of honey and milk the people offered the catechumen during Easter Eve at the end of the ceremony of baptism.
The modern pastiera was probably invented in a Neapolitan convent. An unknown nun wanted that cake, symbol of the Resurrection, to have the perfume of the flowers of the orange trees which grew in the convent’s gardens. She mixed a handful of wheat to the white ricotta cheese, then she added some eggs, symbol of the new life, some water which had the fragrance of the flowers of the spring time, candied citron and aromatic Asian spices.
We know for certain that the nuns of the ancient convent of San Gregorio Armeno were considered to be geniuses in the complex preparation of the Pastiera. They used to prepare a great quantity for the rich families during Easter time.
There are two different ways of preparing pastiera: in the older, the ricotta is mixed with the eggs; in the newer, thick pastry cream is added, making the pastiera softer. This innovation was introduced by Starace, a Neapolitan confectioner with a shop in a corner in Municipio Square.
The Pastiera Napoletana has to be cooked some days in advance, no later than Maundy Thursday or Good Friday, in order to allow the fragrances to mix properly and result in that unique flavor. The Pastiera is not only cooked but also sold and served in appropriate pans called “ruoti” because it is very fragile, so it would easily crumble up if removed from the “ruoto”.
Ingredients for the filling for 10 people:
- 420 g ricotta cheese
- 420 g sugar
- 6 eggs
- 420 g cracked wheat cooked (I used Dolceamico)
- 1 bottle Millefiori essence or any essence for cake
- Lemon rind
- 50 g mixed candied peel (cedar and orange-rind)
Ingredients for one short pastry:
- 350 g flour
- 2 eggs
- 140 g butter or lard
- 140 g sugar
- pinch of salt
Preparation of filling for pastiera napoletana (10 people)
- Mix the ricotta cheese and pass through a sieve with the sugar until liquid
- Whilst continuing to stir, mix in 6 egg yolks one by one
- Add the cooked cracked wheat(photo5) and lastly the bottle of any essence for cakes (if you can find Millefiori essence in local italian shop).
- Tip: You can buy cooked cracked wheat at any italian shop who seller typic Italian products. I bought it at supermarket in Italy, but I am sure that it won’t be difficult to find this ingredient nowadays in any Italian shop.
- Tip: if you don’t have the cooked cracked wheat, here I am explaining you how to prepare the cream of wheat: Put in a pot the pre-cooked wheat, milk, butter and grated lemon peel. Simmer everything on low heat, stirring until you obtain a thick cream. Pour the mixture into a large bowl and let cool.
- add all the cracked cooked wheat
- Mix well
- Add the grated lemon rind to the mixture along with the diced candied peel
- Finally beat the egg whites until stiff
- Stir the mixture until it is creamy and smooth.
Tip: the quantity of filling is enough for 2 tarts: one large and one medium.
Preparation for short pastry for pastiera napoletana
- Tip: This time I used another recipe to prepare the short pastry. I liked the idea to try something different from mine. You can use this new recipe or my old one, which I posted here: how to make short pastry. Considering that when I was going to pour in the mixture I had to prepare a second short pastry, I suggest to use my old one. The quantities here are for one short pastry. In my recipe, there are the quantities how to make two short pastries. Anyway, I guarantee that this is new recipe is good too.
- Prepare the pastry by mixing the flour, 2 eggs, softened butter or lard, the sugar and a pinch of salt, and stir just enough to produce a smooth, consistent dough.
- Grease a baking dish with butter and line it with the pastry, pouring in the mix of photo 9.
- Decorate the pastiera napoletana with pastry mix cut into strips
- Bake the pastiera in a preheated oven at 180 degree approximately for one hour.
- Let the pastiera napoletana cool and sprinkle lightly with icing sugar before serving
- Delicious at breakfast, as dessert or at teatime.
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I wish you an Happy Easter with Peace and Love.
Alessandra by Ale Simple Recipes