Pastiera Napoletana

 

This unusual and very hearty pie typical of Napoli and its region can be considered the southern equivalent of what Panettone is for the northern part of the country: a festive dessert that ended up symbolizing first a town, then a region and eventually the whole of Italy. The Pastiera is in fact a typical Easter pie, even if it graduated to be a year-round delicacy. Its main ingredient is grano cotto, or wheat boiled in milk. Since its preparation is very difficult and time consuming, everyone uses the pre-processed and canned type commonly found in supermarkets. You are strongly suggested to look for it at your local Italian deli or to buy a few cans online: all brands are equivalent in quality. While you are at it you want to look for actual fresh goat milk ricotta cheese, which cannot really be substituted with anything else – if you are really desperate you can try to approximate its taste adding salt to regular ricotta if you dare, but honestly that would be barbaric. On the other hand, buying pre-made shortcrust pastry is ok if you don’t feel like making it yourself.

Ingredients

1 kg shortcrust pastry

700 g fresh goat milk ricotta cheese

400 g grano cotto

600 g sugar

1 lemon

150 g mixed candied fruit (orange, squash, citron)

100 g milk

30 g butter

5 whole eggs

3 yolks

1 packet of vanilla powder

1 spoon of orange flowers water

1 pinch of cinnamon

 

Preparation

Cook for ten minutes the wheat with the milk, butter and the grated lemon peel, mixing continuously until you have a cream. In another bowl, mix the cheese with sugar, all the eggs and 2 yolks, vanilla, orange flowers water and optionally the cinnamon. Work this mix with your hands to get a thin pastry, then add grated lemon peel and the candied fruits, finally add the wheat cream. Coat a buttered 30 cm cake pan with the shortcut pastry, saving some to make a criss-crossing decoration later on. Pour the mix in, level it and decorate with the above mentioned pattern. Remember to wet this decoration with the remaining yolk. Bake for 90 minutes at 180° C. Let the pie cool, then optionally powder it with sugar. If you want to follow the tradition, leave the pastiera aside in the fridge for two or three days to let all the flavors flow together: it will be even tastier and it will last for two more days.