Legend says that Pastiera is connected to a siren called Parthenope, whom the Neapolitans thanked for her sweet singing by giving her ricotta, flour, eggs, milk, spices, and sugar. Parthenope gave these ingredients to the gods, who made the iconic Pastiera out of it.
The modern Pastiera was probably invented in a Neapolitan convent. An unknown nun wanted the cake to have a 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; she added some eggs as a symbol of new life and some water which had the fragrance of the flowers of springtime.
Pastiera must be cooked a few days in advance, to allow the fragrances to mix properly and result in that unique flavour. Below few easy steps to follow, with which you can make your own Pastiera at home.
For the shortcrust pastry
- 300g plain flour
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 150g unsalted butter
- 1 egg
- 150ml water
For the filling
- 350g cooked wheat ‘Grano Cotto’
- 250ml milk
- 30g unsalted butter
- 1 lemon, zest only
- 2 eggs
- 2 egg yolks
- 300g sugar
- 350g ricotta
- 40g candied citron
- 40g candied peel, orange
- 20g orange blossom water
- ¼ tbsp vanilla paste
- Begin with the pastry. Place the flour, sugar and butter in a bowl and rub together with your fingers until it has the consistency of breadcrumbs. Add the egg and mix with your hands until combined.
- Add the water a little at a time, stirring well, until the mixture comes together to form a dough – you may not need to use all the water
- Shape the dough into a ball, wrap in cling film, and place in the fridge for at least 1 hour to chill
- Meanwhile, make the filling. Place the Grano Cotto in a saucepan and add the milk, butter and lemon zest. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer, stirring all the time until cooked – this will take about 20–25 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely
- Place the eggs in a bowl with the sugar and whisk until the eggs turn pale
- Place the ricotta cheese in a blender and blitz until it has the consistency of whipped cream. Add it to the egg and sugar mixture, folding it in with a spatula
- Add the cooled wheat mixture, candied peel, orange flower water and the vanilla bean paste into the ricotta mixture. Stir together until combined and put to one side
- Preheat the oven to 160°C/gas mark 3 and butter a 24cm x 4cm cake tin
- Dust a clean surface with icing sugar and evenly roll out the pastry, carefully lining the cake tin. Prick the bottom with a fork and pour in the filling, trimming the pastry from the edges of the tin to leave a neat edge. Reserve any spare pastry to decorate and form into a ball
- Roll out the ball into an even layer. Using a pasta wheel, cut 8 strips long enough to be placed across the cake tin. Place 4 of them across the top of the Pastiera in one direction and then place the other 4 diagonally to create lozenge shapes
- Trim the edges of the strips against the edge of the tin and place the Pastiera in the oven to bake for 1 hour. After this time, cover the top with a piece of tin foil and cook for another 30 minutes. Allow it to cool completely in the tin before carefully turning it out
- Serve the Pastiera cold with a good quality Italian espresso coffee. It makes a lovely Easter breakfast, accompaniment to afternoon tea or dessert.
And just like that… you have just made your own Pastiera! Enjoy a bit of Southern Italy at home with this delicious Easter dessert.
You can get the Grano Cotto and ricotta from our shop or e-commerce. Enjoy!