Pastiera Napoletana or known as Italian Easter cake, this recipe is inspired by an Italian site; Benedetta. The pastiera dates back to the sixteenth century in the area of San Gregorio Armeno, Italy. To make this traditional Italian Easter cake the women in Naples usually start this three-day process on the Thursday before Easter Sunday. Pastiera Napoletana is a light and fluffy cake or ricotta tart delicately perfumed with orange. It's like a cheesecake rice pudding in a pie crust. Super delicious with coffee for breakfast.
My version Pastiera Napoletana is tweaked slightly to include ingredients I had and prefer to bake with; white spelt flour pastry, oat milk for the filling instead of whole milk, and orange blossom water instead of Millefiore (I didn't have this on hand). I have lower the sugar content too.
To make this Italian Easter Cake you use a ready-made prepared grain called Di Grano Cotto which can be bought in an Italian supermarket or even on Amazon (click the link on the name). I have read other blogs where some Northern Italians use arborio rice instead.
Here are the steps needed to make this delicious Italian Pastiera Napoletana the traditional way leading up to Easter Sunday. Otherwise, prepare on the same day if you have time (it can be tiring and time-consuming so spread it over a few days and enjoy the process).
DAY ONE (Thursday)
1. BOIL wheat berries (grano cotto) with milk and lemon to make a creamy porridge-like mixture, which needs to cool overnight.
2. PREPARE ricotta filling and rest overnight
DAY TWO (Friday)
3. Prepare the pastry then chill overnight
DAY THREE (Saturday)
4. Construct the pie and bake
Easter Sunday remove the Pastiera Napoletana from the fridge and serve this room temperature sprinkled with a veil of icing sugar.
Takes = 3 days preparation (to make it easier or all on the same day)
Bakes = 65 mins
Makes = 8 serves (24cm spring form cake tin)
Ingredients for the filling
- Di grano cotto – 250g
- Oat Milk (or whole milk) – 250ml
- Ground cinnamon – 1/2 tsp
- Lemon peel – 1 large piece peeled off the lemon
- Ricotta cheese – 250g
- Sugar – 250g
- Egg yolks – 3
- Egg whites – 3
- Orange blossom water –1 tbsp (depending on taste)
- Vanilla extract – 1 tsp
- Extra 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- Chopped Candied peel – 1-2 tbsp
- Unsalted cold butter – 125g (1 stick)
- White Spelt flour (or your choice) – 250g (2 cups)
- Whole egg, plus one egg yolk
- Icing sugar – 50g (1/3 cup)
- Lemon, finely zested
- BOIL small saucepan grano, milk, cinnamon and peel for about 10-15mins, until thick like porridge. Remove peel, spoon into a medium bowl and rest while you make the pastry. Rest in fridge for up to 2 days.
- PASTRY add flour and chilled butter into a large bowl and work the butter into the flour using your finger tips until it resembles find bread crumbs. Add egg and extra egg yolk. You could use your stand mixer with the paddle attachment if preferred. Remove from the bowl and knead until smooth throwing on lots of flour and you do this. Form a disc and wrap in plastic and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes while you make the rest of the filling.
- FILLING: whip the egg whites until firm. Mix ricotta cheese to the cooled grano mix and 25og sugar and then 3 egg yolks, cinnamon, vanilla and combine. Gently fold in the beaten egg whites into the mixture and then add in orange blossom water and candied peel.
- PASTRY divide the dough into 3. Use 2/3 of the pastry and roll out until you have a piece larger than 25cm and place in a 9/10 inch (25 cm) greased and lined springform tin. Trim and add to the remaining pastry, roll out again and with a pastry crimper wheel or knife, cut long strips about ¾ an inch wide.
- POUR the ricotta mixture and trim the pastry to the level of the mixture. Lay 3-4 long pastry strips gently across the top to form a a criss-cross diamond pattern (not square), pressing the strips on the edge of the pastry very gently. If desired, you can brush the lattice gently with some egg wash to make it shiny.
- BAKE 170˚C without fan 50 mins then reduce the oven temperature 160˚C for an extra 15 mins.
- COOL completely inside the springform pan before removing or chilling.
- CHILL overnight in the fridge or if it is not too humid rest cover on the kitchen counter overnight.
- SERVE the pastiera at room temperature. Remove at least 30 minutes before eating to take away some of the chill
- SPRINKLE with some powdered sugar sifted over the top.
- STORE any leftovers in the fridge.