Pastiera Napoletana is one of the most typical Italian Easter recipes. Its typical ingredients such as ricotta, cooked wheat, candied fruit combined with the essence of orange blossom make this cake unique.
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Pastiera Napoletana is a cake with ancient origins, which in Naples and throughout the Campania region, still today definitely marks the Easter.
As people use to say in Naples, making the Pastiera in Naples is a ritual, “‘na ccosa seria assai” (that means “a very serious thing“). In fact, its preparation is complex, long, and laborious. But for the result it is really worth it.
Most Italians consider the Pastiera as a hymn to spring and a thanksgiving to nature. In fact, the main ingredient of this delight is the orange blossom essence, which in this period pervade the citrus groves of the coast, and wheat, a natural food, the basis of Italian cuisine.
The curious origins of the Pastiera Napoletana
According to legend, the first Pastiera in history was born as an offering to the Mermaid Partenope.
In fact, it is said that the Partenope Mermaid, the symbol of Naples city, emerged from the sea every spring, offering melodious songs. Then the people who lived in the villages around Neaples gulf used to thank her by gifting her with local products.
At that point, the Mermaid placed the precious offerings to the Gods, and they collected and mixed all the ingredients with the divine arts, transforming them into the first Pastiera.
If you want to find out more about Mermaid Partenope visit this website!
Ingredients to make Pastiera
Easter Pastiera Napoletana is essentially composed of two elements.
The first is a good Shortcrust Pastry, crunchy and crumbly at the same time. The shortcrust pastry must be thick, at least 1 cm high, because the filling will be very moist, and in this way, you prevent it from breaking.
The second is the creamy ricotta and cooked wheat Filling. Here are my suggestions:
Choose the Fresh Sheep Ricotta because it is drier and more compact, therefore also tastier than the cow one.
Secondly, the main ingredient of the pastiera is cooked wheat grain. You can buy it already cooked, for example here, or use raw wheat. In this second case, it should be soaked in water for at least three days before cooking it.
Additionally, the aroma that makes a pastiera an “Excellent Pastiera” is the essence of orange blossom. It has an unmistakable smell and taste of spring. You can easily find it on the market, for example here. Using one vial for each Pastiera is enough.
And finally, the candied fruit. Although not everyone likes it, candied fruit cannot be missing in the pastiera. If you love candied fruit you can choose the one you prefer. Cut it into small cubes before adding to the filling. If, on the other hand, you want to avoid the too strong flavor of some candied fruits, choose only the candied citron. It has a milder flavor and a melt-in texture.
A few final tips
Use an Aluminum Mold – in Italy we use to call it “Ruoto” to make the Pastiera. Better if with at least 6 cm high borders, so all the flavor will have the right space to settle.
Prepare your Pastiera in advance. In fact, it is a dessert that gets better over time. If you want to eat it at Easter, prepare it the previous Thursday. You will find that as the days go by, the Pastiera becomes tastier. This is because the moist ingredients blend more and the aromas of the orange blossom settle down.
Once cold, sprinkle the Pastiera with powdered sugar and store it in a cool, dry place. The pastiera can be kept up to 10 days, but never store it in the refrigerator.
For the shortcrust pastry
- 300 g flour
- 125 g butter
- 130 g sugar
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 grated lemon zest
- 1 pinch salt
For the Filling
- 500 g sheep ricotta cheese
- 400 g sugar
- 250 g cooked grains
- 200 g candied fruit (Citrus and Orange)
- 50 g butter
- 6 eggs
- 1 cup milk
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 tsp cinnamon powder
- 1 ampoule orange blossom aroma
- On a clean work surface, spread the flour in a heap, leaving a hole in the center.
- Put the cold butter into small pieces in the center and mix it with the flour, sugar and salt, working quickly with your fingertips.
- Redistribute the mixture obtained in a fountain, leaving a hole in the center.
- Grate the zest of one lemon and add it to the dough.
- Break the eggs into a container, place the yolks in the center of the fountain and quickly incorporate until you get a soft and smooth dough.
- Form a ball.
- Close the dough in cling film and put it in the fridge to rest for 30 minutes.
To make the wheat cream
- (If using non-precooked wheat) After keeping the grain immersed in water for 3 days, rinse it and pour it in a pot, cover with the double volume in water and cook it according to the timing.
- (If using the pre-cooked wheat) you can jump this step.
- Rinse and drain the precooked wheat and pour it into a pot.
- Add over milk, lemon peel, cinnamon, butter and a pinch of salt. Then cook for 15 minutes, stirring often to make the mixture creamy.
- Turn off the stove and let it cool aside.
To make the ricotta cream
- Take a large bowl and pour in the ricotta cheese. Add the sugar and the 6 egg yolks. Deeply mix with a wooden cucchiarella from the bottom to the front to incorporate more air.
- Now whip the egg whites and add them to the mixture.
- Then add the orange blossom aroma and the candied fruits cuttled in small cubes.
To compose the cake
When the Ricotta Cream appears soft and creamy, pour in Wheat Cream which in the meantime has cooled down, and mix everything together from the bottom up.
Separate about 1/3 of the shortcrust pastry and set it aside.
Arrange the remaining shortcrust pastry on a floured work surface and roll it out using a rolling pin until is about 1 cm high.
Grease and flour the aluminum pan and place the rolled-out shortcrust pastry inside.
With your fingers make it adhere well to the edges. Pierce the shortcrust pastry with the tip of the fork.
Now take the creamy filling and pour it into the pastry, leveling it with a wooden spoon.
Finally, take the remaining shortcrust pastry, roll it out with a rolling pin, and cut it to make 7 stripes 1,5 cm wide.
Arrange the stripes on the top of the cake.
Bake in a preheated oven, static function, halfway up at 160 C° for about 1 hour and 40 minutes, the Pastiera will be cooked when the surface becomes caramel-colored.
After cooking, let your Pastiera Napoletana rest in the oven for about ten minutes with the door ajar.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 832Total Fat: 29gSaturated Fat: 17gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 278mgSodium: 310mgCarbohydrates: 127gFiber: 2gSugar: 88gProtein: 18g
Find out our other Italian Easter Recipes:
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