Easter grain pie – pastiera napoletana
Pastiera napoletana is a Neapolitan Easter cake made with cooked wheat grain, sheep ricotta and candied fruit. It’s not common here in the North of Italy but since I tasted it, it became part of my Easter tradition too. It takes a little bit of your time and effort to make it but it’s well worth it in the end. I suggest you give it a try and let me know what you think.
For the crust:
2-1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 cup unsalted butter
pinch of salt
For the custard cream:
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1-1/4 cup milk
1 tsp. orange zest from a non-treated orange
1/2 vanilla pod
1 Tbsp. corn starch
For the filling:
1 14oz. can cooked wheat*
1 1/4 whole caw milk
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
17 oz. sheep milk ricotta cheese
1 cup sugar
3 Tbsp candied orange fruit
3 Tbsp orange blossom water**
2 eggs yolks
1. Prepare the crust. Mix the flour sugar an salt then mix in the butter and egg yolks.
2. Work the dough quickly until it starts to smooth out, better with a knife to avoid warming it, then wrap it in a plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 30 minutes. Meanwhile place the ricotta in a sieve and let milk drip. Squeeze it a little bit before using it.
3. While the crust is in the fridge you can start the cream. Warm the milk in a sauce pan with the orange zest and the vanilla bean.
4. Mix the sugar and egg yolks with a fork or a wire whisk and then mix in the cornstarch. Now slowly add the hot milk to the batter always mixing with the wire whisk. When I add the milk I prefer to pass it through a strainer so I eliminate the vanilla seeds.
5. Simmer the cream until it thickens, mixing constantly with a wooden spoon.
6. Spread it on a flat plate and let it cool.
7. In a sauce pan add the grain with milk and butter bring it to a boil and gently simmer for about 15 minutes or until the grain becomes soft and the cream becomes thick but still creamy. Spread it on a flat dish to cool.
8. Now prepare the rest of the filling. Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar and then add the ricotta cheese, previously passed through a sieve and combine well to avoid lumps.
9. Add the custard cream to the ricotta mixture along with the candied fruit, grain and the orange blossom water and mix well using a wooden spoon.
10. Now take out the dough and roll it out between two sheets of oven paper. Roll it to about 1/4 inch thick then remove one sheet of paper.
11. Cover the bottom of a 10-inch spring-form pan with oven paper then place the dough directly on it. Remove the second sheet of oven paper on top and poke the bottom of the crust with a fork several times.
12. Pour in the filling and cut away the extra dough.
13. Roll out the remaining dough, cut it into 3/4 inch wide strips and lay them across the top in two directions creating a checker board effect.
14. Bake it in a preheated oven at 350° for about 1 hour. If it starts to get too brown cover with aluminum foil.
15. Let it cool for about 30 minutes before removing the rind and let it sit overnight at room temperature. Enjoy!
** Both of these products are available in most Italian grocers and/or specialty food stores.