Pastiera d’Aprile

The Pastiera Napoletana is the “great lady” of the Italian Easter tradition. Mostly in the South. I know that Easter has passed… but this tart, freshly flavored with citrus, is in perfect harmony with the spirit of this beautiful spring. The preparation is not difficult, but definitely it requires some time and planning. The original recipe, like many of a very ancient tradition, is lost as is the memory of who and when invented this cake. But, like all great traditions, it has left a huge legacy of family recipes that are exchanged, transmitted, jealously kept, and criticized. So, here I am with my first pastiera ever, perpetuating my grandmother’s interpretation of this special Easter cake.

This recipe prepares one 14 inches diameter pastiera.

A) Ingredients for the Short Pastry (pasta frolla)
1 pound flour
5 oz. butter
1/2 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
1 pinch salt

B) Ingredients for the filling

B1) Wheat grain cream:
1 cup whole-wheat grain
1 oz. butter‚
1 1/2 cups milk
1 lemon zest
1 pinch cinnamon‚
1 pinch vanilla
1 pinch salt
B2) Ricotta cream:
2 cups ricotta‚
1 cup sugar
B3) Yolks cream:
3 yolks
1 oz. sugar
B4) 3 whites
3 oz. candied orange and lemon peel
one small glass of limoncello or mandarinetto

A) Prepare the short pastry.

On a working surface, mix and knead all the ingredients listed in the short pastry above (Group A). Mix together quickly. If the dough seems too dry at the beginning, just insist working, DON’T add any liquid, you risk that it will get too wet and impossible to work. So, knead and make a ball of the dough, let rest in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

B) Prepare the filling.

B1) First thing prepare the grain cream, using the ingredients listed above in the “Wheat grain cream”.
Simmer the wheat (or barley) with two cups ca. water for about half a hour. If the grains have not absorbed all the water, drain and put back in the pot with the milk, lemon rind, and all the other ingredients. Simmer on low heat until the milk is absorbed and the grain have a nice creamy appearance. Set aside.
B2) Sift the ricotta into a mixing bowl. Add the sugar and beat until creamy.
B3) Mix the 3 yolks with the sugar (according to the quantities indicated in the B3 group above). Beat until the cream is soft and very pale yellow
B4) Whisk the whites to a firm foam
At this point, mix the grain cream with the ricotta cream, stir well. Add in the yolks cream and again stir gently but thoroughly. At this point add the candied fruit (if you have it) and the little glass of liqueur. After mixing well, add in the whites and fold gently.
Use a 14-in round baking pan (no need of coating with butter because the short pastry contains enough). Pull out from the fridge the short pastry. Work on a large, clean, perfectly flat working area. Flatten the 3/4 of the pastry with a rolling pin, carefully rolling and pulling in every direction so to form a regular thin circle (three-four millimeters) and use this to line the base of the pan. Adjust the circle well around, and if necessary cut the edges to have a nice and regular edge. Flatten out the remaining dough and cut into strips.
Gently pour the filling onto the pan. Arrange the strips over the filling in a lattice design trying to attach them at the edges. Preheat oven at 380°F and bake the cake for about 1 hour. The pastiera is ready when the filling has set and the crust is golden brown. Turn off and leave it in.
If you can, prepare the pastiera two days before serving it, its flavours have time to really blend and give their best. It is fantastic if served with limoncello.

I learned that it exists an “official” website for the pastiera napoletana ☺ Check it out:

Just avoid the crystallized citron and orange, Italian “canditi” are something completely different, not so sweet and definitely cruncher. But overall this recipe corresponds pretty well to the traditional pastiera napoletana.
Another good recipe is here:

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