This is a recipe I'm particularly proud of. It was given to me by the mother of my dear friend Gabriella from Naples. It has been a while since I last saw her, but every time I prepare this cake I remember when, as a guest for the Easter holidays in her house in Naples, we woke up to the inimitable scent of pastiera. Delicate orange flavoring mixed with the sweetness of the pastry with cream and cinnamon. Her mother would get up early, go to get fresh eggs and still warm ricotta and would prepare this wonder for lunch... only the cake never made it to lunch!
I always prepare the pastiera at least 4 or 5 days before serving because the ingredients need to "embrace one another".
Italian 'canned wheat' refers to tinned and ready-prepared wheat berries, called Grano Cotto. You might be able to find them in an Italian speciality shop, especially round Easter. However, you can start with 150g of uncooked wheat berries instead. First soak them in water for 3 days, changing the water twice a day. After the third day, drain well and cook the wheat berries in a large pan full of about 1.25 litres of fresh water. Bring to the boil, then lower to a gentle simmer and cook for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, without stirring, till soft. Drain and transfer to a container and store in the fridge till needed, up to 1 week.