About this recipe: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!
Makes: 1 (32cm) pastiera
For the pastry
450g plain flour
3 egg yolks
1 whole egg
180g butter, softened
200g caster sugar
1 pinch salt
For the filling
500g ricotta cheese
500g caster sugar
420g canned wheat (cooked wheat berries)
1/2 glass milk
12 egg yolks
6 egg whites
1 pinch salt
25g orange flower water
ground cinammon to taste
60g candied citron, cubed and dusted with flour (optional)
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Method Prep:1hr › Cook:2hr › Ready in:3hr
Prepare the pastry:
Sift the flour and place it on a work surface. Make a hole in the centre, then add the egg yolks and the whole egg, softened butter, sugar and salt. Mix with your hands, bringing all of the ingredients together to form a dough. At this stage the dough will be quite soft.
Grease and flour a 32cm round cake tin. Roll out about 3/4 of the pastry to reach a thickness of 2mm and transfer to the greased tin. With wet hands, press the pastry up and around the edges of the tin.
Place the rest of the pastry between two sheets of baking paper and roll it out with a rolling pin. Place both the pastry-lined tin and the pastry between the parchment in the fridge.
Prepare the filling:
In a bowl, combine the ricotta with 250g of sugar.
Heat up the wheat in a saucepan with the milk and let it cool.
Whisk the egg yolks with the remaining 250g of sugar until foamy.
Whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt.
In a large bowl combine all the mixtures: first add the ricotta mixture, then the wheat, then the yolks and finally the egg whites. Fold together gently, from bottom to top, to keep the mixture foamy and fluffy. Add the orange flower water, cinnamon and, if desired, the candied citron.
Assemble and bake:
Pour the ricotta mixture into the pastry-lined tin using a ladle.
Cut 2cm-wide strips from the second piece of pastry. Place on top of the pastiera to decorate.
Bake in preheated oven at 160 C / Gas 2/3 for about 2 hours. Let the pastiera cool completely before serving.
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.