This is the last day of My Easter baking marathon, time for the sweet things.
La Pastiera is another traditional dish of the Neapolitan cuisine.
The nuns of the ancient convent of San Gregorio Armeno were considered to be master in the preparation of the Pastiera. They used to prepare great quantities for the rich families during Easter time.
Today, there are two different ways of preparing the Pastiera: the traditional one mixes the ricotta cheese to the eggs; the most recent one, adds to the mix thick pastry cream.
I follow the traditional recipe, I do however, purée half of the wheat/milk mixture to favor a creamier texture.
The Acqua di Millefiori (Literally “ Thousand Flower Water”) is the one ingredient in the Pastiera that gives it its very distinct aroma . . . It truly reminds you that it’s Primavera (Spring)!
The Pastiera has to be cooked few days in advance, no later than Good Friday, in order to allow the fragrances to fully develop.
The Pastiera is typically cooked and served in thin aluminum baking tart dish. The dough is very fragile, so it would easily crumble up if removed from the dish.
The legend narrates that Partenope, the mermaid, lived in the gulf of Naples enchanted by its beauty. Every Spring she would emerge from the water to greet all the happy people who lived there and brighten their days singing love calls.
One day her voice was so melodious that all the people were fascinated and moved by the words of love that the mermaid had dedicated to them. To thank her, they decided to give her the most precious gifts they had. Seven of the most beautiful virgin girls were picked to bring Partenope the gifts: flour, strength and richness of the land; wheat boiled with milk, symbol of the two reigns; ricotta cheese, a present of the shepherds and sheep; eggs, symbol of a new life; water with flowers fragrance; spices, which represented people who lived far away in other continents; sugar, which best gave the idea of the sweetness of Partenope’s call profusing in the sky, on Earth and in the universe.
The mermaid was happy of these gifts and decided to bring them to the gods and goddess who lived in the sea. They were all carried away by these gifts, and decided to mix them all together with heavenly art. The result was the first Pastiera.
Now let’s try to bake our heavenly Pastiera!
Ricetta Pastiera Napoletana
For the tart shell:
10-1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature.
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
For the filling:
UPDATE: Please note that filling is enough for two Pastiera.
2-3/4 cups ricotta cheese
3 2 cups sugar
1 jar (3 cups) of boiled wheat
3 oz candied citron
3 oz. candied orange
a dash cinnamon
1/3 cup milk
2-1/8 tablespoon butter
5 whole eggs plus 2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon of vanilla
1 2 tablespoon of Acqua di Millefiori or orange flavored water
Start with the tart shell:
In the bowl of a standing mixer with the hook attachment, mix flour, sugar, and grated peel of ½ lemon. Add the butter and work to mix. Add the eggs one at a time while mixing slowly.
Transfer the dough to a surface dusted with flour. Quickly knead the dough to make a ball. Let rest for 30 minutes covered with a damp cloth.
For the filling:
Pour the wheat, the milk, the butter and grated lemon peel in a pan; let it cook for not less than
10 20 minutes or until the ingredients have become creamy (stir often).
Let the mixture cool.
In another pan whip the ricotta cheese, the sugar, 5 eggs, 2 egg yolks, vanilla, acqua di Millefiori, and a dash of cinnamon.
Mix everything until the
dough custard is very smooth. Then add some grated lemon peel and the candied orange and citron (cut is small cubes).
Transfer half of the milk/wheat mixture to a food processor and mix until smooth. Pour back into the other half of the mixture.
Add the milk-wheat mixture to the ricotta – egg mixture. Stir to blend all the ingredients.
Preheat the oven at 360 degree.
Grease the tart dish with butter and dust with flour.
Roll out the dough until it’s ¼ inch thick.
Line the short pastry into the tart dish.
Cut the exceeding edges off leaving ½ inch overhang. Re-roll the scraps and cut into ½ inch strips to use as lattice top for the pie.
Pour the mixture of the ricotta cheese and the other ingredients in the pan, and fold the borders of the short pastry inwards.
Place the strips of dough across the filling, spaced about 1 inch apart forming a lattice top.
(The picture above is from last year and I didn’t have enough scraps to make my lattice. It’s not going to happen this year!)
Fold the ½ inch overhang over the edges of the lattice and with your fingers flute the border.
Bake at 350 for 1 hour or until the top has an amber color and the center is set.
Turn off the oven and let the pie cool for 1 hour in the oven with the door slightly ajar. Remove from oven and continue the cooling process on a wire rack.
Once the pie is completely cool, cover with plastic wrap (loosely) and chill until serving.
Serve at room temperature and dust with powder sugar just before serving.