The Pastiera Napoletana is among all the traditional Italian Easter desserts the most popular and to me the best Easter pie, period.
Originally from Naples, the Pastiera is a ricotta pie, traditionally found also in Rome and a bit all over Italy around this time. Pastiera Napoletana is famous for its delicate flavors of orange and lemon combined to the ricotta cheese and wheat berries filling. The use of ingredients like eggs and wheat is related to both pagan and Christian ancient symbology. In fact, while they are still linked to the festivity of the Resurrection of Christ, they were used already more than 2000 years ago to celebrate spring and the new life season. The Italian Pastiera recipe can be found with some slight variations. This one I give you here is my own version, put together asking here and there to different bakers and friends. It makes about 6 servings.
Ingredients and Instructions:
1 pound of pre-packed frozen short pastry dough
10 oz of ricotta cheese
1 1/2 cup of milk
1 oz of salted butter
6 oz of boiled wheat berries (easy to make, but also available in a can at supermarkets or Italian delis)
2 oz of candied mix citrus fruit
the grated peel (not the white part) of 2 oranges
the grated peel of 1 lemon
10 oz of sugar
2 eggs and 1 yolk (2 or 3 depending on the size of the eggs)
½ teaspoon of cinnamon powder
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 tablespoon of Limoncello liqueur (or any citrus flavored water)
1. The best is to prepare this recipe one or two days in advance to allow the ingredients to blend and all the flavors to intensify. Leave the short pastry dough at room temperature for a few of hours to defrost.
2. Meanwhile, cook the boiled wheat (if you can't find it canned at the supermarket, just boil it in water until tender) over very low flame in 1 and 1/2 cup of milk, with half of the grated lemon and orange peel, the butter, the cinnamon and vanilla, for about 2 hours, or until the wheat has absorbed all the milk and has become soft.
3. Then, in another pan, mix the ricotta cheese, the sugar, the eggs and the yolk, the vanilla, the Limoncello - or citrus flavored water - and the cinnamon. Mix to a smooth consistency. Add the remaining grated lemon and orange peel, plus the candied fruit, which should be diced small.
4. Add the wheat and mix well. Roll the short pastry dough with a pin until about 1/4 inch thick. Put the short pastry in a 9 inch pan, previously buttered. Cut the extra edges off, roll them with the pin and cut in strips.
5. Pour the mixture of ricotta cheese and other ingredients in the pan, folding in the borders of the dough. Lay the short pastry strips over the top. Bake for about one hour at 370 F. Dust with powder sugar before serving.