The Pastiera is an ancient Neapolitan sweet traditionally prepared to celebrate Easter and, more generally, to greet the arrival of spring.
As with every traditional Italian cuisine recipe, there is no official version but every family owns and jealously preserves its recipe, special ingredients and the, more or less elaborate, techniques of how to prepare it.
Legends regarding the “creation” of the pastiera are numerous and quite fascinating.
The origin of this cake stems from stories of mermaids, queens and nuns.
The story goes that a Partenope siren enchanted by the beauty of the Gulf of Naples, decided to settle there and with the arrival of spring delighted the local people with her wonderful singing.
So as to thank the siren of such beauty, the Gulf’s inhabitants sent the seven most beautiful maidens carrying 7 precious gifts: flour, ricotta cheese, eggs, sugar, orange blossom, spices and wheat.
The gifts were delivered to the Gods by Partenope and the Gods were so amazed by such beauty and wealth that they transformed the ingredients into the Pastiera.
Legend has it that the secret to making this sweet was perfected by the nuns of the San Gregorio convent and that even Maria Theresa of Austria, “the queen who never smiled,” could not resist smiling when she tasted a piece of this wonderful sweet.
For the pastry
For the filling
For the pastry
On a pastry board, quickly knead the flour, the butter cut into small pieces, the sugar, the Marsala, egg yolks and salt.
Form a smooth pastry dough, make it into a ball and place it in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
For the filling
Strain the precooked wheat and add it to the hot milk, half the lemon peel and about 30 grams of sugar.
Cook at low temperature until the milk is absorbed.
If you prefer you can buy wheat that still needs to be cooked. In this case let it soak for at least a couple of days, often changing the water, then rinse well and cook in water for about 20 minutes.
Sift the ricotta in a bowl, add the candied fruit, orange blossom water, sugar and the half grated lemon.
Beat the egg whites until stiff and add them to the egg yolks and the ricotta mixture.
Stir all the mixture gently so it doesn’t deflate and let it rest a few minutes.
Remove the pastry from the refrigerator and divide it into two parts, one larger than the other.
Roll out the larger part (its thickness should be the size of about a finger) and line the buttered baking tray (best to use a tray with handles).
Pour the mixture on the bottom of the tray and use the remaining pastry to create strips of dough to be placed on the surface of the cake.
Brush the strips with the egg yolk and bake at 180 degrees for approximately 50 minutes.
Once it has cooled off sprinkle it with powdered sugar and serve.
Which wine would we suggest to pair it with?
A fresh Moscato d’Asti in the fridge would be perfect. You can also try a Brachetto or Moscato Passito.
Photo Credits: contrasto_gp