Italian Easter Grain Pie (or Pastiera Napoletana) is a dessert of the Neapolitan tradition, typical of Easter, made with shortcrust pastry, wheat, ricotta, eggs and with an intense aroma of orange blossom.
There are many variations of this delicious grain pie (see below), but we wanted to show you the most traditional Neapolitan version.
The pastry is crumbly and elastic and the cream inside is a perfect balance of sweetness and aromas; in addition, lemon and orange are always used to make the Pastiera, with a pinch of cinnamon.
The original recipe also includes chopped candied fruit but, if you wish, you can blend them thus creating a smooth and always good cream.
Below, a small guide, ranging from the choice of ingredients, to the cooking method, to the variations of the recipe, all explained in detail; tricks and tips step by step, to make a perfect homemade Neapolitan pastiera which has nothing to envy to those of the most accredited pastry shops and, following carefully all the instructions, it’s even easy to make.
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How to Make Easter Grain Pie Traditional Recipe (Pastiera Napoletana)
- Prep Time: 60 Min
- Cook Time: 90 Min
- ]Yelds: 10
Doses for 26 cm/10 inch pie dish
For the Shortcrust Pastry:
- 400 g (14 oz) flour
- 180 g (6,30 oz) of sugar
- 180 g (6,30 oz) butter at room temperature
- 3 whole medium eggs
- 1 pinch of salt
For the Wheat Cream:
- 300 g (10,5 oz) of cooked wheat berries
- 200 ml of fresh whole milk
- peel of 1 orange
- peel of 1 lemon
- 30 g (1 oz) of butter
For the Ricotta Cream:
There are some preparations that must be made the day before, so it will take you at least two days to make the Neapolitan Pastiera. Also you should know that the Easter Grain Pie is better if eaten the day after cooking. So if you want to eat it on Easter Sunday, start making it on Friday, if not Thursday. That said, let’s start!
How to Make Shortcrust Pastry For Easter Grain Pie
The pastry for the Neapolitan pastiera is different from the usual pastry, it must be a resistant and not too friable shell, otherwise during cooking, especially when the pastiera will tend to swell, the decorative strips will break, moreover, with a too crumbly pastry , the slice will tend to break. So now we’ll show you how to make the perfect shortcrust pastry for Easter grain pie.
Step 1) – Whip, with the help of the electric whisk or the planetary stand mixer, the soft butter with the sugar for at least 3-4 minutes until you have a creamy mixture.
Step 2) – Whipping at high speed, add the eggs, one at a time, waiting for the first to absorb before adding the second then the third, until you have a smooth, homogeneous and lump-free cream. Finally add a pinch of salt.
Step 3) – Now add the flour (previously sieved) all at once and mix by hand with a wooden spoon; in a few moves the pastry will compact, while remaining very soft.
Step 4) – Transfer the pastry on a working surfice and knead a little to mix all the ingredients together. The dough will stick a little to your hands, that’s normal. Add a little of flour to compact.
Step 5) – Make a sort of ball and wrap the pastry in a plastic wrap and let it cool in the refrigerator for about 12 H (better if you make it the day before, leaving it in the refrigerator 24 H). Cooling is essential; we are talking about a soft dough that must harden in order to be perfectly worked. The shell of the pastiera, as well as the decorative strips, must be made from a rigid and fresh dough.
How to Make a Very Fragrant Wheat Cream
Step 6) – Peel the orange and lemon then keep the peels and set them aside.
Step 7) – Arrange the wheat, milk, butter and peels in a small, medium-sized saucepan (not too small, the grain should be wide and flat).
Step 8) – Put on very low heat and cook for 25 – 30 minutes stirring constantly (be careful that it tends to stick to the bottom, therefore very low heat and stir often). At the end you must have a velvety cream.
Step 9) – At this step, let it cool completely at room temperature then remove the citrus peels, taking care to clean them well (do not leave the cream stuck to avoid wasting it). Now take 100 g of wheat cream and blend it. This operation is necessary to make the final compound even creamier. It is also possible to blend 150 g but no more, wheat grains must still be present in the pastiera.
Step 10) – Now you have got a smoth wheat cream; add it to the previous one.
Step 11) – Stir and cover with cling film. Put it in the refrigerator for the day after when you have to assemble all the ingredients and cook the pastiera.
How to Make a Silky and Lump-Free Ricotta Cream for your Easter Grain Pie
Step 12) – At least 12 h before (preferably 24 h before) to proceed: drain the ricotta perfectly, putting it in a cotton cloth and wringing it out several times (if you are using sheep’s ricotta as required by the traditional Neapolitan recipe, you will see that this operation will not be necessary because it is already a rather dry cheese). Place it in a bowl, add the sugar and mix.
Step 13) – Cover with cling film and leave to marinate for 12/24 hours in the fridge. The marinade is essential: the ricotta must absorb the sugar completely and the latter must melt, becoming one with the mixture. So the day after, when you have to cook the cake, sift the ricotta and sugar, with a strainer with narrow holes: sifting the ricotta is a tedious but essential operation. The ricotta cream must be smooth, silky and creamy, absolutely free of lumps and pieces: so be patient, crush well in order not to waste even a little of it.
Step 14) – Now add the cinnamon and mix well, then add the whole eggs and yolks, one at a time, taking care to let absorb the previous one, before adding another. Finally add the orange blossom water. The result will be like a smooth and rather soft cream.
Step 15) – At this step chop the candied fruit and add them to the ricotta cream. If you don’t like candied fruit cut in pieces, you can blend them. Take the wheat cream, add it as well and mix.
Step 16) – The filling of Easter grain pie is ready: cover it with a cling film and place in the fridge till the pastry shell of the pastiera will be ready.
How to Make Italian Easter Grain Pie
Step 17) – First, butter and flour the pie dish, then set it aside. Sprinkle the work surface with flour and roll out the pastry (now cold and hard) to a thickness of about 4 mm (0,15 inch).
Step 18) – Wrap the dough on the rolling pin and lay it on your pie dish.
Step 19) – With the help of the rolling pin, flatten the edges of the surface to cut away the excess dough (it will be used later to make the decorative dough strips). Make small holes with the prongs of a fork then place the pastry shell in the fridge.
Step 20) – Now roll out the scraps of dough to obtain the decorative strips. Warning! If you have made the shell quickly, the scraps of shortcrust pastry will still be cold and therefore it will be easy to cut them perfectly. If, on the other hand, you have spent to much time and they have warmed up, put them in the freezer for 10 minutes and, once cooled, proceed to roll out the dough. So roll out the dough to a thickness of about 3-4 mm (0,14-0,15 inch) and cut into strips (6-8 depending on the size of the pie dish) 1.5 cm (0,60 inch) wide with the help of a dough cutter or a knife.
Step 21) – At this step, remove the shortcrust pastry shell and the filling from the fridge, then pour it into the shell, leaving 6 -7 mm of space from the edge. Now we have to decorate the pastiera with strips of pasta. Place the first 3 or 4 strips on the pastiera, at an equal distance of about 4 cm (1, 50 inch).
Step 22) – Then lay the other strips crossing them to the previous ones. Once all the strips have been added, remove the excess pasta near the edge, taking care to leave a small margin and not to cut too much. Seal them by pinching the ends of the strips on the edges. Now your Easter grain pie is ready to be cooked.
The Perfect cooking of the Easter Grain Pie
Keep the pastiera in the fridge a couple of hours before cooking, to prevent it from swelling too much.
Bake in a preheated oven on the medium-low level at 150 ° C (300 F) for 1 H and 45/50 minutes approximately.
The pastiera must be cooked slowly and for long, firstly because the this type of cooking will favor a cooked filling and a golden and unburnt pastry, secondly because a slow and soft cooking will guarantee a better taste, and not a cooked egg taste (typical flavor of high temperatures).
After 1 hour, check the situation in the oven: it is possible that the pastiera swells. Do not worry: slightly open the oven and close again.
In the last 15 minutes check the color of your pastiera, it must be caramelized/amber. If it is a little pale, transfer it to the medium/ high level so that it is slightly colored and only the last 5 minutes, if it really cannot take a nice color, raise it to 180 ° C (356 F).
Do the toothpick test, the inside must be dry.
Turn off the oven and let the pastiera rest inside; keep the oven slightly open only with a wooden spoon for about 30 minutes. If the pastiera has swelled during cooking, at this stage it will take the typical shape you see.
Remove from the oven and let it cool in the pan. Eaten the next day it’s even better!