Pastiera Napoletana is a traditional Italian Easter cake that originated in the city of Naples, Italy.
Its luscious filling of creamy ricotta cheese, fragrant orange blossom water, and plump grains of wheat will transport you straight to the sunny streets of Naples.
But what is it about pastiera napoletana that makes it so special? Is it the delicate balance of flavors that melt in your mouth with each bite? Or is it the way it brings family and friends together, creating a sense of warmth and community?
Perhaps it’s both, because there’s no denying that pastiera napoletana is more than just a dessert. It’s a cultural staple that has been passed down from generation to generation, with each family adding their own unique twist to the recipe.
But don’t let this intimidate you. With the right ingredients and a little patience, you too can create a homemade pastiera napoletana that will impress your guests and leave them begging for seconds.
In this recipe, we’ll take a closer look at the authentic Italian pastiera napoletana recipe, breaking down each step and ingredient so that even beginners can give it a try. From preparing the pastry to mixing the filling, we’ll guide you through the entire process so that you can enjoy the taste of Naples in the comfort of your own home.
So grab a cup of espresso and get ready to indulge in the sweet, creamy goodness of pastiera napoletana!
- Prep Time: 60 Min
- Cook Time: 90 Min
- Servings: 10
Doses for 26 cm/10 inch pie dish
For the Shortcrust Pastry:
- 400 g (3 1/4 cups) of flour
- 180 g (about 1 cup) of granulated sugar
- 180 g (3/4 cup) of unsalted butter at room temperature
- 3 whole medium eggs
- 1/6 teaspoon of fine salt
Ingredients for the Wheat Cream:
- 300 g (about 10 ounces) of cooked wheat berries
- 200 ml (4/5 cup) of fresh whole milk
- peel of 1 orange
- peel of 1 lemon
- 30 g (2 tablespoons) of unsalted butter
For the Ricotta Cream:
Kitchen Tools and Equipment
To make Pastiera Napoletana, you don’t need any special equipment that you wouldn’t normally find in a home kitchen. However, there are a few tools that will make the process easier:
- Baking pan: For Neapolitan pastiera, we usually use a round pan with the flared edges typical for pastiera, with a 4.5 cm (2 inch) high rim. For this recipe, we used a 10-inch pie dish.
- Food processor: Although it’s not strictly necessary, a food processor will make the process of grinding the grains for the filling much easier and faster.
- Stand Mixer: A stand mixer or electric hand blender is useful for beating the eggs and sugar together until light and fluffy, but you can also use a whisk and some elbow grease if you prefer.
How Long does it Take to Make Pastiera Napoletana?
There are some preparations of the Neapolitan Pastiera that must be done the day before. So you will need at least two days to prepare this Easter cake.
You should also know that the Neapolitan Pastiera tastes best when eaten the day after it is baked.
So if you want to eat it on Easter Day, start preparing it on Friday, if not Thursday. Then bake it on Saturday.
That said, let’s get started!
Pastiera Napoletana Recipe: Instructions
The Pasta Frolla
First make the pastry. The dough for the Neapolitan pastiera is different from the classic Italian sweet shortcrust pastry recipe (pasta frolla).
The pastiera must be firm, not too crumbly, otherwise the decorative stripes will break during baking, especially if the pastiera tends to puff up.
Also, if the pastry is too crumbly, the slice will easily break.
So now we will show you how to make the perfect shortcrust pastry for the Pastiera Napoletana.
Step 1) – Using an electric whisk or stand mixer, beat the softened butter with the sugar for at least 3-4 minutes until creamy.
Step 2) – Whipping at high speed, add the eggs one by one, waiting for the first to be incorporated before adding the second, then the third, until you have a smooth, homogeneous cream without lumps. Finally, add the salt.
Step 3) – Now add the flour (sifted before) 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 to a work surface and knead a little to mix all the ingredients together.
The dough will stick to your hands a little, that’s normal. Add a little flour to compact the pastry.
Step 5) – Make a ball and wrap the shortcrust in plastic wrap. Let it cool in the refrigerator for about 12 hours (better if you make it the day before and leave it in the refrigerator for 24 hours).
Cooling is essential; we are talking about a soft dough that needs to harden in order to work perfectly. The shell of the pastiera, as well as the decorative strips, must be made from a hard and fresh dough.
The Wheat Cream
Step 6) – Now peel the orange and lemon, then save the peels and set them aside.
Step 7) – In a medium saucepan (not too small; the wheat should be spread out and flat), combine the wheat, milk, butter, and citrus zest.
Step 8) – Cook over very low heat for 25-30 minutes, stirring constantly (be careful, it tends to stick to the bottom, so keep the heat low and stir frequently). In the end, you should have a velvety cream.
Leave to cool completely at room temperature. Then remove the citrus peels.
Step 9) – Now take 100 g (1/2 cup) of wheat cream and blend it. This is necessary to make the final mixture even creamier.
Now that you have a smooth cream, mix it with the wheat cream with the whole grains.
Step 10) – Mix and cover with plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator to settle. You can leave it until the next day when you need to assemble all the ingredients and bake the pastiera.
The Ricotta Cream
Step 11) – At least 12-24 hours before making the ricotta cream for the pastiera, remove as much liquid as possible from the ricotta. To do this, drain it by placing it in a cotton cloth and squeezing it several times.
Finally, place it in a bowl, add the sugar and mix.
PLEASE NOTE: If you use sheep’s milk ricotta, as in the traditional Neapolitan recipe, you will see that this operation is not necessary because it is already a rather dry cheese with little liquid.
Step 12) – Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours. The rest is essential: the ricotta must completely absorb the sugar and the sugar must dissolve and become one with the mixture.
The next day, sift the ricotta and sugar through a fine sieve.
Sifting the ricotta is a tedious but essential operation. The ricotta cream should be smooth, silky and creamy, absolutely free of lumps and chunks: so be patient, mash it well so as not to waste even a little!
Step 13) – Now add the cinnamon and mix well. Then add the whole eggs and yolks, one at a time, making sure to let the previous one be absorbed before adding another one.
Finally, add the orange blossom water. The result will be like a smooth and rather soft cream.
Step 14) – At this step, chop the candied fruit and add them to the ricotta cream.
If you don’t like the consistency of chopped candied fruit, you can blend them.
Finally take the wheat cream, add it as well and mix.
Step 15) – The creamy filling of the Neapolitan pastiera is ready! Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the pastry shell of the pastiera is ready.
Step 16) – First, butter and flour the baking pan, then set aside. Sprinkle the work surface with flour and roll out the dough (now cold and hard) to a thickness of about 4 mm (1/6 inch).
Step 17) – Place the shortcrust pastry on the rolling pin and then lay it on the baking pan.
Step 18) – Using a rolling pin, flatten the edges of the cake pan to cut off any excess pastry. Set the remaining shortcrust aside; you will use it to make decorative pastry strips.
Use the prongs of a fork to poke small holes in the pastry case and place it in the refrigerator.
Step 19) – Now take the pastry scraps and knead them together. Then form a ball and place it in the freezer for 10 minutes.
When the shortcrust has hardened enough, roll it out with a rolling pin to a thickness of about 4 mm (1/6 inch).
Finally, cut it into strips that are not too thin: 6-8 strips, depending on the size of the cake pan, about 1.5 cm (3/5 inch) wide.
Step 20) – At this point, remove the pastry shell and the filling from the refrigerator. Pour the filling into the shell and level it out, leaving about 6 mm (1/4 inch) of space from the edge.
Now we need to decorate the pastiera with the pastry strips. Place the first 3 or 4 strips on the pastiera, evenly spaced.
Step 21) – Next, arrange the other strips by crossing them with the previous ones.
Once all the strips have been added, remove the excess dough from the edge, being careful to leave a small margin and not to cut too much.
Seal by pinching the ends of the strips at the edges.
Now your Pastiera Napoletana is ready to be baked! Place the pastiera in the refrigerator for a couple of hours before baking to prevent it from puffing up too much.
How to Bake The Pastiera Napoletana: Some Tips
As you may have noticed, Neapolitan pastiera is difficult to prepare. Even when it comes to baking.
So here are some tips on how to bake the pastiera perfectly!
- Bake in a preheated oven on the medium-low rack at 150°C (300°F) for about 1 hour and 45-50 minutes.
- The pastiera must be baked slowly and for a long time. First, because this type of baking favors a cooked filling and a golden, not burnt pastry. Secondly, because slow, soft baking ensures a better taste.
- After 1 hour, check the situation in the oven: it’s possible that the pastiera will puff up too much. Don’t worry: open the oven a bit and close it again: the cake will deflate a little.
- In the last 15 minutes, check the color of the pastiera; it should be caramelized/amber. If it’s a little pale, move it to the medium/high level so that it gets a little color, and only in the last 5 minutes, if it really does not get a nice color, bring it to 180°C (356°F).
- Before removing from the oven, do the toothpick test. If it comes out dry, the pastiera is ready.
- Turn off the oven and let the pastiera rest inside. Leave the oven slightly open with a wooden spoon in the door for about 30 minutes. If the pastiera has puffed up during baking, it will tend to deflate and settle at this stage.
- Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the pan.
- Eat Pastiera Napoletana the next day – it tastes even better!
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- Cannoli Siciliani Recipe
- Torta Tenerina | Italian Chocolate Brownie Recipe
- Torta Caprese Recipe
- Sicilian Orange Cake | “Pan d’Arancio”
- Italian Lemon Ricotta Cookies
- Zuccotto Recipe
- Italian Cheesecake with Ricotta and Mascarpone
You can store the Pastiera Napoletana in three main ways: at room temperature, in the refrigerator or you can freeze it.
Let’s see in detail all the ways to store the pastiera:
At Room Temperature
Italian tradition dictates that pastiera should be prepared on Holy Friday and stored at room temperature to be eaten on Easter Sunday.
This is not only a custom, but also proof that the pastiera keeps perfectly for a few days, despite the fact that one of its main ingredients is ricotta cheese, which is easily perishable. The secret? The presence of candied fruit, which preserves the moisture content of the filling.
You can store pastiera at room temperature for about a week. Just wrap it in baking paper or a clean kitchen towel, or place it under a dome. The important thing is to keep it away from heat sources and in a cool, dry place.
In the Refrigerator
If the temperature outside is very high, or if the kitchen is hot and humid and not very ventilated, you can store the pastiera in the refrigerator.
However, be aware that some of the flavors will disappear and the pastiera will lose its crispness.
To reduce this risk, even if only partially, it is best to wrap the pastiera in cling film and place it on the middle shelf of the refrigerator.
In the Freezer
Yes, it is possible to freeze the Pastiera Napoletana for up to a maximum of thirty days.
It’s better to cut it into slices and put each slice in a freezer bag.
Before eating, we recommend taking it out of the freezer for at least 3-4 hours.
History of Pastiera Napoletana
Many agree on the pagan origins of Pastiera Napoletana.
The Legend of Partenope
According to an ancient legend, the first to make this dessert was the siren Partenope herself, who is also credited with the birth of Naples.
To thank her for choosing the Gulf of Naples as her home and for her melodious voice, the Neapolitans commissioned seven of the most beautiful maidens in the villages to give her seven gifts from nature.
Parthenope herself mixed these gifts and gave birth to the pastiera. It was made of flour, ricotta cheese, eggs, wheat, orange blossom water, spices and sugar.
The Fishermen’s Legend
According to another tradition, its creation is linked to the world of fishermen.
According to the myth, fishermen’s wives once left baskets of ricotta cheese, candied fruit, wheat, eggs and orange blossoms on the beach as a sacrifice to the sea so that their husbands would return home safely.
But during the night, the waves mixed all these products. When they returned the next day, they would find in the same baskets a ready-made dessert, the pastiera.
The sea had not only brought back their spouses, but had also left them a fantastic dessert.
Either way, and in both cases, the recipe’s link to ancient pagan rites celebrating spring is clear.
In particular, wheat symbolized the desire for wealth and fertility, while eggs symbolized primordial life taking shape. Again, flour represents wealth, ricotta cheese represents abundance, orange blossoms recall the scent of the Campania land, and sugar represents sweetness.