Pasticciotto Leccese is a delicious traditional Italian pastry, typical of the cuisine of Salento in Apulia, particularly in the province of Lecce, from which it takes its name.
It’s a small, oval-shaped pastry made with shortcrust dough and typically filled with a delicious Crema Pasticcera (custard cream). Crispy on the outside and crumbly in texture, but with a creamy heart, it’s a real treat!
In addition to the traditional recipe with Italian pastry cream alone, a version with custard and black cherries in syrup is also popular. This is a version of the Campania tradition, as we will see in the next paragraphs.
A good pasticciotto must have a crumbly dough that blends with the cream inside. The top should be shiny, golden and slightly rounded.
In Puglia, pasticciotto is usually eaten for breakfast or as a dessert, often with a cup of coffee, tea or milk. It’s delicious hot, fresh from the oven or even at room temperature.
While baking, pasticciotto give off an intense and delicious aroma that will inebriate you. Pasticciotti are said to put you in a good mood, which can only be true!
If you visit Puglia, one of the things you will remember is the scent of freshly baked pasticciotti wafting through the narrow streets of the small towns.
Follow our step-by-step recipe and you will be making homemade pasticciotto in no time!
- Italian Crostata Recipe
- Torta della Nonna | Grandmother’s Cake
- Italian Fruit Tart | Crostata di Frutta
- Cantucci Recipe | Traditional Tuscan Cookies
- Zeppole di San Giuseppe Recipe
Homemade Pasticciotto Recipe
- Prep Time: 30 min + at least 30 minutes chilling in the refrigerator both the cream and the pastry
- Cook Time: 30 min
- Servings: 6 Pasticciotto
For Italian Sweet Shortcrust Pastry (Pasta Frolla)
- 250 g (2 cups) of “00” flour
- 100 g (1/2 cup) of granulated sugar
- 120 g (~1/2 cup) of unsalted cold butter
- 1 whole medium egg at room temperature
- 1 medium egg yolk at room temperature
- 1/6 teaspoon of fine salt
- grated zest of half a lemon (optional)
Ingredients for about 350 g (1 1/2 cups) of Italian Pastry Cream (Crema Pasticcera)
- 2 medium egg yolks
- 50 g (4 tablespoons) of granulated sugar
- 15 g (~2 tablespoons) of all purpose flour
- 35 g (3 3/4 tablespoons) of corn starch
- 250 ml (1 cup) of whole fresh milk
- 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla bean or zest of half lemon
- 1 yolk
- 3 tablespoons of milk
- icing sugar
Kitchen Tools and Equipment
The basic tools for making the homemade pasticciotto recipe are first of all those needed to prepare the custard and the shortcrust pastry.
But definitely the most important and characteristic tool is the PASTICCIOTTO MOLD. The traditional shape of pasticciotti is oval and the size is about 10 cm x 6 cm x 3 cm, but sometimes they are a little smaller. the convenient use of single-portion aluminium molds or silicone molds.
To make Pasticciotti Leccesi at home, it’s better to start by preparing the pastry cream that it’s just an Italian custard. So, while the cream is cooling in the refrigerator, you can make the Italian sweet shortcrust pastry known in Italy as Pasta frolla.
How to Make Italian Pastry Cream
Step 1) – Heat the milk in a saucepan with the vanilla or lemon zest, as desired. Bring to a near boil.
While the milk is heating, in another saucepan, beat the egg yolks with the sugar and mix well.
Step 2) – Then add the two sifted flours and mix.
Step 3) – Slowly pour the hot milk into the egg-sugar-flour mixture, stirring constantly.
Place the saucepan over low heat. Whisk until the cream thickens (this will take about 3-4 minutes).
Step 4) – Pour the pastry cream into a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap (in contact with the cream) and allow to cool completely in the refrigerator (at least 30 minutes).
For more information, tips, tricks and curiosities read our Italian Pastry Cream Recipe (Crema Pasticcera).
How to Make Italian Sweet shortcrust Pastry (Pasta Frolla)
Step 1) – Put the flour on a pastry board and make a hole in the middle. Pour in the sugar, lemon zest (optional), salt and room temperature eggs in this order.
Step 2) – Finally, add the cold butter cut into small pieces. Knead quickly with your hands.
It’s IMPORTANT not to knead with both hands, but only with the fingertips. The heat of your hands can actually melt the butter too much and change the final taste of the pasta frolla.
BEFORE KNEADING, here are 2 useful TIPS: put your hands under very cold water and dry them well; use a marble pastry board. It’s really important not to heat the dough too much!
Step 3) – Knead the ingredients quickly for the shortest time possible, so as not to overheat the dough, until the mixture is compact and elastic.
Form a loaf and wrap in plastic wrap. Let it rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
For more information, tips, tricks and curiosities read our Pasta Frolla Recipe (Italian Sweet Shortcrust Pastry).
How to Shape the Pasticciotti Once the Custard and Pastry are Cold
Step 1) – Remove the shortcrust pastry from the refrigerator. Place it on a marbled pastry board dusted with a little flour. Roll it out with a rolling pin until it’s about 5 mm (1/5 inch) thick.
Take the oval molds and lightly oil them. Line each mold with shortcrust pastry. Use your fingers to shape the pastry so that it covers the inside of the mold well. Discard any excess dough that sticks out.
Step 2) – Place 2 or 3 teaspoons of custard in each mold so that the cream is just below the rim.
Take another piece of rolled-out pastry and fully cover the cream.
Step 3) – Press the dough to the edges to seal the pastry. Again, remove excess dough from the edge of the mold.
Now beat an egg yolk with 3 tablespoons of milk and brush the surface of the pasticciotti. This will serve to form the shiny and golden top.
Step 4) – Bake the pasticciotti in a preheated oven at 180°C (356°F) for 30-35 minutes.
When the pasticciotti are golden brown, remove them from the oven and let them cool at room temperature for a few minutes.
Finally sprinkle with icing sugar.
Enjoy your delicious homemade pasticciotto while still warm or at room temperature.
How Long can I Keep Homemade Pasticciotto and What is the Best Way to Store it?
Yo can store homemade pasticciotto for 2 to 3 days after baking. It’s best to keep them refrigerated in an airtight container.
We recommend that you eat the pasticciotti while they are still warm or at room temperature; the cream inside should not be too cold.
Therefore, do not forget to take the pasticciotti out of the refrigerator about an hour before serving.
Can I Freeze Pasticciotto?
Yes, you can freeze homemade pasticciotto.
You can freeze it while it’s still raw. When it’s time to cook them, don’t thaw them. Go straight from the freezer to the oven to bake.
You can also freeze cooked pasticciotto. Wrap each pasticciotto tightly in plastic wrap, making sure there is no air inside. Alternatively, use freezer bags.
The pasticciotto will keep in the freezer for up to 1 month.
Remove the pasticciotto from the freezer and let it thaw in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight. You can reheat the pasticciotto in the oven.
Can I Make Pasticciotto Ahead of Time?
Yes, You can make pasticciotto ahead. Here’s how to do it:
You can prepare the pastry and the cream the day before and refrigerate them separately for 24 hours.
Or you can assemble the pasticciotto, filling the pastry with the cream and sealing the top with another layer of pastry.
At this point, you have two options for storing the assembled pasticciotto:
a. Store in the refrigerator: Place the assembled pasticciotto in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours before baking. This method works well if you plan to bake and serve within one day.
b. Freeze: Place the assembled pasticciotti on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and freeze for 1 to 2 hours or until firm. Then transfer the pasticciotti to a plastic bag or airtight container and store in the freezer for up to one month.
Making pasticciotto ahead of time allows you to enjoy these delicious Italian pastries at your convenience, whether for breakfast, dessert, or a special occasion.
The traditional Pasticciotto Leccese is a short pastry filled only with custard.
However, there are many variations that have spread throughout Italy over time. Let’s see some of them.
Pasticciotto with Cherry in Syrup (Neapolitan Pasticciotto)
Certainly the most popular, and now considered a classic, is the one with black cherries in syrup inside.
This one, however, is of Neapolitan origin. Pasticciotto with cream and Amarena cherries, in its Neapolitan version, is made with lard pastry, which makes it very crumbly.
This delicacy is very reminiscent of another Campanian preparation, the Crostata Amalfitana. A cake similar to the famous Torta della Nonna with the addition of black cherries in syrup.
You can make Pasticciotti Leccesi with chocolate shortcrust pastry. This gives you a very tasty black and white version. For the cocoa shortcrust, simply add 45 g (~6 tablespoons) of unsweetened cocoa powder to the dough.
You can also add apple pieces and a little cinnamon to the custard. Apple and pastry cream is a great classic combination.
Decorate Apple Pasticciotto with slivered almonds and powdered sugar.
Ricotta fillings with candied fruit are also excellent. A filling very similar to the famous Neapolitan pastiera.
Important: Pasticciotti can also be filled with the cream of your choice (pistachio, almond or hazelnut for example), as long as it is a cream that can be baked.
It’s the fall of 2008, the height of the American election campaign.
In Campi Salentina, a small town in the province of Lecce, master pastry chef Angelo Bisconti is experimenting with a new kind of pasticciotto.
A cocoa-based version of the typical Lecce dessert, both in the pastry and in the filling.
He therefore decided to pay homage to the newly elected American President Obama by dedicating this chocolate version of the pasticciotto to him.
Pasticciotti Leccesi at the wedding of George Clooney
In 2014, at the wedding of George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin in Venice, among the many delicacies of star chefs, there were up to 2,000 Pasticciotti Leccesi.
These pastries were requested by the groom himself.
Piero De Lorenzis, a pastry chef from Galatina (Lecce), brought these wonderful sweets to the wedding banquet.
After all, the Hollywood actor is known to be a foodie and loves Italian cuisine!
Pasticciotto and Pope Wojtyla
It’s said that Pope Wojtyla, during his pastoral trip to Puglia, visited the pastry shop of Ascalone (inventor, as we will see in the next paragraph, of Pasticciotto).
The Pope liked Pasticciotto Leccese so much that in later years he had it delivered several times a week for breakfast.
The story goes that Pasticciotto Leccese was brought to Brindisi in the very early hours of the morning, and from there took the 6 a.m. flight to Vatican City to arrive in time for the Holy Father’s breakfast.
True or not, Pasticciotto Leccese has won over everyone for the authenticity of its ingredients, its exquisite taste and its irresistible aroma!
Pasticciotto Leccese: Origins
The inventor of pasticciotto was undoubtedly a pastry chef from Galatina (a town near Lecce), Nicola Ascalone, in 1745.
It was the 24th of June and the patron saint’s feast of Saints Peter and Paul was approaching.
For the occasion, as every year, Galatina filled considerably with visitors.
It’s said that Ascalone was struggling financially at the time and, in search of better luck, spent his days experimenting with new pastry recipes for this important day.
Once, he decided to mix leftover pastry and cream after baking a cake and tried to make a much smaller one.
The result, however, did not shock him too much. It was, in fact, a decidedly improvised cake, a “pasticcio,” hence the name Pasticciotto. “Pasticcio” in Italian means “something badly made, arranged.”
So Ascalone, dissatisfied, immediately gave the still-warm treat to a passer-by who, however, was delighted and kept complimenting him.
The passerby turned out to be Don Silvestro, the village priest who visited the confectioner every morning.
The priest immediately fell in love with the little cake and, to Ascalone’s amazement, ordered more.
Don Silvestro became the best advertisement for his new creation: word spread throughout the village and the pasticciotti began to sell like hot little cakes.
Today, the Ascalone Bakery is still in its historic location in Galatina, near the Chiesa Madre.
Over the centuries it has been handed down from generation to generation and is now run by the sons of Andrea Ascalone, who passed away in 2015 and is known throughout Italy as the best pasticciotti master of recent times.