I'm kind of obsessed with pastiera napoletana, especially this time of the year. It's a traditional dessert eaten over Easter in Naples. I've come to think of it as a pimped out cheesecake.
The filling is made of ricotta, plus candied fruit, and wheat berries. It's spiced with all sorts of good things like cinnamon, orange blossom water, orange zest, lemon zest, and vanilla. I mean with a filling like that how could it be anything but good?
The crust is traditionally made with lard, which is what I've included in the recipe below. This gives you a crunchier crust. But you can also use the same amount of butter or shortening if you prefer. Just in case you can't find cooked wheat berries this recipe calls for, I've included a substitute. (Oh, this recipe specifies organic citrus because it can be quite scary what they don't tell you (at least in the States) about what's been sprayed onto your oranges and lemons.)
This dessert is best made one or (actually) even two days ahead, so the flavors can meld, which leaves you with one less thing to do Easter day.
And as always feel free to write me in the comments below!
Serves: 8 - Active time: 90 minutes - Bake time: 75 minutes (Plus chill/rest time)
Pasta Frolla Crust
250 g flour (approx. 2 cups)
125g lard (approx. 1/2 cup), cubed and chilled
60 g powdered sugar (approx. 1/2 cup)
zest of half an organic lemon
a pinch of salt
220 g cooked wheat berries – grano cotto in Italian (approx. 1 cup)
200 ml whole milk (approx. 4/5 cup)
25 g butter (approx. 2 tbsp)
1/2 vanilla bean (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
zest of one organic orange
250 g sheep ricotta (if not cow's milk ricotta), well drained
170 g sugar white (approx. 3/4 cup)
30 g candied orange diced (approx. 2 tbsp)
30 g candied citron diced (approx. 2 tbsp)
1 ½ tbsp. orange blossom water
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
Cooked Wheat Berry Substitute
45 g hulled wheat berries or spelt berries (approx 1/4 cup)
600 ml water (approx. 2 cups)
1/2 tsp salt
Stand Mixer Instructions: Mix dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt, zest). Add lard and mix until well combined, next add egg. Mix until the dough comes together. Remove dough from mixer and kneed slightly on floured surface just enough to form a ball.
Food Processor Instructions: Add flour, sugar, lard, salt, and lemon zest to a food processor. Blend for about 20-30 seconds until it resembles grains of sand. Then add the egg to combine. Remove from food processor kneed slightly on floured surface just enough to form a ball.
Mold dough into two round disk, one ball should use ¾ of dough. Cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least an hour and up overnight.
Prepare Grano Cotto Substitute (if using)
Add spelt, salt, and water to a medium-sized pot of water. Cook on medium heat for twice the package recommend time, approx. 90 minutes. Drain
Add cooked spelt where the recipe calls for "grano cotto".
In a small saucepan add the grano cotto, milk, butter, vanilla, and orange zest. Cook on a low flame for about 45 minutes stirring occasionally until all the milk is absorbed and leaves a sticky film on the grano. Place in a bowl and set in freezer for about 10 minutes to cool it down.
While the grano is cooking down, place push ricotta through a sieve to make a fine paste into a medium bowl. Add remaining ingredients and cooled grano to bowl. Mix to combine. (Do not over mix because you don't want to incorporate too much air into the filling.)
Preheat oven to 350˚F (180˚C). Line the base of an 8-inch springform cake pan with parchment paper (a normal cake pan will do, but is a little trickier to remove).
Remove the dough from the fridge and place on a lightly floured surface, pound the dough a few times with a lightly floured rolling pin (to lowered the height of the dough without having to raise its temperature). Then roll out to a thickness of approximately 1/4 inch (1/2 cm), lifting dough from the surface from time to time to prevent it from sticking.
Transfer flattened dough to the cake pan cutting off excess hanging from sides. Add excess dough back into the smaller ball and refrigerate for ten minutes.
Prick bottom of the dough in cake pan, pour in ricotta filling and place in the fridge.
Flatten remaining dough to a thickness of approximately 1/4 inch (1/2 cm) thick, and cut into strips approximately 1/4 inch (1/2 cm) wide. Remove dough from fridge, decorate pie top with criss-cross strips (no need to make a weave pattern - traditionally in Italy they just lay them on top). Prick edges where decorative topping meets the border.
Bake in a static oven for 60 - 75 minutes, until the pie is set in the middle and the top is lightly golden brown.
Remove from oven. Let cool completely in tin before removing. You can serve once cooled, but the cake is best served the following day, and the flavors have had more time to meld and merge.
PS. I've updated this recipe from one I wrote a few years ago on my old blog.
Photo credit. Me, Thea Duncan