Easter is less than a week away and in my family household, easter sunday is just as big as Christmas. Attendance is compulsory, stretchy pants are advised and be ready for many hours of eating. There are many traditional Italian Easter dishes and I am making it my mission this week to find out a little more about the regional variances across the country. The first dish that I’m sharing with you is a sweet recipe, traditionally from Naples in Campania, PASTIERA NAPOLETANA.
Every home in Naples and others around Italy will be enjoying a slice of this rich ricotta pastry cake. The ancient recipe is so sacred, no one dares to mess about with the ingredients that create the flavours and aromas of Naples bay. Those that make this the traditional way, start the process during Holy week and can take as long as 3 days. The process involves cooking the wheat berries in milk, then creating the filling with ricotta, sugar, candied fruit, spices and orange blossom water, pouring into a cake tin lined with short crust pastry and then slowly baked it in the oven. I am going to share with you the quick version which involves buying a jar of grano cotto, pre-cooked berries, which eliminates a couple of days of cooking. You can buy jars of grano cotto at many Italian delis including online Italian food store Nifeislife.com. It will still take at least 3 hours to prepare and bake and it will taste better when you’ve left it to cool down after baking. The wait is totally worth it. Perfect to have on easter morning for breakfast or with afternoon tea.
For the sweet short crust pastry
- 400g flour
- Pinch of salt.
- 225g salted butter (chilled and diced)
- 3 medium egg yolks
- 6 tbsp chilled water
- 5 tsp caster sugar
- Or you can buy pre-made short crust pastry if making pastry is not your thing!
For the pastiera filling
- 580g Grano cotto (pre-cooked pearl barley) , found in good Italian delis.
- 250g granulated sugar
- 500g Fresh ricotta
- 5 eggs, beaten
- Grated zest 1 lemon
- Vanilla pod, scraped ot seeds
- 80g candied peel
- 800g dried apricot, diced
- Pinch of ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp orange blossom water
- Icing sugar
- First, lets make the pastry. In a food processor, add the flour, salt and chilled butter. Blitz the ingredients together until reach a uniform, pale crumb. Empty into a large bowl and add the caster sugar; mix.
- Mix the egg yolks and water together; add 4 tbsp of the yolk mixture to the crumb. With a cutlery knife, distribute liquid as quickly as possible to create large flakes.
- Use the flat of the knife to bring the flakes together and add liquid if necessary but not too much as this will make the pastry tough.
- Pull pastry together with your hands and shape into a flat disc with out overworking the pastry; wrap in clingfilm and chill in fridge for 20-30 minutes
- Lets start on the filling. Whip the ricotta and the remaining granulated sugar together till you get a cream consistency.
- Fold the eggs into the mixture
- Finally, add the grano cotto, lemon zest, vanilla seeds, candied peel, diced apricots, cinnamon and orange blossom water. Mix well all the ingredients together.
- Pre-heat the oven to 170C
- When the pastry has chilled, roll it out until a 0.5 cm thick and line an already greased and flour 24-26cm cake tin. Trim the excess dough.
- Fill the pastry with the ricotta mixture. Roll out the remaining dough, and cut into 6 thick strips and create a lattice on top of the cake
- Bake in the oven for 1 hour 30 minutes on a medium shelf. Cool and refrigerate for 12 hours before serving. Dust icing sugar on top.