Pastiera is a traditional tart from Naples, with a crisp pastry case and a rich, creamy, sweet filling made from ricotta, cooked wheat, eggs, spices and candied peel. Its origins go back along way; in pagan Naples, this tart was made to celebrate the coming of Spring but now firmly belongs to the Easter festivities. The name comes from the word 'pasta' which is what was originally used in the filling instead of the cooked wheat.
The wheat now comes in a tin, ready cooked and prepared just for making this wonderful tart. If you live near an Italian deli, you should be able to buy it easily. If not, you can find it online, called 'Grano Cotto' and it usually says 'per pastiera'.
This isn't something you can make and bake in a hurry; there's a long list of ingredients and it's quite time-consuming to prepare. However, it's not difficult and your reward is a wonderful, rich tart that feels suitably celebratory. It easily serves 8-10 people, perfect for dessert on Easter day.
- For the pastry
80g icing sugar
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
- For the filling
300g caster sugar
2 egg yolks
100g candied peel
1 tesapoon cinnamon
zest of 1 lemon
250g cooked wheat
1 vanilla pod
25ml orange flower water
For the pastry, chop the butter and put it in the freezer for about 10 minutes. Take it out and put it into a food processor together with all the other pastry ingredients except the egg and egg yolk. With the double blade attachment, whizz until the mixture is the size of small peas. Then add the egg and egg yolk and pulse until it just starts coming together. Dump out onto a board and form the mixture into a ball, flatten it down a little, wrap in cling film and let it rest in the fridge for 30 mins.
While the pastry is chilling, you can make a start on the filling. In a saucepan, heat the milk, cooked wheat, lemon zest and butter together until it starts to simmer. Keep it simmering gently until it is thick and creamy. Remove from the heat and leave the mixture to cool.
Pre-heat the oven to 200°C. Lightly flour a work surface and roll the pastry out thinly and use it to line a 25cm round, loose-bottomed tin, leaving some to create a lattice effect on the top of the tart. Put it back in the fridge for at least 10 minutes while you continue with the filling.
In a food processor, whizz together the eggs, ricotta, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla seeds (scraped out of the pod) and orange flower water until you have a smooth liquid without any lumps.
Add the two mixtures together and finally fold in the candied peel. Pour the mixture carefully into the prepared pastry case and cover the top with a pastry lattice. The filling should come almost up to the top. Brush the lattice lightly with egg wash.
Bake in the oven at 200°C for 60 minutes until the tart is puffed and golden.
Leave to cool in the tin.
Keep in a cake tin in a cool place for about two days before eating.