Secrets Naples

How to make the real Neapolitan Pastiera!

History and origins of Pastiera

The Neapolitan Pastiera is a traditional Easter dessert of Naples. It is a rich and complex cake, with an aromatic filling made of cooked wheat, fresh ricotta, eggs, sugar and orange blossom aroma. The surface is often decorated with seven crossed strips of shortcrust pastry.

The origins of the Neapolitan Pastiera date back to ancient times and are intertwined with different legends and traditions. One of the most widespread stories is linked to the siren Parthenope, who, according to legend, brought wheat as a gift to the city of Naples. Wheat, a key ingredient of pastiera, represents fertility and rebirth, themes closely associated with Easter.
Other legends attribute the origin of pastiera to a pagan legend linked to the goddess of fertility Ceres, whose cult was widespread in ancient Campania. During the celebrations for spring, wheat was offered to Ceres as a sign of gratitude for abundant harvests.

The recipe for Neapolitan pastiera has been handed down from generation to generation and continues to be an important part of the culinary culture of Naples and the surrounding region. Each family may have its own variant of the recipe with small differences in details but the essence of the sweet remains the same: an explosion of flavors and scents that evoke tradition and celebration.

Naples and Pastiera

The Neapolitan Pastiera, the culinary jewel of the Neapolitan Easter, is much more than just a simple sweet. It is a pastry work of art that brings with it centuries of history and tradition. Beyond this, what makes this delicacy even more special is its ability to adapt to the preferences and traditions of each individual Neapolitan family.
In every corner of Naples, from the busy streets of the historic center to the quiet streets of the suburbs, pastiera is prepared with love and care but with unique variations that reflect the family traditions handed down from generation to generation.
For some families, the pastiera recipe is a jealously guarded secret, handed down from mother to daughter, from grandmother to granddaughter. These recipes may include special ingredients or particular preparation methods that give pastiera that distinctive touch that makes it unique and identifying for that family.
Other families may choose to faithfully follow the recipes of their ancestors, respecting every detail and step with a precision that reflects a deep respect for the roots and history of their culinary culture.
Then there are those who embrace innovation and culinary exploration, introducing new ingredients or creatively reinterpreting old recipes without betraying their original spirit.

However, there is a constant that binds all versions of the Neapolitan pastiera: the love and pride for their own culinary heritage. For Neapolitan families, pastiera is not just a sweet to enjoy during the Easter holidays, but a link with the past, a way to honor their roots and celebrate family unity and love.
In an ever-changing world, where traditions seem to fade, the Neapolitan Pastiera remains a beacon of hope and continuity, a tangible symbol of how the past can still live and thrive in the present. In every slice of Pastiera you can savor not only the delicious taste of an ancient sweet but also the history and culture of a people who continue to proudly celebrate their roots with passion.

The Ancient and original Recipe of Neapolitan Pastiera

Shortcrust Pastry Ingredients for 10 People

  • 5 Eggs
  • 500 gr. flour
  • 200 gr. sugar
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 200 gr. butter or lard (preferably)
  • Vanilla pod

Filling Ingredients for about 10 People

  • 700 gr. sheep's ricotta
  • 500 gr. cooked wheat (found in cans in supermarkets)
  • 600 gr. sugar
  • 1 lemon
  • 80 gr. candied citron - 50 gr. candied orange - 50 gr. candied pumpkin (called "cucuzzata")
  • 100 gr. milk
  • 30 gr. butter or lard (preferably)
  • 5 whole eggs + 2 yolks
  • a vanilla pod
  • one tablespoon orange blossom water
  • pinch of cinnamon (optional)

Shortcrust Pastry Preparation

On a table, arrange the flour and sugar in a fountain with softened butter (or lard) in the center, egg yolks, and grated lemon zest.

shortcrust pastry Beat the eggs in the center of the fountain with a fork, gradually incorporating the flour, butter, and sugar.

shortcrust pastry Once the ingredients are combined, work the dough quickly without kneading it, just pressing it until the color becomes uniform.

shortcrust pastry The shortcrust pastry should not be overworked to maintain its crumbliness.

shortcrust pastry Let the dough rest for at least 30 minutes covered with plastic wrap or a damp cloth.

Pastiera Preparation

In a saucepan, pour the cooked wheat, milk, butter, and grated zest of 1 lemon; let it cook for 10 minutes, stirring often until it becomes almost creamy.

Filled Wheat

In a separate bowl, blend the ricotta, sugar, 5 whole eggs plus 2 egg yolks, a packet of vanilla, a tablespoon of orange blossom water, and a pinch of cinnamon (optional).

Ricotta and Sugar Filling

Work everything until the mixture is very thin. Add a grated zest of a lemon and the candied fruits cut into cubes. Mix everything with the wheat.

Candied Fruits

Take the thawed shortcrust pastry, or the one you made, and roll out the dough to a thickness of about 1/2 cm with a rolling pin and line the previously buttered baking pan (about 28 cm in diameter), trim the excess dough, roll it out again, and cut it into strips (traditionally 7).

Shortcrust Dough     Dough in the Pan

Pour the ricotta mixture into the pan, level it, fold the edges of the dough inward, and decorate with strips forming a lattice that you will brush with a beaten egg yolk.

Unbaked Pastiera

Bake at 180 degrees for an hour and a half until the pastiera has taken on a golden color; let it cool and, before serving, dust with powdered sugar.

Baked Pastiera

Pastiera is even better if eaten a few days later. For this reason, in Neapolitan tradition, it is usually prepared on Good Friday or even on Thursday, so it will be delicious for Easter, with all the flavors well blended.

It can be kept for several days (up to 5) strictly outside the refrigerator, covered with a white linen cloth (not with plastic wrap), then it can be kept in the refrigerator for several more days. Enjoy your meal!

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