Now let’s enter a territory very dear to me, that of sweets. My mother hasn’t finished eating if she doesn’t eat fruit at the end of the meal; if I don’t eat a dessert after dinner, it’s as if I haven’t eaten. Even as a child after lunch I remember that I always had to eat a slice of bread with Nutella and even now I still prefer chocolate at the end of a meal … yes I know, bad habits die hard !!!
However, the dessert of this recipe is by far one of my favorites (you will often read this phrase) because it represents tradition, my homeland and my youth.
The cake in question is the wheat Pastiera, a typically Easter cake that carries with it a beautiful legend: according to legend, the first to make this cake was the mermaid Partenope who had chosen the Gulf of Naples as her home and every spring she rise to floated and delighted the people with her songs; and to thank her for having chosen the Gulf as her home and for her wonderful voice, the Neapolitans gave her seven products of nature: flour, ricotta, soft wheat, eggs, orange blossom water, spices and sugar. The mermaid Partenope brought them to the Gods who mixed all these ingredients and the Pastiera was born which she then gave to the Neapolitans. It is a typically Easter cake but in Naples it is on display in the windows of pastry shops all year round because it is too good and it does not seem right to enjoy it just one week a year.
In my house, as in all houses in Campania, the pastiere are made on Holy Thursday and are ready to be eaten on Holy Saturday. Sheep ricotta is strictly used, although I don’t mind the use of buffalo ricotta. The smell that invades the home when the pastiere are in the oven cannot be explained; it is a perfume that is good for the soul, makes you feel at home and at that moment you would not want to be anywhere else in the world but at home.
INGREDIENTS for 2 pastiera of about 1 kg each
½ kg of sheep’s milk ricotta
½ kg of cooked wheat
4 egg whites beaten until stiff
125 grams of candied orange peel
450 grams of sugar
1 sachet of vanillin
1 bottle of orange blossom flower water
FOR THE SHORTBREAD
600 grams of flour 00
300 grams of granulated sugar
240 gr of butter
2 whole eggs
Grated rind of one orange
A pinch of salt
Prepare the pastry: work the cold butter with the sugar until it reduces the consistency of sand. Add the eggs, lemon and salt and mix. Add all the flour and work quickly. Do not work for long, shortcrust pastry is not good for it to heat up. Flour a sheet of parchment paper, place the pastry on top, crush it lightly and close it in the paper well. Refrigerate while you prepare the filling.
FILLING: work the sugar with the ricotta, add the wheat, the 7 egg yolks, the vanilla, the orange blossom and the candied fruit (if you prefer, you can blend them with a little milk). Mix well with a spoon and at the end add the 4 whipped egg whites.
Grease and flour 2 pans of 22 cm in diameter with flared edges, like a tart so to speak.
Take the pastry from the fridge, divide it in two and on a floured surface roll out, with the help of a rolling pin, a circle with which you will line the pan. Make the edges adhere well and cut off the excess. Fill with the ricotta and wheat cream and make strips from the remaining pasta that you will use to form a grate on the pastiera.
Put in a preheated oven at 160C for at least 45 minutes.
Now enjoy the scent and the sensation I described to you earlier and tell me if it’s not true.