The story goes like this: Maria Cristina of Savoy married Ferdinand II of the Two Sicilies. Maria Cristina was described as beautiful but also timid and shy girl: modest and reserved, she was never comfortable at the royal court. Her relationship to Ferdinand was not happy, and he had little patience for her nervous modesty. She used to be called ‘The Queen who never smiles’. King Ferdinando II instead loved to joke and above all he loved eating.
One day he wanted her to taste a slice of Pastiera – which is a typical Easter cake from Naples .
He started making of fun of her because it was so obvious that she loved it right away…. and she couldn’t help but smile! Apparently, then, he said ‘to see my wife smiling I need the Pastiera then, now I have to wait until next Easter to see her smiling again!’
There is no record of the first Pastiera recipe but we know for certain that every good Neapolitan housewife considers herself to be the one and only to have either the authentic or the best recipe of the Pastiera ever.
I am not from Naples, but I am totally in love with Pastiera. So, because we got stuck in London for Easter, I baked my first ever Pastiera and it was delicious!
Here is the recipe we use at CASAMIA:
Neapolitan Pastiera – Italian Cheesecake?!
Ingredients for 6 people – 8’’ mould
Sweet Short crust
275 gr flour
100 gr caster sugar
100 gr butter
half lemon zest, grated
150 gr candied fruit (2 orange and 1 lemon approx., depending how big your fruit is)
300 ml water
400 gr caster sugar
Ricotta Cheese Cream
350 gr ricotta chees
300 gr caster sugar
200 gr boiled wheat – or boiled pearl barley
50 gr milk
15 gr butter
1 egg yolks
half lemon zest, grated
half tbsp. of orange flower water
half vanilla pod
First prepare the short crust pastry:
Sieve the flour. In a round bowl, quickly mix the butter together with the flour.
Add the grated lemon zest.
Break the eggs and mix them with the sugar.
Add the eggs mixture to the buttered flour, by inclusion.
When all the eggs are incorporated, quickly work down your dough shaping it into a ball.
Cling film it and rest it in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
By the way, for your information, we use different short crust recipes according to different fillings, depending on how crunchy or sweet we want it. I found this perfect for the ricotta cheese cream filling.
Turn your oven on at 180°.
Then prepare your candied fruit.
(Or you can either find some nice candied fruit dices at your grocery, if you prefer).
Peel your lemon and your oranges, make sure you get rid of the white pith from the peel because it’s a bit bitter.
Then cut the peel in even dices.
Boil them in plain water twice, then place them in a pot with water and sugar until boiling.
Drain them and leave to cool down.
Now prepare the ricotta cheese cream.
In a medium pot, on medium heat, cook the cooked wheat, the milk, the butter and half of the grated lemon zest together.
Italian Delis sell cooked wheat for Pastiera already made.
(With pearl barley instead of wheat, the best thing would be to soak it in water the night before, then boil it for 30 minutes before proceeding with this recipe).
Let it cook for 10 minutes stirring thoroughly until it become all nice and soft together.
You may want to make it thinner passing the mixture through the food processor/blender for a few seconds.
Break the eggs and the egg yolks in a measuring jug.
In a bowl, whisk the ricotta cheese, the sugar, the broken eggs , the orange flower water and the vanilla seeds. Keep whisking until it is all well incorporated.
Then add a dash of grated lemon zest and the candied fruit.
Mix the wheat mixture and the ricotta mixture together.
Remove the dough from the fridge and roll it immediately, 5 mm thick.
Butter the mould and lay the dough onto it.
Keep some dough on the side to cut some strips to decor.
Pour the ricotta cheese mixture into the mould and fold the edges of the short pastry a little bit inwards.
Then put the strips on top of it, as in the picture.
Bake if for approximately one hour at 180°, until the dough is golden brown.
Then cover the cake with aluminium foil and keep baking for another 30 minutes.
Usually we serve it the day after.
Keep it outside and cover it just with a tea towel.
You can keep it for as long as 4/5 days in the refrigerator.