Pastiera Napolentana is a traditional Easter pie that originated in Naples. The filling is made with ricotta, orange flower water, candied citron, and faro—softened hulled wheat berries—the pie’s trademark ingredient. The preparation for this dish usually occurs two or three days in advance by soaking the hulled wheat berries in milk or water until soft. Here in the U.S. the wheat berries are often replaced with cooked rice or barley, but the hulled wheat berries, or pearled farro, and the orange flower water can be found on amazon.com and at local specialty grocers and organic food stores.
The pie is usually baked in a springform cheesecake pan, but in my family all Italian pies are baked in 9 x 11-inch baking dishes (actually, most of our desserts are made in oversized baking dishes).
In this particular recipe, I used a 15-ounce jar of presoaked hulled wheat berries (grano cotto per pastiera) instead of taking the two or three days to soak them.
For the filling
- 15- ounce jar Valgri Grano Cotto
- 1 cup whole milk
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- 1½ cups granulated sugar
- 32- ounces ricotta
- zest of ½ orange or lemon
- 2 tablespoons orange flower water
- ½ citron
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon optional
- 4 large egg yolks
- 4 large egg whites
For the crust
- 3½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 4 large egg yolks
- grated zest of 1 orange or lemon
- pinch of salt
- powdered sugar optional
In a medium saucepan, mix together grano cotto, milk, and butter until the mixture is hot and the butter is melted. Stir well and make sure you breakup the grano cotto or large clumps of wheat will remain. Remove from and heat cool until lukewarm. In a separate bowl, mix together eggs and sugar. To the egg and sugar mixture, add ricotta, orange zest, orange flower water, and citron; mix well. Add grano cotto to the bowl and mix well. In a medium bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Gently fold into filling.
In a food processor, pulse 2 or 3 times the flour, sugar, salt, and butter until mixture resembles coarse sand. Add egg yolks and zest and pulse once or twice, or until mixture forms a ball. If the dough is too dry, add one tablespoon of ice water as needed. Pinch off about ⅓ of the dough. Wrap each piece of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour. Remove the larger piece of dough and roll out until it fits pan. Roll out the remaining ⅓ of the dough and slice into several strips. Add filling to pan and top with dough strips.
Bake at 325°F for about an hour, or until filling is set. Dust cooled pie with powdered sugar as desired.