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Pastiera Napoletana


This is one of the most famous of all Neapolitan pastries. When Neapolitans first arrived in North America, it was impossible to find hulled whole wheat berries, and many recipes handed down will call for rice or pearled barley. They both give a similar texture, but the flavor is not nutty like the wheat.


The traditional recipe includes cooked wheatberries, pastry cream, and ricotta. This simplified version omits the pastry cream, making the preparation less time-consuming and somewhat less rich.


Makes 1 – 9 inch cake pan or springform pan, 2 inches deep

Serves – 10-12 people


Pasta Frolla (pastry):

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon baking powder

10 tablespoons (1¼ stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 large egg

4 tablespoons milk or water

½ teaspoon grated lemon or orange rind



1 pound whole milk ricotta

1/2 cup sugar

4 large eggs

1/2 teaspoons orange essence or 1/2 teaspoon orange flower water

1/2 cup finely chopped candied citron, candied orange rind, or candied lemon peel or a mixture of all, as desired 

10 ounces cooked wheat berries (grano cotto)


1/4 teaspoon cinnamon to dust the top of the pie


Egg Wash:

1 large egg

pinch salt


For the Pasta Frolla:

Combine the dry ingredients in a food processor. Cut the butter into chunks and add piece by piece to the flour mixture, pulsing until the mixture resembles cornmeal. In a small bowl, beat the eggs and milk/water together with a fork.  Add this mixture to the food processor with the grated citrus rind and pulse until the dough begins to form.  Remove the dough from the processor, shape it into a thick disk, wrap it in plastic, and chill for at least one hour.


To assemble the filling:

Beat the ricotta to soften it, and then add the sugar. Beat in the eggs and the remaining filling ingredients. 


Butter a 9-inch cake pan that is 2 inches deep. To assemble, cut off 1/3 of the pasta frolla and reserve it. Roll the rest of the dough into a 14-inch disk and line the prepared pan with the dough. Allow the dough to hang over the edge of the pan. Pour in the filling and sprinkle it with the cinnamon. 


Roll the reserved dough into a 10-inch square. Cut it into ten 1-inch-wide strips. For the egg wash, beat the egg with the salt, and paint the strips with it. Moisten the rim of the dough on the pan with the egg wash, and attach 5 strips in each direction, pressing the edges of the strips lightly onto the rim, forming a diagonal lattice. Trim the edges of the dough, so they are even with the top of the pan and push the dough off the top rim of the pan so that it rests completely within the pan and doesn't stick to the pan. 


Bake at 350°F., for about 45 minutes, until the filling is set and the pastry is light gold. Cool in the pan before unmolding. To unmold a baking pan, invert onto a flat plate, lift off the pan, replace the pan with another plate or platter, then reinvert so that the pastiera is right-side up. Serve the pastiera at room temperature. 


Adapted from "Great Italian Desserts" by Nick Malgieri

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