lunes, 23 de marzo de 2015

The Pastiera Napoletana recipe

The Spring is coming! And a brand new project comes along with it, we'll be partecipating in the second issue of the Blogirls 2.0 Magazine!

You can read our article about the pastiera napoletana, it's in spanish, but kitchen it's an universal language isn't it? Just make sure you don't miss it! You will enjoy it a lot!
In Italy, Easter time is usually spent around a good table. From north to south, you'll find a breathtaking variety of dishes, typical of this season. Mainly, Easter dishes are usually desserts: Easter Colomba, Chocolate eggs, Casatiellos, Cassatas, and so on. Today we'll talk about the Pastiera, maybe the most ancient dessert of one of the World's most ancient cities: Naples.

Its origins are legendary, in one of them, the mermaid Parthenope, having failed in enchanting the hero of the Odissey, Ulysses, decided to quit her life jumping from a cliff. But the mermaid survived, and the sea brought her in the Gulf of Naples, where she was saved from fishermen that help her recovering. Parthenope was since then always welcomed there. They say that the mermaid used to emerge from the waters every springtime to celebrate the friendship with the neapolitan people.

In one of these occasion, the people wanted to give a tribute to the mermaid: they gave her flour, symbol of wealth, ricotta cheese, symbol of abundance, eggs, symbol of fertility, wheat cooked with the milk, symbol of the union between the animal and vegetal reigns, flowers typical of the Campania region and the honey, today changed with the sugar, symbol of the sweet chant of the syren. The following morning, the mermaid went back to the shore with a pie cooked by the Gods of the Olympus themselves with the gifts the people gave to Parthenope. This is how the Pastiera Napoletana was born, or at least this is what tells us the legend.

What is sure is that food historians believe this dessert was created in the Greek Neapolis, and was a dish cooked to celebrate Ceres, the goddess of the harvest (Ceres gave the name to the cereals). The recipe was then perfectioned in the XVI century in the Santa Patrizia convent, where you can find the most baroque church you've ever seen. The Santa Patrizia convent is also in front of the World famous "via dei presepi", where you can find lots of nativity scene statues all years round.

The first time that the Pastiera is mentioned is in the year 1634, in the book "Il gatto Cenerentola" (in english, "Cinderella the cat") by Giambattista Basile. It may result interesting to notice that this fairy tale was then modified by Charles Perrault for his "Cinderella". We can say that the pastiera starts out with the Odissey, continue with the Mermaid and ends with Cinderella!

We can tell you another fun fact: the queen of Naples, Maria Therese of Habsurg-Teschen, the wife of Ferdinand II of Bourbon, was famous to the people as the "queen that never smiles". That nickname was used until she tried a slice of the pastiera. The pie taste was just too good not to smile! The king, after that, declared: "we had to use the pastiera to see my wife smile in public. Now we'll have to wait until next Easter to see her smiling again!".
Yes, the pastiera is an authentic cure for bad mood, just like the spring days in Naples!

Recipe: (for two pastieras some 23 cms wide approx.)

- Ingredients of the filling:
 550 g. of grano cotto; 700 g. of ricotta (both a goat and cow ricotta); 400 g. of sugar; 500 ml. of milk; 50 g. of butter; 180 g. aprox. of candied fruit (candied citron, orange, etc.); 5 g. of cinnamon powder; 5 ml. of Millefiori; 6 eggs; lemon zest to taste.

- For the shortcrust pastry:
450 g. of flour; 120 g. of sugar; 60 g. of lard (cold); 180 g. of butter (cold and cut into dices); 3 egg yolks; 1 spoonful (5 g.) of Vanillina or vanilla extract; orange zest.


1- Let's start preparing the grano cotto. Pour the canned cooked wheat (ready to use) in a pan, along with the milk and the butter. Stir it for some 15 minutes with a wooden spoon at medium-low heat, until you obtain a creamy texture. You can easily find the grano cotto at every italian grocery store, or very easily online (it's easy to find it at Ebay too). If you can't find it, you can easily do it at home*.

2- Prepare the pasta frolla, the italian version of the shortcrust pastry. To do so, we can use our mixer. Add first the dry ingredients, then add the butter and the lard cut into dices (both must be cold!), mix it all and add the egg yolks. Mix it again and you'll see a sandy texture. To obtain an homogeneous dough and easy to work with, add slowly 3 or 4 spoonful of really cold water. Knead the dough into a ball and pop it into the fridge covered with plastic wrap for about half an hour.

3- For the filling, put the ricotta in a bowl, but be careful! We don't want a wet ricotta, make sure that yo've dried it before using. Add the sugar to the bowl and mix it all. Then add the cream of grano cotto you've previously prepared, and add the eggs and the cinnamon too. Mix it all until you'll obtain an homogeneous cream. At last, add the Millefiori essence and the candied fruit. The Millefiori in Southern Italy means pastiera, but since it is hard to find, you can use rosewater instead.

4- Grease the moulds that you choose to bake, cover the bottom and the sides with the pasta frolla shortcrust pastry, then add the filling. The moulds usually are high, but you can use whatever mould you want, but it is important that they're metallic ones. The surface of the filling will be covered with stripes of shortcrust pastry, shaping a sort of grating. This is useful not only to decorate the surface, but also to contain the filling that will inflate during the baking. Paint the surface with beaten eggs to give to our pie a golden colour and there you are! Ready to bake!

5- Bake the pastiera in a preheated oven at 180ºC, for anytime between 60 to 75 minutes. Once baked, leave the pastiera to cool completely. It is an Easter dessert, and the tradition say that it has to be prepared on Maundy Thurday and eaten on Easter Sunday, three days after...but come on! Who can resist?

* Homemade preparation of the grano cotto: this is the key ingredient of the pie, but even if today this is very easy to find ready to use, maybe you want to know how to prepare it at home. This how you can cook it to yourself!
This is a large process, let the wheat grains in water for three days (change the water often), and then boil it in water for some hours. Then boil it again in milk for at least three hours. It is not a difficult process, but it takes a long long time to prepare your homemade grano cotto! We usually use the bottled grano cotto, that is very cheap too and it tastes just as good as the homemade one!

Happy Easter and...Buon Appetito!

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6 comentarios:

  1. I have both millefiori and fiori d'aranchia and they have totally different smells. I've made pastiera before and eaten it elsewhere and I have always used the fiori d'aranchia as well as tasting it in other pies. I want to use the millefiori since I got it from Italy, but am afraid it wn't have that beautiful perfumed distinct flavor that fills your mouth, and this is a pretty pricey dessert to be experimenting on. Will I get the same taste if I use the millefiori?

  2. Hi Diane! Thanks for your comment! :) Well, many use the Fiori d'Arancia instead, it's more common than the Millefiori essential oil, but as you point out, it's not the same thing in terms of depth of flavours and aroma, and in a delicate cake like the Pastiera, well, elegance of taste is a big chunk of its legend. I can tell you my experience, being from Northen Italy, Milan, we usually see the Millefori essential oil around Easter Time and Christmas, for the rest of the year we are forced to use the Fiori d'Arancia OR order it online, for instance, on this website:
    :) Best regards! ;)

  3. Thank you so much for your response. With Easter right around the corner as well as pastiera making time, I'm going with the millefiori this time instead of the orange blossom water. Like you said, it's hard to come by and since I have 6 vials from Northern Italy, I'm dying to see what the difference is and will be using your recipe this time around! Thanks again, and Happy Easter!!

  4. Thank you so much for your response. With Easter right around the corner as well as pastiera making time, I'm going with the millefiori this time instead of the orange blossom water. Like you said, it's hard to come by and since I have 6 vials from Northern Italy, I'm dying to see what the difference is and will be using your recipe this time around! Thanks again, and Happy Easter!!

  5. Made 3 pastiera's and they came out beautifully!! Thank you for this delicious recipe which I'll be passing down to my children and grandchildren, and a blessed Easter to you!

  6. Hi Diane! We're so glad to hear you say so! You can't even imagine how happy we are that ypu made Pastiera for you and your family! In this recipe is all about LOVE! You know, you actually made us wanting to go back to the Blog! Thank you very much! :)

    Thomas Villa of Mi Vida en un Bowl