Going with the grain

08 October, 2010
Cinnamon Square's Paul Barker details a traditional Italian Easter speciality, now often sold year-round in Italy
Page 28 

On a recent family trip to Milan, I was presented with a freshly baked Pastiera Napoletana from my wife's cousin. Wow! I couldn't wait to get back to Cinnamon Square and try making this one. So I nipped to the local Ipercoop supermarket and purchased some grano cotto (cooked wheat) and brought this back in my suitcase to save time when I got home naturally the kids think I'm bonkers!

This delicious ricotta cheese and grain pie is a very old Neapolitan speciality for the Easter season. Pastiera is best enjoyed one to three days after it is baked, so the different flavours can blend together. It produces a fantastic citrus-fresh flavour and aroma with a mixture of textures coming from the crisp pastry, ricotta cheesecake and soft wheatgrains.

Pastiera is traditionally made on Good Friday, to be eaten as a dessert on Easter Sunday, and each family hands down a 'secret' recipe from one generation to the next. Today, as for hot cross buns in the UK, it is available all year round in Italy.

They keep for about three days in the refrigerator before the filling starts to show signs of contracting and/or cracking. I think they actually taste great warmed up but you decide.

In our recipe we use prepared grano cotto or you can cook pre-soaked whole grain in water or milk, but this is a long process. The preparation comprises two steps:

l Part-baking the sweet pastry shells

l Filling, topping and baking the tarts.

Pastiera Napoletana

Makes 15x45g tartlets plus decoration (110mm cases)

Tart cases

Ingredient%g

Bread flour50150

Plain flour 50150

Butter75225

Caster sugar38114

Ground almonds38114

Egg2266

1. Mix the flour, ground almonds, butter and sugar together until a crumble.

2. Mix in the eggs until a smooth paste avoid over-mixing.

3. Line foil tart cases, but save some pastry for decorating the tops, and bake at 180ºC until just showing signs of taking colour approximately 10 minutes.

4. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

5. While cooling, prepare the filling.

Filling

Ingredientg

Ricotta cheese500

Grano cotto (Wheat, water, salt), drained500

Whole egg100

Caster sugar100

Mixed peel100

Lemon rind and juice1 lemon

Orange rind and juice1 orange

Ground cinnamon5

1. Combine all the ingredients together in a bowl (A) with a beater until homogeneous do not overmix (B).

2. Scoop into part-baked tart case until level with rim (C).

3. Roll out some pastry and cut strips with pastry wheels (D). Place these strips of pastry on top of the filling for decoration (E).

4. Bake at 170ºC for 15-20 minutes.

5. Lightly dust top with icing sugar (F).





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