History and Legends of Pastiera Napoletana
Its origin is wrapped in several legends and stories that attest to its antiquity. Among sirens, nuns, and symbolism, let’s discover together the history of this dessert rich in symbolic meanings and flavor.
The Legend of the Siren Partenope
According to a legend, the Pastiera was born from the offering made by the sirens to the people of Partenope. Every spring, the sirens emerged from the waters of the Gulf of Naples to greet the people. One year, to thank the siren Partenope for her melodious singing, the Neapolitans offered gifts representing the products of the land: flour, ricotta cheese, eggs, wheat boiled in milk, citrus fruits, and spices. Touched by their gesture, the siren offered them to the gods, who combined them to create the first Pastiera.
The Story of the Convent of San Gregorio Armeno
Another story takes us to the Convent of San Gregorio Armeno, where the nuns prepared a dessert made with ricotta cheese and wheat to celebrate the resurrection of Christ at Easter. The nuns would have gathered wild wheat along the riverbanks, cooked it for a long time, and then combined it with ricotta cheese, eggs, and spices.
Historical Origin of Pastiera Napoletana
There is also a more secular and historical explanation: Pastiera Napoletana, as we know it today, seems to have originated in the 17th century and has undergone few modifications since then. It was, and still is, a dessert prepared for Easter, symbolizing rebirth and abundance.
Traditional Recipe of Pastiera Napoletana
Now that we know the history of this traditional dessert, let’s move on to its preparation. Here is the original recipe for Pastiera Napoletana, handed down from generation to generation.
Ingredients for Pastiera Napoletana
To prepare this delicious dessert, you will need flour, butter, sugar, eggs, egg yolks, baking powder, orange blossom water flavoring, grated lemon zest, salt, sheep’s milk ricotta cheese, cinnamon, mixed candied fruit, cooked wheat for pastiera, fresh whole milk, whole orange peel, whole lemon peel, and butter.
Quantity for 1 pastiera with a diameter of 28-30 cm Shortcrust pastry for pastiera
330 g of flour + 6-7 g for the work surface 165 g of soft butter at room temperature 130 g of granulated sugar 1 medium-sized egg 2 small egg yolks 1 teaspoon of baking powder 1 level teaspoon of diluted orange blossom water flavoring; 2 drops if using concentrated flavoring Grated zest of 1 lemon A pinch of salt Ricotta cream:
350 g of well-drained sheep’s milk ricotta cheese 300 g of sugar 3 medium-sized eggs 2 medium-sized egg yolks 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon 4 tablespoons of diluted orange blossom water flavoring; 1 tablespoon if using concentrated flavoring 70 g of mixed candied fruit Wheat cream:
300 g of cooked wheat for pastiera 200 g of fresh whole milk Peel of 1 orange Peel of 1 lemon 25 g of butter Equipment:
Light aluminum baking pan with flared edges, typical for pastiera, with a height of 4.5 cm Preparation of the Shortcrust Pastry The first step in preparing Pastiera Napoletana is to make the shortcrust pastry. In a bowl, sift the flour and add the soft butter. Work the ingredients with your hands until you obtain a sandy mixture. Add the sugar, egg, egg yolks, baking powder, diluted orange blossom water flavoring, grated lemon zest, and a pinch of salt. Knead the dough well until you achieve a homogeneous consistency. Wrap the shortcrust pastry in plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Creating the Ricotta Cream
After the shortcrust pastry, we move on to the ricotta cream. In a bowl, mix the sheep’s milk ricotta cheese with the sugar until you obtain a smooth mixture. Add the eggs, egg yolks, cinnamon, and diluted orange blossom water flavoring. Mix well until all the ingredients are combined. Add the mixed candied fruit and mix gently.
Preparing the Wheat Cream
Another essential component of Pastiera Napoletana is the wheat cream. In a saucepan, combine the cooked wheat, fresh whole milk, orange peel, lemon peel, and butter. Stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens slightly. Remove the orange and lemon peels.
Assembling the Pastiera Napoletana
Once all the components are prepared, we can proceed to assemble the Pastiera Napoletana. Take the shortcrust pastry from the refrigerator and roll it out with a rolling pin on a floured work surface. Line a light aluminum baking pan with the shortcrust pastry, creating an even layer on the bottom and sides. Pour the wheat cream onto the pastry base and level it. Add the ricotta cream on top of the wheat cream, distributing it evenly. Decorate the surface with strips of shortcrust pastry to form a lattice. Bake the Pastiera Napoletana in a preheated oven at 180°C for about 1 hour and 30 minutes or until the surface is golden and the shortcrust pastry is cooked. Allow it to cool completely before serving.
Enjoy Your Homemade Pastiera Napoletana By carefully following this recipe, you can prepare a delicious Pastiera Napoletana right in your own home. Enjoy this traditional dessert, rich in unique flavors and aromas, and let yourself be enchanted by the Neapolitan cuisine. Buon appetito!