The Pastiera Napoletana (Neapolitan Wheat Berry Pie) has ancient origins in pagan rituals that celebrated the arrival of spring. Legend tells us, the mermaid Parthenope lived in the Gulf of Naples, and every spring she emerged from the waters to entertain people on the shore with love songs.

To thank her, the onlookers brought her seven presents each with a precise meaning: flour, a symbol of wealth; ricotta, a symbol of abundance; eggs, a symbol of reproduction; wheat cooked in the milk, a symbol of the fusion of animals and vegetables;  sugar, to praise the sweetness of her singing.

The mermaid, happy for so many gifts, put the precious offers at the feet of the gods. The seven gifts mixed with divine arts transformed them into Pastiera.

Pastiera Napoletana entered the Christian tradition and became the dessert of Easter. According to tradition, Pastiera Napoletana has to be prepared on Holy Thursday. It is a dessert that tastes even better after a few days and it can be stored for up to ten days unrefrigerated.

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Pastiera Napoletana

Napoletana Pastiera (Neapolitan Wheat Berry Pie)

  • Servings: --
  • Difficulty: medium
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Recipe shared by:  Jovina Coughlin of Jovina Cooks

Ingredients for the pastry (shortcrust dough):

  • 3 1/2 cups pastry flour or all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teas[oons baking powder
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups butter, at room temperature
  • Zest of one lemon (about 1 tbsp)

Ingredients for the filling:

  • 1 1/2 cups cooked wheat berries (recipe below)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 lemon zested
  • 1 orange, zested
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Powdered sugar for dusting

Directions to make the pastry:

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, stir together flour, sugar, and baking powder.
  2. Fit the mixer with the paddle attachment, and add the eggs, butter, and lemon zest.
  3. Beat the ingredients together in the mixer until the dough starts to come together and forms a ball, about 2-3 minutes.
  4. On a smooth surface, very gently form the dough into a ball.
  5. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for one hour.

Directions to make the filling:

  1. Place the cooked wheat berries, milk, lemon zest, and butter in a medium-sized pot.
  2. Cook on medium heat, stirring constantly so that the mixture doesn’t stick to the pot.
  3. Cook until the mixture is dense and creamy, about 30 minutes. Let it cool.
  4. In a large bowl, mix ricotta, eggs, and sugar with a wooden spoon until all ingredients are incorporated together.
  5. Add wheat mixture and vanilla to the ricotta mixture.  Mix well.

Directions to assemble the pastiera:

  1. Remove dough from the refrigerator, and cut off 1/4 of the dough for the lattice top.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to form a 12-inch circle.
  3. Coat a 9-inch springform pan, cut with cooking spray.
  4. Cut a circle of parchment paper to fit the bottom of the pan and place it in the pan. Smooth it out and coat lightly with cooking spray.
  5. Fit the dough into the pan across the bottom and up the sides of the pan.
  6. Fill with the ricotta/wheat mixture.
  7. Roll the remaining dough into a 9-inch circle and cut the pastry into 1-inch strips.
  8. Decorate the pastiera with a lattice top with the remaining 1/4 of the dough. Fold the edges of the dough over the lattices.
  9. Place in a preheated 325°F oven. Bake for 90 minutes, or until the edges of the pastiera are golden brown.
  10. Cool 30 minutes and then run an off-set spatula or small knife along the sides of the pam. Let cool completely.
  11. To serve dust with powdered sugar and cut into wedges.
  12. When it’s cooled, store the Pastiera in its pan covered with plastic wrap in a cool place (room temperature), DO NOT refrigerate.  Pastiera can be stored at room temperature (covered with plastic wrap) for about 5 days, but it will probably not last that long.

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Wheatberries.jpg
Wheatberries Photo By zandland, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

How To Cook Wheat Berries

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  • Difficulty: easy
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Wheat berries are easy to cook, but cooking times can vary based on the type you buy. The two varieties that are available in most markets are Soft and Hard Red Spring Wheat Berries.  Recipe shared by:  Jovina Coughlin of Jovina Cooks

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups of water
  • 1 cup rinsed wheat berries

Directions:

  1. Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan.
  2. Add wheat berries, and reduce the heat.
  3. Simmer until tender. Start checking at the 25-minute mark and continue checking every 15-20 minutes. Soft wheat berries can cook in as little as 30 minutes, whereas hard ones sometimes need as much as 90.
  4. Keep simmering until the grains are tender all the way through the grain.
  5. When the wheat berries are soft, drain any excess water. Enjoy them right away, or store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Enjoy more recipes shared by Jovina Coughlin — HERE

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2 thoughts on “Pastiera Napoletana — A Classic Italian Spring Dessert”

  1. Another must try recipe. I don’t recall ever having this. Nor am familiar with wheat berries, so having a hard time imagining the flavor… Assuming the pie is pretty dense/heavy?

    1. Not dense because the filling is mostly ricotta and eggs. The berries are soft aftyer cooking and are dispersed thoughot the cake. Similiar to ricotta cheesecake. The pastry adds strucrture.

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