This has been our family's traditional Easter dessert since long before I came into being. My grandmother (Maria) made it every year until she turned 78 and then declared "it was too much work." So that was the year (1970), I took over this traditional "labor of love." I still make it every Easter, exactly the same way she did. Here is her recipe. The Prep Time includes all the cooking, the 24 hour soaking time for the "dry" wheat, and chilling of the dough. The Cook Time is the actual baking time for the pies. Requires Two 9 x 2 inch round cake pans (I prefer Pyrex, because you can see how brown the bottom of the crust is).
- 18 ounces whole milk
- 3 large egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons freshly grated lemons, rind of
- 1⁄2 cup finely minced candied citron peel (well rinsed and drained before mincing) (optional)
- 2 cups cooked wheat (about 1/2-3/4 pound of dry wheat should = 2 cups cooked) or 1 1⁄2-2 cups cooked drained arborio rice
- 1⁄2 cup whole milk
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 8 large eggs
- 2 1⁄2 cups sugar (cut sugar by 1/2 cup if using the citron)
- 2 teaspoons freshly grated lemons, rind of
- 1 lb whole milk ricotta cheese (drained if very wet)
- 1⁄2-3⁄4 cup butter
- 3 eggs or 2 extra large egg yolks
- 2 1⁄2-3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 1⁄2-1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon, rind of
- ***PreparingThe Wheat: If"soaked" or"precooked" wheat is not available, dry wheat may be used.
- Cover the dry wheat with cold water (water should be about 2 inches over the wheat) and boil it for 15 minutes or until the wheat berries crack open.
- Remove pan from heat and allow wheat to soak for a full 24 hours.
- After soaking, drain well before using in steps#17-19.
- If"soaked"/"precooked" wheat is used, add the wheat to a pan of boiling water and cook it for about 5-10 minutes (most of the wheat berries should be open and they should be chewy but tender).
- Drain well, let cool and use for steps#17-19.
- Crust: Mix flour, sugar and lemon peel together in a bowl.
- Work butter into flour using your fingers (until it is the size of peas).
- Add eggs one at a time, mixing with a wooden spoon.
- Knead the dough lightly until it holds together well and clears the bowl.
- Form dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and chill it for about 1/2- 1 hour before using.
- Cream: Fill the bottom of a double boiler with enough water so that its insert doesn't quite touch the water; bring the water to a boil.
- Mix the whole milk, egg yolks, sugar, flour, lemon peel and citron together in the insert of the double boiler which has been set in to the bottom pan.
- Cook the"cream," stirring constantly until it has thickened and is the consistency of a thick pudding (about 20-30 minutes).
- Remove the insert from the boiling water and set aside to allow the"cream" to cool, stir occasionally to keep a skin from forming.
- Note: I sometimes put the insert pan with the"cream" mixture into a bowl of very cold water, to help it cool down faster, don't forget to stir it.
- Wheat: Add the (cooked, soaked, well drained) wheat to a saucepan with the milk and butter.
- Cook the wheat mixture, stirring occasionally until the butter melts, and mixture starts to boil; boil for 1 minute.
- Remove from heat and let cool.
- Prepare Pans: On a lightly floured board, roll out the chilled dough to about 1/8 inch thick and line the bottom and sides of two lightly buttered 9-inch glass cake pans.
- Leave a 1/2 inch overhang of dough if you are going to use the lattice top.
- If not using the lattice, trim the overhang to 1/4 inch.
- Re-roll scraps and cut into 1/2 inch wide strips to use as a lattice top for the pie.
- (If you prefer, the lattice can be omitted.) Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Ricotta Filling: Mix ricotta, eggs, sugar and lemon peel together in a large bowl.
- Beat mixture by hand, with a wooden spoon, until smooth and creamy.
- Add the"cream" mixture and the wheat mixture to the ricotta filling, stirring until all is well blended.
- Pour or ladle the filling into prepared pans (to within 1/4 inch of the top of the pan).
- For The Lattice: place the strips of dough across the filling, spaced about 1 inch apart (at right angles) forming a lattice top.
- Fold the 1/2 inch overhang over the edges of the lattice and flute well.
- If not making the lattice top, fold the 1/4 inch overhang on to itself, and lightly flute.
- Bake pies in a preheated 350°F oven for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the bottom of the crust is light brown, the center is set, and the top of the pies are golden.
- Turn off oven and let the pies cool for an hour in the oven with the oven door slightly (about 2 inches) ajar.
- Remove pies from oven and place on a wire rack.
- When completely cooled, cover loosely with plastic wrap and chill until serving.
- If you like, you can give the pie tops a light sprinkle of powdered sugar before serving.
- Note: Its best to served this pie directly from the pan, as trying to plate the whole pie is more trouble than its worth, and causes breakage.
"Labour of Love" is the correct name for this recipe! However it was well worth it! This is my father's favourite dessert and each year he stops at an Italian deli/bakery to have this baked for his birthday specially - his birthday is Feb 16, so its not too far off from Easter. However this year I wanted to make it for him - and found your recipe. He said it was delicious - even better than the store, plus I loved it as i am not a fan of citron and was able to omit it. Thank you so much for sharing your Grandmother's Recipe!
I adore Pastiera!! I agree it is a lot of work but it's worth every bit of the labour, or as you rightly called it, "labour of love"!! Your nonna Maria must have been a true Napolitana!! Here in Rome precooked wheat (grano) in a jar is readily available and I have never tried with dried wheat from scratch... this must be tried one day, it may be even better!! When we make our pastiera crust we use lard (strutto) instead of butter. It gives a full bodied texture and flavour. Also if you can find it, try this with ricotta di pecora (ricotta made with sheep milk, instead of cow). Its extra creaminess really makes a difference. :-)