Pastiera (Wheat and Ricotta Tart)

Total Time
3hrs
Prep 2 hrs
Cook 1 hr

A traditional Neapolitan Easter pastry. It uses "grano cotto" - literally, "cooked grain" - which is cooked wheat. You could substitute cooked arborio rice if you can't find the grano cotto; try an Italian specialty deli. The rice is listed first in the ingredients in order to generate nutrition information, but the grana cotto is definitely preferred! This recipe is adapted from Gina DePalma's recipe posted at Serious Eats. She notes that this is a fairly adult dessert - not too sweet, with unusual and subtle flavors.

Ingredients Nutrition

Directions

  1. Place the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and citrus zest in the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times to combine the dry ingredients.
  2. Add all of the cold, cubed butter to the bowl, and process until the mixture is sandy and there are no visible lumps of butter.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, egg yolk, vanilla extract and milk. Add the wet ingredients to the food processor and pulse three or four times or until the dough comes together. If necessary, add some ice water, a few drops at a time, to make the dough come together.
  4. Remove the dough from the food processor and knead by hand briefly to even out any dry or wet spots. Form the dough into a ball, flatten into a disc, wrap in plastic and chill until firm, 1 to 2 hours.
  5. Place the cooked grain, milk, sugar, lemon zest and cinnamon in a 2-quart saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring often with a wooden spoon until the mixture is creamy. The grains will retain their shape, but the rest of the mixture should be soft and smooth and there should be no huge clumps of grain; it should resemble creamy oatmeal. Transfer the grain mixture to a shallow bowl and allow it to cool completely.
  6. On a floured board, roll 2/3 of the pasta frolla into an 11-inch circle, 1/8th of an inch thick. Transfer the dough to a deep, 9-inch pie plate, or a 9 x 2-inch layer cake pan by rolling the dough around the pin and then unrolling it onto the pan. Press the dough into the bottom and sides of the pan, then trim the dough to leave a 1/2-inch overhang. Gather the scraps and save them for another use. Chill the shell while you put together the rest of the filling. (You can use a larger pan, but the filling will not be as deep.).
  7. Preheat the oven to 350°F and position a rack in the middle of the oven.
  8. If you like, you can give the ricotta a quick spin in the food processor to smooth it out, but this is optional. Place the ricotta in a large bowl and whisk in the eggs, vanilla, and orange flower water or orange zest. Mix in the grain mixture and candied fruits, making sure all the ingredients are completely combined.
  9. Roll out the remaining pasta frolla into a rectangle at least 11 inches long and 6 inches wide. Using a pastry cutter, make 6 or 7 long strips of dough, 3/4-inch wide.
  10. Pour the filling into the chilled shell and carefully arrange the enough of the strips on top to form a lattice pattern. Pinch the edges together with the overhang to seal. Trim all the pastry flush with the top of the pan, then gently roll it down and inward with your finger to form a lip around the perimeter.
  11. Use a fork to slightly beat the egg with a small splash of water to make an egg wash. With a pastry brush, glaze the pastry strips and edges. Bake the pastiera on the middle rack of the oven for 55 to 60 minutes, rotating it 180° after 20 minutes to ensure even browning. If necessary, you can protect the edges from overbrowning with some strips of aluminum foil.
  12. The pastiera is done when the filling is set but jiggly and the pastry is golden brown. A knife inserted in the center will come out clean. Remove it from the oven and set it to cool on a rack. Allow the pastiera to cool completely, or chill it overnight before cutting it into wedges to serve.