Festive sweets - Neapolitan Pastiera

By fortujohnny | Italian Places | 1 Mar 2021

In the first article of this new blog, I promised myself to talk about the places, sometimes less known to foreign mass tourism, the place where I live, Italy. In fact, I spoke of the little known, but of great strategic importance during the Middle Ages, of the Sanseverino castle, my place of the heart. ( the link of article)

Today I want to talk to you about cooking and, in particular, about the most popular and consumed dessert in Campania at this time of the year, especially on the occasion of Easter. I'm talking about the Pastiera, a particular type of cake made with ricotta, cooked wheat, candied fruit and essence of orange blossom.
The origin of this dessert is lost in the mists of time: the legend compares the origin to the cult of the goddess Ceres, goddess of crops, to whom the ingredients at the base of the cake were brought as a gift. Another legend tells that fishermen caught by a storm in the open sea, were saved by eating yesterday's pasta, made with ricotta, wheat, eggs and flavourings. For this reason the Pastiera has become the symbol of the Rebirth and therefore inextricably linked to the resurrection of Christ and therefore prepared and eaten especially on Easter day.
The first version of this cake appears in Naples, in 1693, in a book called “Lo scalco alla Moderna” by Antonio Latini. At the time, the dish was halfway between a dessert and a rustic cake, in fact, in addition to the ingredients mentioned above, it included grated Parmesan cheese, pepper, salt, pistachios in musky pink water, pistachio milk, all collected in paste of marzipan diluted with other ancient aromas.

In the following decades, the recipe was revised and improved in Neapolitan convents, especially by the nuns of the Convent of San Gregorio Armeno. In any case, the definitive version, the one that can be appreciated on the Campanian tables today, can be found already in the first half of the Nineteenth Century.

Today the tradition of my family and of all the Campanian and Italian families, foresees the preparation of the dessert on Holy Thursday, to respect the days of the Passion and death of Jesus Christ. On this day, each family also prepares dozens of Pastiere, kneading and baking throughout the day. So it is customary to give them to friends and relatives, as a sign of good wishes and rebirth. 
Technically, the Pastiera is prepared starting from a shortcrust pastry base, inside which a filling is added whose ingredients are: ricotta, candied fruit, eggs, sugar and wheat boiled in milk. The dessert must be crunchy on the outside and creamy and soft on the inside, with an intense golden yellow color. What characterizes the filling are above all the aromas used, from cinnamon to candied fruit, from vanilla to orange blossom extract.
A curiosity: in the area where I live, that is Salerno, a small town near Naples and the Amalfi Coast, variants of the Pastiera are widely spread, one version involves replacing wheat with rice, once grown in the area, the second version instead it involves adding custard to the filling.
In any case, all versions are very good. My advice is to try as many versions as possible. When the pandemic is over and you are able to return to Italy, if you are near Naples, enter a Pastry shop, ask for a nice slice of pastiera, it will be love at first bite.



In the photo above, this is how the Pastiera looks like. This one in particular was recently prepared by my sister, on the occasion of my birthday. So any excuse is good to make one, it's too good.

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Italian Places
Italian Places

In this blog I will tell you about places, history, food and anecdote of my country, Italy.

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