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Neapolitan Ricotta and Rice Pie

Pastiera

Mary Ann Esposito

Makes One 10 1/2-Inch Pie

Easter pie (pastiera) is found all over Italy, but its origins are Neapolitan. Tender pasta frolla pastry pies filled with fresh ricotta cheese and rice, sweetened with sugar, were made in batches, wrapped in clear cellophane, and given away as Easter gifts.

Many variations of this classic have survived; some use wheatberries or orzo (tiny pasta) in place of rice, but my favorite still remains the one from home, made with long-grain rice.

For the pasta frolla, I mix all-purpose flour with cake flour for a more delicate pie crust texture. If you have a kitchen scale, weigh the flour for accuracy. If you do not have a scale, lightly spoon the flour into a dry weight measuring cup, and level it at the top with a butter knife.

PASTA FROLLA (PASTRY DOUGH)

2 cups King Arthur™ Unbleached, All-Purpose Flour
1 cup cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
1 extra-large egg, slightly beaten, plus 1 egg yolk
5 to 6 tablespoons ice water
2 tablespoons turbinado or raw sugar

1 cup wheat berries, or 1 cup long-grain rice, or 1 cup Arborio rice
2 cups whole milk
3 inch piece of vanilla bean, slit lengthwise
1 pound ricotta cheese, well drained
3 large eggs
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tablespoons grated orange zest
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

Directions

Lightly spray a 10 1/2 x —1-inch tart pan with removable bottom with butter spray. Set aside.

To prepare the dough, mix the all-purpose and cake flours, salt, and sugar in a food processor or bowl. Add the butter to the flour mixture and pulse to blend if using a food processor, or use a pastry blender or fork to blend the ingredients by hand. Add the whole egg and enough ice water to make a dough that is soft and not dry. Do not overmix or the dough will be tough. Gather the dough into a ball and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. Chill the dough for 30 minutes.

To prepare the filling, pour the wheat berries or rice and milk into a 1-quart saucepan, scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the saucepan with a small knife, cover, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low and continue cooking until all the milk is absorbed. This will take about 10 minutes. Let cool.

In a large bowl, beat the ricotta cheese, eggs, orange juice and zest, and sugar until smooth. Stir in the vanilla extract and cinnamon. Fold in the cooled wheat berries or rice. Set the mixture aside.

Preheat the oven to 375ºF.

Divide the dough in half. Roll each half on a lightly floured surface into a 14-inch circle. Line the tart shell with one rolled-out half and trim the edges even with the top sides of the tart pan.

Fill the tart shell with the ricotta filling. There will be a little of the filling left over. This can be baked separately in a small ovenproof dish or in small ramekins.

Carefully roll the second sheet of dough loosely over the rolling pin and unroll it over the top of the filled tart. Trim off the excess dough, making sure the edges are sealed. Use the leftover dough to make a decorative pattern on top of the tart. I use a small rabbit cutter to make cutouts for the top.

Brush the tart with the egg yolk and sprinkle the turbinado sugar evenly over the top.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 40 to 50 minutes or until the top is golden brown and a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the center of the tart.

Cool the tart on a rack, then carefully remove the sides of the tart pan and place the tart on a decorative serving dish. Cut into wedges to serve.

Note: Instead of orange juice and orange zest, you may use lemon juice and zest, candied fruits or raisins.

Variation: The wheat berries or rice can also be cooked in 2 cups of water instead of milk.

Did you know that the Monday after Easter is called Pasquetta, Little Easter, in Italy and is a holiday almost a big as Easter? It is a day for Italians to relax in the countryside. Often a pastiera is brought along and enjoyed as picnic food.

This recipe is from CIAO ITALIA - BRINGING ITALY HOME by Mary Ann Esposito, published by St. Martin's Press in 2001.

This recipe is featured on show 2001 - Neapolitan Rice Pie.

item recipe is featured in Episode 1124 of Season 11.

Want More Recipes? See My Latest Book:

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Comments

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  1. nina's avatar

    nina

    | Permalink
    maryann i have all your cook book i watch your shows all the time i love your neapolitan ricotta and rice pie i will try this thank you nina
  2. adelaide laurie's avatar

    adelaide laurie

    | Permalink
    Maryann, I am a first generation Italian as my parents and grandparents were born in Bacoli, Naples. I love trying your Neopolitan recipies as my grandmother never wrote anything down! This Ricotta and Rice Pie is a classic, but my grandmother used pasta instead of the rice.
    Happy Easter!
  3. Marie Galtieri's avatar

    Marie Galtieri

    | Permalink
    I also come from a Neapolitan heritage and my family always used wheat grain in the pastiera. We soaked it for a week, cooking each morning to soften the shell. Before adding it to the ricotta/egg/sugar mixture on baking day, we rolled it with a rolling pin to mash the grain. More recently, I have been able to find grain without shells and can be cooked only an hour or two day before.
  4. Pauline Borsellino's avatar

    Pauline Borsellino

    | Permalink
    Dear Mary Ann,
    My mom use to make a "Pizza di Grano" pie for Easter and I never learned the receipe. Do you perhaps have it? I'd be so gratefully if you did.

    Sincerely,
    Pauline
  5. Mary Rocchio Szymanski's avatar

    Mary Rocchio Szymanski

    | Permalink
    My mom made an Easter Pie with Spaghetti, eggs, ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, parsley and black pepper then bake.. do you know of this??

    Ciao, Mls
  6. Nora Barassi's avatar

    Nora Barassi

    | Permalink
    Hi Mary Ann
    My Mom made ricotta pie every Easter but never
    put rice, pasta or wheatberries. Lots of eggs,
    ricotta cheese, sugar, Orange and lemon zest.
    and vanilla. I have several of your books and
    many Italian cook books but have never found
    Moms receipe. Mom past away several years ago
    and my sisters and I all make this pie a little
    different. But its is so good. Mary Ann have you ever made this. My grand parents were from
    Naples.

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