You certainly you might have tried or heard about sweet pastiera but today I would like to introduce my recipe for savory pastiera to you. The Neapolitan pastiera was originally a typical pie for the Easter Sunday in Campania, but nowadays it is prepared all year long. My savory pastiera is a delicious pie prepared with pasta frolla (Italian pie dough) filled with grano cotto (cooked wheat kernels), goat ricotta cheese, spicy salami, provolone cheese and eggs. A key ingredient is the grano cotto (see note for more information) a staple in the baking section of every Southern Italian grocery store, sometimes even labeled “per pastiera”. Another key ingredient is fresh goat ricotta that is more digestible than ricotta made from cow’s milk. I like it a lot for cooking as well as eating fresh with my salad. Tradition calls for the pastiera to be prepared on Thursday or Friday before Easter Sunday, and then stored in a cotton cloth until Easter. I usually prepare it the day before, so that the flavors and the aromas blend better. I serve it as an antipasto in small slices. You can also serve it as main course, but then no other carbs should be in the meal!
Happy Easter! Buona Pasqua my beloved readers.
PASTIERA NAPOLETANA (NEAPOLITAN PASTIERA)
450 g (1 pound) precooked wheat kernels
600 ml (about 2 2/3 cups) milk
350 g (12.5 oz) goat’s or cow’s milk ricotta cheese
150 g (about 5 oz) mild provolone cheese, diced
150 g (about 5 oz) spicy salami or ham, diced
3 egg whites
4 egg yolks
Freshly ground pepper to taste
250 g (9 oz) pastry flour
30 g (1 oz) corn starch
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
130 g (5 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 egg yolk
A pinch of sea salt
1. Prepare the filling. In a nonstick saucepan, cook the wheat with milk for about an hour over medium-low heat, until the mixture resembles creamy oatmeal (if you like it very creamy and smooth, you can use an immersion blender after cooking. I prefer a grainy taste). Once ready, pour the mixture into a bowl and let it cool. Once cooled, in a large bowl combine the cooked wheat with the ricotta, provolone cheese, salami, egg yolks and pepper to taste.
2. Prepare the pie dough, pasta frolla. In a bowl mix flour, starch, Parmesan, baking powder and salt (dry ingredients). In a separate bowl cream the butter with a spoon, add the eggs and the dry ingredients, and combine well. Work the dough by hand until it forms a homogeneous ball. Remember to manipulate the dough as little as possible. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and leave it to rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes
3. Preheat the oven to 170 °C-180°C (350°F) and position the rack in the middle of the oven
4. Once the pasta frolla dough has rested, roll out ⅔ of the dough (5 mm thick, about ¼ inch) to cover the bottom of a 25 cm (10 inch) springform pan previously lined with parchment paper. The edges should have a slightly thicker layer of pastry than the bottom. Prick bottom with the tines of a fork (four or five times)
5. Beat the egg whites until stiff and gently fold into the filling using a spatula. Pour the filling into the pan. On a floured surface roll out the rest of the pastry and cut some strips (about 5 mm, or ¼ inch) wide and arrange in a lattice design over the filling
6. Bake for about 50-55 minutes, until set in the middle. Turn off the oven, open the oven door slightly and leave to cool. Once cool, remove the sides, cover with a clean cloth and let rest on a grid until. You can enjoy or let rest overnight.
Note: If you cannot find cooked wheat kernels, barley is a good substitute. Instead if you decide to prepare your own cooked wheat, choose soft wheat. Soak it in a triple volume of water for at least 20 hours. Drain the water and add some fresh water (about 3 cups of water per 1 cup of wheat). Cook for about 2 ½ hours, at low simmer, until the kernels are tender and liquid is completely absorbed. – Paola