Pastiera di Grano

La Pastiera

In my home, it would not be Easter without Pastiera di Grano, also known as pizza gran, la pastiera, or grain pie.  Baked in a springform pan, pizza gran has a tender cookie crust wtih a ricotta and whole grain wheat filling aromatic with orange and cinnamon.  Latticed strips of the delicious crust (which can be made into fine cookies) form a pretty golden topping.

Baking la pastiera calls for a trip to one of my favorite stores, Coluccio’s in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.  There I can find everything I need including the hulled wheat, good fresh ricotta, candied orange peel, fresh candied citron, and orange flower water to give the cake the right flavor.   It’s worth the trip  because this wonderful store always has everything I need from top quality DOP canned tomatoes, pasta, olive oil, and so much more.  Best of all are the owners, staff and customers.  For the hour or so I spend there, I feel like I am in Italy and on a mini vacation.   If you can’t get there, many other Italian and gourmet markets sell what you need, though shopping may not be as much fun.

My pastiera tradition originates with my grandparents, who all came from the Naples area.  My mother’s side, the Balsamo’s, were from Afragola and my father’s family, the Scotto’s, (originally Scotto di Fasano) were from the island of Procida, near Ischia.  My mother, Louise Balsamo Scotto, was a great cook and she learned a lot from my father’s mother, Antoinetta Fasonaro Scotto.  Grandma was a terrific baker, who of course, never measured a thing.  She made biscotti and struffoli, but I loved her Easter cakes best of all, especially La Pastiera and her casadeel (casatiello), a braided sweet bread ring studded with whole eggs in the shell.

The following recipe is my adaptation of my grandmother’s pastiera, as I learned it from my mother.  The major differences between mine and my grandmother’s original are that she baked hers in a huge round tin (as they still do in Naples), while I prefer a more manageable springform pan.  Also, grandma always used fresh, homemade sugna (pork lard), but I substitute butter.

Following is the recipe from my book 1,000 Italian Recipes.  For more information about my Easter dinner menu, check out my husband Charles’ blog at www.i-italy.org/bloggers/wine-and-food

PASTIERA DI GRANO

Dough:

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

1 large egg

2 large egg yolks

2 teaspoons orange-flower water

Filling:

4 ounces hulled wheat (about 1/2 cup)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1 teaspoon grated orange zest

1 pound (2 cups) whole or part-skim ricotta

4 large eggs, at room temperature

2/3 cup sugar

3 tablespoons orange-flower water

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup very finely chopped candied citron

1/2 cup very finely chopped candied orange peel

Confectioner’s sugar

1. Prepare the dough: In a large bowl, stir together the flour, cinnamon, and salt.

2. In a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and confectioner’s sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and yolks and beat until smooth. Beat in the orange-flower water. Add the dry ingredients and stir just until blended, about 1 minute more.

3. Shape one-quarter of the dough into a disk. Make a second disk with the remaining dough. Wrap each piece in plastic wrap and chill 1 hour up to overnight.

4. Prepare the filling: Place the wheat in a large bowl, add cold water to cover, and let soak overnight in the refrigerator. Drain the wheat.

5. Place the soaked wheat in a medium saucepan with cold water to cover. Add the salt and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the wheat is tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Drain, and place in a large bowl. Stir in the butter and orange zest. Let cool.

6. Place the rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease and flour a 9 x 3 -inch springform pan. In a large bowl, whisk together the ricotta, eggs, sugar, orange-flower water, and cinnamon. Beat until blended. Stir in the wheat mixture, citron, and candied orange peel.

7. Roll out the larger piece of dough to a 16-inch circle. Drape the dough over the rolling pin. Using the pin to lift it, fit the dough into the pan, pressing out any wrinkles against the inside of the pan. Scrape the filling onto the dough and smooth the top.

9. Roll out the smaller piece of dough to a 10-inch circle. With a fluted pastry cutter, cut the dough into 1/2-inch-wide strips. Lay the strips across the filling in a lattice pattern. Press the ends of the strips against the dough on the sides of the pan. Trim the dough, leaving 1/2 inch of excess all around the rim, and fold the edge of the crust over the ends of the lattice strips. Press firmly to seal.

10. Bake 1 hour 10 minutes or until the cake is golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

11. Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack 15 minutes. Remove the rim of the pan and let the cake cool completely on a wire rack. Just before serving, sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar. Store covered with an inverted bowl in the refrigerator up to 5 days.



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22 comments

1 Do Bianchi { 04.01.09 at 4:16 PM }

What a great memory getting to watch y’all make pastiera!

2 Pastiera di Grano | Almost Italian { 04.19.11 at 7:31 AM }

[…] For an excellent recipe that begins with raw wheat, please see. Michele Scicolone’s Web Site. […]

3 Elizabeth Minchilli { 04.19.11 at 10:46 PM }

You’ve inspired me to make my own pastiera this year, the first time ever. Zia Tetta usually brings one up from Bari, but this year I thought I’d try one myself. Off today to buy candied orange peel and orange flower water.

4 Michele Scicolone { 04.20.11 at 4:52 AM }

It’s a wonderful cake. It just wouldn’t be Easter without it for my family.

5 Michele Scicolone { 04.20.11 at 4:54 AM }

Thank you for the mention. I enjoyed reading your historical look at wheat and its symbolism.

6 Holly { 04.20.11 at 6:40 PM }

And thank YOU, Michele–

We were happy to stick to the background story and refer our readers to your recipe, one that was perfected by a pro– but nonetheless “casalinga.”

Buona Pasqua!

7 Pastiera di Grano | Almost Italian { 04.18.14 at 7:41 AM }

[…] For an excellent recipe that begins with raw wheat, please see. Michele Scicolone’s Web Site. […]

8 Alice { 02.24.15 at 10:09 AM }

thanks for the recipe so similar to my grandma’s and also, I think Coluccio’s is a terrific place to shop as well! I go all the time…

9 Michele Scicolone { 03.05.15 at 5:21 AM }

Thank you, Alice! Hope to see you there sometime.

10 Margie { 03.26.15 at 4:06 AM }

Please add me to your email newsletters and updates.

11 Marianna { 03.31.15 at 4:50 AM }

Excellent cake! I live in Naples and the Pastiera is my preferred Easter cake. I have learned to make it from my grandmother. The last week I have prepared a delicious variant of this cake by using a nut cream to make the Pastiera more suitable to children too.
Have a nice day 😉
Marianna

12 Michele Scicolone { 03.31.15 at 3:47 PM }

Thanks, Marianna. Buona Pasqua!

13 Angelo Lubrano { 04.03.15 at 12:48 AM }

I looking for easter pies .
I came across a recipe.
Great surprise to hear from you
Grand parents where from Procida .
I feel oll wander full . My grand parents where from
Procida ,and you are right they where
Good cooks , the Lubrano it’s beeing in
Napoli Italy for generation .
Wishing you happy holiday .
Going to make your pie
Thx Angelo Lubrano

14 Michele Scicolone { 04.03.15 at 6:12 AM }

Enjoy the pie, Angelo! Wishing you a Buona Pasqua.

15 Dr. Gerald Massimei { 03.20.16 at 2:59 PM }

Thank you, this brings back such great memories. My grandmother was from Naples. .She came to the United States in 1899 and passed away, God rest her soul, in 1994. She had a different version of the pizza gran that had everything in it as your version does but he did not have the orange water. Also she did not use the zest of the orange and she was heavier on the Citron than you, but it was still so delicious. Thank you for sharing and have a very happy and blessed Easter.

16 LINDA { 03.22.16 at 2:26 PM }

Please help ,I purchased AnnaLisa Grano Cotto for my Pastiera ( actually from Coluccios Brooklyn Antoinette is great with the ups packages , they shipped it to me along with the rest of my order here in Virginia ,I think I am the only italian family here )Easter Sunday and cannot understand the italian directions or measurements on their can I really want to try it and need the translation from the can Could you possibly help me ? Thank you

17 Michele Scicolone { 03.22.16 at 2:34 PM }

I am delighted to hear that it brought back memories of your grandmother. Isn’t it wonderful how recipes can do that? Everyone has their own special touch so it’s no surprise that her recipe differs from my grandmother’s. Remember these things were often not written down and it comes down to personal taste. Thank you for the good wishes and wish the same for you and your family.

18 Michele Scicolone { 03.22.16 at 2:39 PM }

Hi, Linda,
I don’t use the canned Grano, but I imagine that the directions simply tell you to proceed as if you had just cooked it from scratch as you will see in my recipe.
I can read it if you would like me to translate it for you. Good luck!
Michele

19 Marion { 03.26.16 at 1:40 PM }

I can’t find whole wheat grain here – do you think I could substitute barley?

20 Michael Scotto { 03.28.16 at 6:07 AM }

Been making Pizza Gran for last twenty years taken on responsibility of carrying on the tradition (Scotto di Fasano from Procida). By far the best recipe. Delicious!!

21 Michele Scicolone { 03.28.16 at 6:40 AM }

Hi, Marion,
I have never tried barley so I can’t say. Have you tried your local health food store? They always seem to have wheat.
Failing that, you could always make a Italian style ricotta cheesecake. Also traditional and the ingredients are easy to find.
Happy Easter!

22 Michele Scicolone { 03.28.16 at 6:43 AM }

So glad to hear that you are keeping up the tradition! Hope you had a wonderful holiday.
I wonder if we are related?
Michele

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