Getting Ready

Candied orange zest and citron?  Check.  Orange flower water? Check.  Skinless wheat berries?  Check.  I’ve even got a fresh package of ground cinnamon, a bag of sugar and another of flour.

Easter is just a few days away, so it is time to start getting ready for holiday baking.    As we have done in the past, my niece Amy and I will get together to make La Pastiera, or as my mom called it, Pizza Gran.  For the second time Christine, my nephew’s girlfriend, will join us, too, and we will have a lot of fun baking, eating, laughing, and catching up on the latest family goings on.  Here is a photo of one of last year’s pies.

All I have left to buy are the fresh ingredients including the eggs, ricotta and oranges.  The recipe we use is the one my mother taught me, that she learned from my father’s mother who came from Procida, an island off the coast of Naples.  I had to cut it down somewhat from the original which my grandmother baked in a pan 15 inches wide by 6 inches deep (I still have it), but I know I got it right because it takes just like the pastiera I have eaten in Naples.  The good ones, that is!

I published the recipe on this blog last year, but here it is again.  You can also find it in my book 1,000 Italian Recipes.  If you do make it, send me a photo, I would love to see it.  Buona Pasqua!


Easter Wheat Cheesecake


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


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 350[dg]F. Grease and flour a 9 [ts] 3[nd]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, flattening out any wrinkles against the inside of the pan. Scrape the filling onto the dough and smooth the top.

8. 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.

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

10. 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 3 days.

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1 Michael Strasser { 03.24.10 at 12:21 PM }

Michele: Thank you for posting this splendid recipe along with the picture of the finished product. It reminds me of the one time I tried to make this pie to present at my Italian-American brother-in-law’s Easter celebration. The pie looked wonderful, but the recipe failed to mention that you had to soak the wheat berries overnight. The result was al-break-your-dente, tiny pellets of unchewable wheat in the middle of a delicious filling. A disaster! I learned my lesson, but have never gone near the recipe again. I will try your version, however. Thanks again.

2 Michele Scicolone { 03.25.10 at 5:53 AM }

Hi, Michael,
Sounds like a cook’s nightmare! Buy the skinless wheat. It doesn’t need an overnight soak, just a few minutes of cooking.
Kalustyan’s should have it. I got mine at Coluccio’s in Brooklyn.

3 Julie { 03.27.10 at 10:55 AM }

I’m heading to Coluccio’s today to get the ingredients to make this pie! I’m so excited as my grandmother would make this every Easter and it was so delicious. Thank you for posting this recipe and for suggesting Coluccio’s on a past post. Good to know!
Keep the recipes coming, please!

4 Michele Scicolone { 03.27.10 at 11:45 AM }

Thanks, Julie! Buona Pasqua!

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    • Michele Scicolone