Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Pastiera

This is my favorite Easter recipe and like lots of authentic regional desserts this one has a story. The legend of the Pastiera is that Queen Mariateresa d’Austria, wife of Ferdinando II of Borbonè, had a nickname "the queen who never smiled". One day her husband, who was outgoing and loved eating, convinced her to try a new recipe. As soon as she tried her first piece of pastiera she couldn’t resist smiling, and at this piont her husband shouted: "I’ll have to wait next Easter to see my wife smiling again!"

This recipe is a little different from the one I grew up with as it doesn't have a crust, I never liked the pastry around the creamy filling and always left the remnants on my plate.. this one leaves nothing to be spared :) Plus, it's not sickeningly sweet (and after all that candy, you want something refreshing ;) )


1 quart whole milk
3/4 cup arborio rice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
unsalted butter, for pan
all-purpose flour, for pan
3 lbs fresh ricotta cheese, drained 3 hours, preferably over night, through cheesecloth
3 large eggs, plus
3 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Strawberry or Raspberry sauce

1 pint fresh strawberries or raspberries
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1. Bring milk to a boil in a large sauce pan over medium high heat.
2. Stir in rice, cinnamon, salt and vanilla bean.
3. Reduce heat to medium low, cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until rice is very tender and has absorbed all liquid, about 30 minutes.
4. Remove pan from heat, stir in 3/4 cup granulated sugar, cover, let cool, stirring occasionally.
5. Discard vanilla bean.
6. Preheat oven to 350̊F degrees.
7. Butter and flour an 8-inch springform pan.
8. In a large bowl, fold together, the rice mixture, ricotta, whole eggs and egg yolks, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar, very carefully using a rubber spatula.
9. Pour into prepared pan.
10. Bake until golden, 65 to 70 minutes, cover with foil if starting to brown too much.
11. Transfer pan to cooling rack.
12. When cake has cooled completely, run a knife around edge to loosen.
13. Gently remove ring; transfer cake to a serving plate.
14. Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar, and serve at room temperature with sauce.

1. Combine all ingredients in a medium nonreactive saucepan.
2. Cook over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until berries are soft, 5 to 7 minutes.
3. Serve warm or at room temperature.