Nothing says Italian American Easter like a Pastiera di Grano, the traditional Neapolitan wheat grain pie! We’ve got a simple family recipe for you, with lots of alternative options for ingredients that might not be so easy to come by this year, so you can have one on your table no matter what!
Call them Pizza Chiena, Pizza Gran’, Grain Pies, or Pastiera… call them whatever you want but Easter Pies are an Italian American holiday staple, so join John Viola of the Italian American Podcast in the Cucina Quarantena for quick run down of how to make this Italian American classic under any circumstances! This is one of hundreds of different recipes out there… so if you DON’T have your own, maybe this will help. We hope you’ll give it a shot… and remember, family food is art not science… have fun and follow what inspires you.
Buona Pasqua Everybody!
John Viola’s Pastiera di Grano (Pizza Gran’ – Neapolitan grain pie) – makes 2-3 pies from one 560 gram jar
-2 frozen pie crusts (per pastiera) or your own pie crust or pasta frolla dough
-1 jar (560 grams) “Grano Cotto” cooked wheat grain* (alternatives: Whole wheat berries soaked for 24 hours and cooked down, cooked and drained rice, or barley grains cooked for 30 minutes in milk)
-1 cup whole milk
-3 Tablespoons butter
-Zest of 2 lemons
-Zest of 1 orange
-2 lbs. fresh ricotta (drained of moisture)
-Slightly less than 1.5 lbs. of sugar
-3 egg yolks
-1 packet “Vanillina” Italian vanilla baking powder* (alternative: about a teaspoon of vanilla extract)
-1 Tablespoon orange blossom water* (alternative: In a pinch, try very finely grated orange zest, 2-3 drops of orange oil, or 2-3 teaspoons of orange liqueur, such as Triple Sec)
-1/2 Tablespoon cinnamon
-1/2 teaspoon Italian Aroma Millefiori concentrate*
-1/2 teaspoon Rose Water*
-1 package (or, a few handfuls) candied citron or if available candied citrus peel* (alternatives: I know some people use chopped apricots, or finely dehydrated orange or lemon slices)
*NOTE: In the U.S., most of these ingredients can be found in your local Italian deli or specialty shop, but orange blossom and rose waters may also be found in some Whole Foods stores, gourmet grocery stores, Middle Eastern or Indian grocery stores, or baking suppliers.
-Finely zest the skin of 2 lemons and 1 orange. Set aside.
-Empty cooked wheat grain into a sauce pan with the whole milk and butter.
-Mix the lemon and orange zest into the cooked wheat mixture and heat on the stove over medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until it becomes creamy, stirring often. Remove from heat and let cool.
-In a separate bowl, mix the ricotta (drain as much of the liquid as possible) and sugar.
-Add the eggs and egg yolks.
-Add the vanilla extract (or vanillina powder if you have it), orange blossom water, cinnamon, and if you can find them, the Millefiori concentrate and rose water.
-Mix this into a fine mixture, and then add the fine zest of the other ½ of the orange and another lemon.
-Add chopped candied citron and/or peels.
-Pour the cooled cooked wheat into this mixture and mix until they’re combined.
-Pour the mixture into the piecrust.
-Roll out extra pie crust or dough and cut into lattice strips.
-Lay the latticework on top and seal the edges.
-Optionally, make an egg wash out of 1 egg whisked with cold milk or water. Brush on the top of the latticework before putting it into the oven.
-Bake in a preheated oven at 375 F for about an hour and a half, until you can pull a toothpick or skewer out of the center and it’s not wet.
-Turn the oven off and let it cool in there.
-Optionally, when pies are cooled, you can dust with powdered sugar. I think it takes away from the delicate flavor of the blossom waters, but that’s up to you!
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