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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Sweet Easter Pie



From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...There are some foods and beverages that are acquired tastes. Martinis and haggis come to mind and I suspect the pie I'm featuring tonight might be on that list as well. Pastiera is a wheat and ricotta pie that is part of the Italian Easter tradition. It is made with grano cotto, a cooked wheat product that is sold in cans in older Italian markets. The goopy mass of cooked wheat is mixed with a bit of sugar, fresh ricotta cheese and orange water then poured into a pie shell for baking. Back in the day, the pie was an integral part of the Easter meal in Italian homes, though I'm sure there were some at the table who would have preferred a coconut lamb cake. I had a forkful of the pie when I was six years old, and despite my love of all things Italian, it never crossed my lips again. As I initially said, this is an acquired taste and I suspect some of you are wondering why I am even mentioning the pastiera tonight. As it happens, I have a friend who was passing through a bad stretch a few years ago. She had fond memories of the pastiera, so I took it upon myself to bake for her and lift her spirits with the Easter pie. I was unable to find grano cotto, so I used soaked barley instead. My first effort was an unmitigated failure, so I began to look for other ways to make the pie. I knew that wheat was used because it symbolizes resurrection, but symbolism aside, without the proper form of wheat, I had no chance of success. In the course of my search, I found recipes that used rice, rather than wheat to make the pie. Both Mary Ann Esposito and Giada De Laurentis used rice, but I decided to use Giada's recipe because it was easier and used phyllo sheets to make a leafy crust for a custard that was much like rice pudding. The finished pie was beautiful. If you'd like to see Giada make the pie, a video can be found here. I do have a caution to share with those of you who decide to make this pie. Taste the custard filling as you go along. Keep the vanilla bottle nearby and don't be afraid to use more sugar. I still make this pie for my friend who asks for it each year. Never doubt that memory trumps the palate. Now for those of you who are brave enough to try a real pastiera, I'd like to recommend the one that is made my friend Claudia, who has a recipe for the pie on her blog, Journey of An Italian Cook, which you can find here. The recipe below is the one I used to make my friend's Easter pie.

Sweet Easter Pie...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite courtesy of Giada De Laurentis

Ingredients:
3/4 to 1 cup powdered sugar, plus extra for garnish
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta cheese
1/2 cup cooked short-grained rice
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
6 sheets fresh phyllo sheets or frozen, thawed
3/4 stick (3 ounces) unsalted butter, melted

Directions:
1) Blend 3/4 to 1 cup  powdered sugar, eggs, vanilla, orange zest and ricotta in a food processor until smooth. Stir in rice and pine nuts. Set ricotta mixture aside.
2) Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
3) Lightly butter a 9-inch glass pie dish. Lay 1 phyllo sheet over  bottom and up  sides of the dish, allowing  phyllo to hang over  sides. Brush the phyllo, including the drooping sides  with  melted butter. Top with a second sheet of phyllo dough, laying it in  opposite direction as the first phyllo sheet. Continue layering remaining sheets of phyllo sheets, alternating after each layer and buttering each sheet. Spoon  ricotta mixture into the dish. Fold  overhanging phyllo dough over  top of filling to enclose it completely. Brush completely with melted butter.
4) Bake  pie until phyllo is golden brown and the filling is set, about 35 minutes. Transfer pan to a rack and cool completely. Sift powdered sugar over the pie and serve. Yield: 8 servings.









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16 comments:

Ginny said...

Well, again I learned something today. I have never heard of this.

Toby Corn said...

I actually love Pastiera Napoletana, but the way I learned was to soak the wheat berries for 8 days (they take on a yeasty / cheesy aroma) then add the ricotta, candied hard squash and zucchini. I used to make it every year... and now I'm missing it all over again. I do like the idea of the phyllo crust. It makes it all the more elegant.

Food, Fun and Life in the Charente said...

You know I have never seen phyllo in the supermarkets here, perhaps it has a strange name I must double check. Bet this is good. Take care Diane

Duncan D. Horne - the Kuantan blogger said...

Mary, Mary, I wouldn't mind coming over to yours for Easter ;)
Duncan In Kuantan

Unknown said...

First of all, that pie looks amazing!

Secondly, I wanted to let you know that you won The Bible Companion Book giveaway on my blog. I have forwarded your blog and e-mail address that was listed to the company that co-hosted the giveaway. They should be in touch with you soon!

Thank you so much. :)

Foodycat said...

I love this post! Your dedication to making things that you don't like out of love for your friends is beautiful! I think I would probably like this though. I am a sucker for vanilla-y creamy desserts.

Jenn said...

Oh my gosh.. I had something like this when I was a kid too... and only once!! I believe, if memory serves me correctly, it was DE-licious!! I will have to put on my baking hat soon and try this myself! Thanks for sharing, Mary!

Tricia @ Saving room for dessert said...

How very interesting! I love the mini-vacations you offer each day. I've never heard of this pie before but an intrigued!

Barbara F. said...

I was weaned on this and the pizza chiena, and as many Italian mamma's and nonna's that is how many variations. These are pies mostly known to Neapolitan homes. I love to make them, and, of course, eat them. But a pastiera with rice is just a sweet rice pie, (pasta di riso) not a true pastiera. Pastiera has the classic rich pastry cream in it. There is also an Easter pie made with semolina called migliaccia. That has the Italian liqueur Strega in it. Very, very different. Giada takes her own spin on recipes. My family was "by the book". lol xo

teresa said...

i want a big slice of that pie! i love the orange zest in there!

http://platanosmangoes.com said...

Sounds wonderful...Do you ship?

Claudia said...

How fun! I actually adore Easter Wheat Pie as you know! But I enjoy looking out for other traditions. I posted one of your recipes today! We are criss-crossing. I also want to note that I made your Irish tea cake. Oh my! Oh my! It was gone in a flash and will be bringing another one to a play reading. I also made your Irish meatloaf. I've just had a One Perfect Bite week and all has been marvelous.

Melinda said...

I'm sure this is tasty but I'll pass. :)


M :)

Juliana said...

Nice pie Mary, I like the idea of the phyllo and the ricotta as a filling...yes, it is perfect for Easter.
Hope you are enjoying your week :)

Joanne said...

I'm not a huge fan of this type of pie but my mom is...so I'll have to try to make this for her this year!

Jeannie Tay said...

I can't help but admire your gorgeous pie! I do watch Giada on tv and enjoyed her shows very much:)

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