Neapolitan easter wheat cake

Neapolitan easter wheat cake

Pastiera di grano

8–10 or more
Laura Edwards

Grain, especially wheat, is a very important ingredient in Italy. Once upon a time, it was used as payment, and this ‘wheat tart’, has some religious significance as well. It is made at Easter in the south of Italy, especially in Naples, to give as a present.


Quantity Ingredient


Quantity Ingredient
300g plain flour
150g unsalted butter or lard, in small pieces
150g caster sugar
3 large egg yolks


Quantity Ingredient
200g whole-wheat grains
or 440g prepared wheat grains, from an Italian deli
500ml milk
1/2 lemon, finely grated zest
1/2 orange, finely grated zest
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
300g fresh ricotta cheese
4 large eggs, separated
50ml orange-blossom water
150g mixed candied peel, finely chopped
225g caster sugar

To finish

Quantity Ingredient
a little unsalted butter, melted
icing sugar


  1. Soak the grains in water to cover for 24 hours, changing the water occasionally. Drain, and pour the milk over the grains in a saucepan. Simmer with the lemon and orange zest for 45 minutes over a very low heat, until tender. (If using ready-prepared grains, you obviously don’t need these first steps.) Add the cinnamon and vanilla now.
  2. Meanwhile, make the pastry. Put the flour into a bowl, and mix in the butter or lard until the texture of breadcrumbs. Mix in the sugar, then the egg yolks, and stir with a wooden spoon – or your hands – until you have a smooth pastry. Wrap in clingfilm (plastic wrap) and chill in the refrigerator for 1½ hours.
  3. Put the ricotta, egg yolks and orange-blossom water into a bowl. Add the candied peel and cooked grains and mix together. Beat the egg whites with the sugar until stiff and fold very gently into the filling, using a metal spoon.
  4. Butter a large flan tin 35cm in diameter and 5cm deep. Preheat the oven to 190˚C. On a lightly floured surface, roll the chilled pastry out to a 5mm thickness. Line the flan tin with the pastry. Cut off any surplus, which you will need for the lattice.
  5. Pour the filling into the pastry case, and spread with a knife. Roll out the remaining pastry, cut into long strips and make a lattice pattern on the tart. Brush with the melted butter and bake for 45 minutes. Sprinkle with icing sugar before serving hot or cold.
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