Pastiera Napoletana

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Luca shares his recipe for pastiera Napoletana, the Italian Easter cake. Traditionally, this wheat cake is cooked no later than Good Friday to ensure the ingredients have enough time to infuse before Easter Sunday. Luca recommends serving it for breakfast on Easter day, or as an accompaniment with afternoon tea.

First published in 2016

Originally from Naples, the pastiera Napoletana has become a firm favourite throughout Italy during the Easter period. Like all good recipes, the origins are legendary. Some attribute it to one of the convents in Naples, while others claim that, like the city of Naples itself, it has pagan Greek origins.

Whatever the truth, the ingredients – ricotta cheese, candied peel, orange flower water – perfectly evoke the flavours and scents of spring in the bay of Naples.

The original recipe calls for pre-cooked wheat grains, grano cotto, which are available all over Italy at this time of year. If you can’t find them in your local deli, you can substitute it for Arborio rice, or another kind of risotto rice.




Shortcrust pastry

  • 300g of plain flour
  • 1 tbsp of sugar
  • 150g of unsalted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 150ml of water
  • icing sugar, for dusting


  • 350g of grano cotto, or Arborio rice
  • 250ml of milk
  • 30g of unsalted butter
  • 1 lemon, zest only
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 300g of sugar
  • 350g of ricotta
  • 40g of candied citron
  • 40g of candied peel, orange
  • 20g of orange blossom water
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla paste


Begin by making the pastry. Place the flour, sugar and butter in a bowl and rub together with your fingers until it has the consistency of breadcrumbs. Add the egg and mix with your hands until combined
Add the water a little at a time, stirring well, until the mixture comes together to form a dough – you may not need to use all the water
Shape the dough into a ball, wrap in cling film, and place in the fridge for at least 1 hour to chill
Meanwhile, make the filling. Place the grano cotto in a saucepan and add the milk, butter and lemon zest. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer, stirring all the time until cooked – this will take about 20–25 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely
Place the eggs in a bowl with the sugar and whisk until the eggs turn pale
Place the ricotta cheese in a blender and blitz until it has the consistency of whipped cream. Add it to the egg and sugar mixture, folding it in with a spatula
Add the cooled wheat mixture, candied peel, orange flower water and the vanilla bean paste into the ricotta mixture. Stir together until combined and put to one side
Preheat the oven to 160°C/gas mark 3 and butter a 24cm x 4cm cake tin
Dust a clean surface with icing sugar and evenly roll out the pastry, carefully lining the cake tin. Prick the bottom with a fork and pour in the filling, trimming the pastry from the edges of the tin to leave a neat edge. Reserve any spare pastry to decorate and form into a ball
Roll out the ball into an even layer. Using a pasta wheel, cut 8 strips long enough to be placed across the cake tin. Place 4 of them across the top of the pastiera in one direction and then place the other 4 diagonally to create lozenge shapes
Trim the edges of of the strips against the edge of the tin and place the pasteria in the oven to bake for 1 hour. After this time, cover the top with a piece of tin foil and cook for another 30 minutes. Allow it to cool completely in the tin before carefully turning it out
Serve the pastiera cold with a good quality Italian espresso coffee. It makes a lovely Easter breakfast, accompaniment to afternoon tea or dessert.

Discover more about this region's cuisine:

Luca Marchiori is a food writer, recipe developer and food historian. His blog Luca’s Italy is all about discovering authentic Italian food and sharing the recipes that Italians really eat.

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