Easter is coming, and I thought I could share with you one of my favourite easter recipe: Neapolitan Pastiera, but a vegetarian version! This means that it contains dairy products, but these are actually the only animal products amongst the ingredients.
Why vegetarian and not vegan
The original recipe contains eggs as well, but since my husband is allergic to eggs, I had to find an alternative in order to prepare it, so some years ago I rolled my sleeves, and got to experiment a bit!
It took a bit to find the perfect recipe for the shortcrust pastry, but after a few tries, I was able to find the perfect consistency.
Originally, I prepared it with wholemeal flour and brown sugar, because I am of course addicted to tweaking recipes into their healthier version, but I have to say that is much more difficult to manipulate than the version with plain white flour and white sugar, as it crumbles more easily. Hence, lately I got back to using white flour, and the result is more pleasant to the eye AND the overall prep is much easier too!
I’m not proposing a vegan version, because ricotta cheese is actually the main ingredient of the pastiera, and although I believe I could find a way to replace it, the taste would be highly compromised, and if you ever tasted neapolitan pastiera, you know that it would be a proper crime! I have replaced the butter with margarine, in order to have a slightly lighter recipe.
Neapolitan Pastiera Recipe ( Dose for a 26cm cake tin)
For the filling
Wheat 150g (or ready made wheat for pastiera, if you can find it)
Zest of one Orange
A bit of margarine
1 teaspoon of sugar
Ricotta cheese 180g
A pinch of cinnamon powder
Orange flower water (just a little bit!)
45g mixed candied fruit (orange, cedar)
For the pastry
335g white flour
90g of caster sugar
A pinch of salt
Grated lemon zest (half a lemon)
The day before the preparation, cook the wheat in water, drain it and leave it aside untile the day after. If you have found the ready to use wheat for pastiera, you can simply use it straight away on the day of the preparation. I suggest to prepare the pastiera anyway a day in advance, as it is definitely better if it has rested one day before serving it!
On the day of the prep, begin with the pastry: mix the flour with the margarine, the sugar, a pinch of salt , and the zest of half a lemon. Work it until the dough becomes soft and smooth, then leave it to rest for 50 minutes in a cool place, but not in the fridge!
In the meantime, you can begin to prepare the filling. In a bowl mix the ricotta cheese with the sugar for about 6/7 minutes, then add the milk, the wheat, that you have quickly reheated in a pan with a bit of sugar, a dash of milk and and a bit of margarine, and the add the orange flower essence, the cinnamon with vanilla, and the candied fruit.
Then begin to work the pastry and fold with it a cake tin of 26 cm diameter. Leave some aside for the stripes to cover the filling.
Add the filling (that should be quite liquid) and then cover with the stripes (around 2 cm width each) diagonally creating a nice pattern, leaving diamond shaped parts of the filling uncovered.
Preheat the oven at 180 degrees, and then cook the pastiera for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the filling looks dry and the pastry is golden.
Note: be careful not to add too much flower essence, as the it might be overpowering, start with a teaspoon !
When the pastiera is cool, dust it with powdered sugar and it is ready to serve!
As already mentioned, is best savoured the day after (if you can manage to resist it!).
Enjoy and Happy Easter!
Loved this recipe? Have a look at my recipes section to discover the others!
Let me know if you want to try this recipe in the comment!
Easter image credit: Pixabay