This is for me the quintessence of Italian desserts. Unique, bold, crazy in its combination of ingredients. Desirable for 11 months and a half a year because it is a traditional Easter dessert – at least as a kid, now I can make it whenever I feel like it, even if I prefer to respect the calendar for seasonal food, so as to always have something to look forward to.
Traditionally from Naples, this cake was totally unknown in other parts of Italy until not so long ago. My grandfather was from Naples, and for him it was inconceivable to have an Easter Sunday without the Pastiera. Fortunately, in Rome, where we were all living when I was a kid, there was this institution called Pasticceria Napoletana, Neapolitan Bakery, in Corso Vittorio Emanuele, between the Vatican City and Piazza Argentina. He would sometimes take me on the expedition to buy the Pastiera in the only bakery in Rome capable of replicating the wonders of the recipe his family used for decades. All I could think of during the family meal was the pastiera: this kind of cheesecake made with ricotta, eggs and wheat berries, to symbolize the rebirth of all things nature. The pungent perfume of orange blossom water, that reminds me of luscious spring nights, the crunchy crust, that balances the sweetness and creaminess of the filling. I cannot think of a more intriguing dessert. The origins of this cake are intertwined with legends: probably some nuns in Naples came up with this perfect mix of ingredients, to be prepared for three days starting on holy Thursday to have the dessert ready by Easter Sunday.
But don’t be scared: you can pull it off in one day if needed, even though there is something mystic in preparing a cake that is a concentrate of symbolism (eggs for birth, cheese for richness, wheat for cycle of nature) during the three holy days of the Christian tradition.
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For 4 Servings
1 cup Carnaroli rice
1 medium onion, chopped
2-3 tablespoons of EV Olive Oil
½ glass of white table wine
1 pint chicken stock preprepared (or vegetable stock)
1 cup rinsed blueberries
1 cup roasted chestnuts or more, chopped in big pieces
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons gorgonzola cheese (optional)