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This crumble tart filled with cooked wheat berries and ricotta cheese is one of the most delicious and traditional Easter cakes from the region Campania and the Amalfi Coast.

by Annalisa Russo

If Easter in Naples had a smell, it would be that of sweaty candied fruit, orange flower water, and cinnamon, some of the main ingredients used to prepare the pastiera. This cake tastes like an explosion of flavors, and while it bakes, it will envelop your house with an irresistible fragrance.
In addition, this cake is a delight you cannot miss during your Easter trip on the Amalfi Coast, and this is the reason why we want to tell you about its recipe and its ritual preparation.

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The Pastiera

A ritual cake

The Pastiera, the symbol of the Resurrection, was made for the first time in 1500 by a nun in an old monastery of San Gregorio Armeno in Naples. She wanted to combine a series of ingredients representing the Christian Easter, such as the wheat berries and eggs, "symbol of a new life", with other delicious ones such as the aroma of the orange flower water from the garden of the convent, the ricotta cheese, the millefiori water scented like spring, citron and aromatic spices from Asia. 

The result was a real masterpiece of Italian pastry that still today during the Holy Week, is prepared in the region Campania usually no later than Thursday and Friday. This is a ritual of gestures and secrets that are handed down from generation to generation making each pastiera unique in its flavor.

The recipe

Here is the traditional recipe with the addition of a special ingredient very common on the Amalfi Coast and in Sorrento Peninsula: the pastry cream.

Ingredients for 2 tarts. Use a mould of 28 and 26 cm in diameter.

For the shortcrust pastry

  • 500 g of flour
  • 200 g of sugar
  • 200 g butter
  • 3 eggs
  • grated zest of 1 orange

For the filling

  • 500 g of pre-cooked wheat berries
  • 300 g of milk
  • 1 spoon of butter
  • 700 g of ricotta cheese made from sheep or cow milk
  • 700 g of sugar
  • 7 eggs
  • 3 yolks
  • vanilla essence as required
  • 6 ml of orange flower water
  • 4 ml of millefiori water
  • cinnamon as required
  • 100 g candied fruit

For the pastry cream

  • 300 g of milk
  • 2 yolks
  • vanilla essence as required
  • 100 g sugar
  • 30 g flour


  • Start from the shortcrust pastry. On the worktop sift the flour and create a well in the center of the mixture, now add the butter at room temperature, the sugar, the eggs, and the grated zest of an orange. Mix everything with your hands, the result has to be a smooth and homogeneous dough that will rest in the fridge for at least one hour wrapped in a cling film. Remember that the trick for a good shortcrust pastry is to not knead the dough too much.
  • Poor the pre-cooked wheat berries in a pot and add the milk and the butter. Now bring to a boil. The mixture will have a cream-like consistency. 
  • Pass the ricotta cheese through a sieve with the help of a spoon and add the sugar and candied fruit. The mixture will look like a cream that you need to add to the previous one.
  • Beat the eggs and yolks and add the aromas: vanilla essence, cinnamon, orange flower water, and millefiori water. This mixture should be combined with the one with ricotta cheese and wheat berries. In the end, add the pastry cream that will make your dough more soft and delicious.  
  • For the pastry cream here for you a few simple steps that will guarantee a great result. In a pot beat the eggs and add the sugar, vanilla essence, and flour. Then add the previously heated milk and put it on the fire. Stir by hand with a whisk until the mixture will be thickened. Once cooled, you can finally combine it with the filling. Finally one of the most delicious and appreciated Easter cakes is almost ready.
  • Roll out the shortcrust pastry that will cover the moulds of 28 and 26 cm in diameter. Remember to cut 14 strips that will cover your two tarts, 7 for each pastiera. Pour the filling into the moulds and cover them with strips.
  • Bake at 180 degrees for about one hour.
  • When the pastiera will be ready, be patient and let it rest for at least 24 hours so that all the aromas have been mixed. The final result will be amazing!
  • The pastiera is also prepared for the Epiphany, January 6, which is considered by the Christian religion the first Easter of the year.
  • We have also some variants such as double cream of which we have reported the recipe and the chocolate and salty ones.
  • Each family considers itself the holder of the best recipe, a combination of special doses, procedures, and secret ingredients that are handed down from generation to generation.
  • It is said that Maria Theresa of Austria, the wife of the King Ferdinand II of Bourbon, also known as "the queen who never smiles", smiled in public for the first time just when she tasted this delicious cake.
  • If you are on the Amalfi Coast do not miss " la pastiera del Presidente" from the pastry shop Pansa in Amalfi and that of Sal de Riso in Minori.
  • According to the legend, the strips that cover the filling of the cake would be 7 to symbolize the 7 ingredients (ricotta cheese, flour, eggs, butter, wheat berries, candied fruit, and orange flower water) that the seven most beautiful girls of the villages gave as a gift to the mermaid Partenope. Happy for the gifts, the mermaid offered them to the gods who mixed all these ingredients. The result was this delicious cake.

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