Saturday, April 3, 2010

Italian Easter Wheat Pie

I'm eating this now. Before Easter. Because I can. I don't mind that I got mad at the dough (oh yes, we had words) and the lattice work is sad. It tastes good. This "Pizza du grane" or Italian Easter Wheat Pie has been made every Easter in my memory. The fact that the original recipe feeds Naples works for me. I freeze the pies, give them away. And savor. We all have our fill because my mother and I only make this once a year.

This Easter is divided into the traditional foods my family has always loved and the non-traditional. This is not a traditional Easter with my family - we are too too raw. So we are making some new foods. We don't want to recreate all. We do need to forge ahead. Tomorrow's herbed-goat cheese ravioli will be new. But nobody could give up this pie.

Once upon a time, we could find pastiera in cans. We would lug them home from New York City. In recent years, the cans have dwindled and we have made our own pastiera. This year I made it from wheat berries. Next year, I will make it from farro (a wee bit softer and no need to soak the wheat over night). The wheat is the essence of the pie - it's spring, it's nourishment, new life, new promise.
When you are done cooking the wheat, it will be your pastiera and look like this.

Pastiera: 1 cup wheat berries; 2 cups milk, 1/4 cup cream (can omit) 1/2 cup sugar

Soak wheat berries over night to soften. Change water and boil them for 60-90 minutes - till a bit chewy but not at all crunchy. Drain.
Combine milk, cream and sugar. Stir till sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil and gently boil wheat berries for one hour. Drain, cool and put in an airtight container in the refrigerator till ready to use. (Can prepare 3 days ahead). The pastiera also freezes well for six months.
The list of ingredients is long - but it is so simple. Just mix well after each addition. This creamy, rich pie is Easter and spring on a plate. The goodness of cow's milk, the earthiness of sheep's ricotta (I used cow's ricotta), the sweetness of sugar, the spring promise of citron and citrus zest and my mother's addition of chocolate and sprinkles. Ciao Chow Linda has the legend of the pie on her blog. Find it here. You will understand the deep connection Italian families to this pie. Each region (and probably family) has their own recipe. Mine is below.
Italian Easter Wheat Pie Ingredients - makes two deep dish 9-inch pies - with enough left over to make your own personal one - I highly recommend making your own personal one!
4 servings of pasta frolla (pie dough) - your favorite or store-bought
1 cup pastiera
2-1/2 cups ricotta cheese (whole-milk)
1/2-3/4 cup granulated sugar (go with 1/2 cup if you do not want a sweet custard; more if you do)
3 eggs
1 cup milk
1-1/4 Tbl cornstarch
1/8 lb. citron (my family omits this; my mother hates citron - what can I say? We're all opinionated!)
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 Tbl orange blossom water
zest of one orange
zest of one lemon
1/2 cup chocolate chips (my family's addition)
colored sprinkles (my family's addition)
Italian Easter Wheat Pie Preparation
The trick to making this cheese-custard is to combine well after each addition. The preparation is very easy.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line two 9-inch deep dish pie plates with pie dough. Scatter 1/4 cup of chocolate chips in each.
Beat your ricotta till smooth.
Add your pastiera and sugar and beat.
Add your eggs one at a time and beat after each addition.
Combine 1/2 your milk with the cornstarch. Stir to dissolve. Add the milk with cornstarch, the rest of the milk and cream. Beat well.
Add citron (if using, I do not). Add your orange blossom water and zests and combine.
Pour into prepared pie pans. Cut remaining pipe dough into 1-3 inch wide by 10 inch strips and lattice the top if you wish. (Can leave plain). Cover the top with colored sprinkles.
Bake for one hour. Turn oven off and leave in oven for 10-15 minutes. Cool. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until ready to serve. Can serve at room temperature or cold. Will keep up to five days refrigerated or freeze for up to six months.
While pastiera is hard to find, the grains are not. Both wheat berries and farro (from Bob's Red Mill) can be found in the baking aisles of most grocers these days.

Fill the sweet-cheese-custard mixture to the top.

Lattice it as best you can.

After turning off the oven, let it cool for 10-15 minutes inside the oven before removing it.

When cooled, wrap in plastic and refrigerate. Serve cold or at room temperature. (I prefer room temperature).
I want to thank you all for so many kind words. It was so comforting to read daily. Appreciated. And warmed me. We still all laugh. And we cry. And practice gratitude. As my life returns to a routine, I shall be visiting all of you soon. I miss your inspiration, your nourishment and your gifts. Buona Pasqua and Happy Spring. It's here. In blooms. New life. A new day.


Proud Italian Cook said...

Claudia I think your pies turned out fabulous, I would share a slice with you anyday! Have a wonderful Easter!

Ciao Chow Linda said...

Love the addition of the chocolate chips. Thanks for the shout-out. I didn't make any pastiere this year and I'm wishing I had. I know it will be a difficult Easter for all of you but I send all my best wishes and a big hug your way. Your father would be proud of you.

gaga said...

How pretty. Happy Easter!

Angie's Recipes said...

WOuld really love to try these special wheat pie!
Happy Easter!

Eleonora Baldwin said...

Buona Pasqua! I posted a Pastiera recipe too!! Interesting choc addition, Claudia. I'm having trouble finding cucuzzata (candied pumpkin) this year, the chips could be a different twist.

Hugs and much love,
Ele xx

Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

What a gorgeous pie Claudia. Hope you and your family have a wonderful weekend.

joe@italyville said...

Buona Pasqua Claudia! hope you have a wonderful day.

Vrinda said...

Pie looks gr8 and very healthy version..have a blessed Easter...

Anne said...

I love to come here and see all the good recipes you share. Thank you.
Have a great day!

chow and chatter said...

oh wow this looks divine Happy Easter Sweet Claudia

Whats Cookin Italian Style Cuisine said...

I understand your feelings around the holiday. I still cant make anything my dad would request and its been 14 years. I still set a place for him seriously. My thoughts are with you. As far as your crust goes, you did a better job than mine, and it looks sensational, you can send all rejects at 3256 brentwood /florida..... oops got carried away all your other fans will be mad you'll be cooking for days hope to bring you a small smile, xxxooo

Jen_from_NJ said...

Hi Claudia,
Easter blessings to you and your family. Your Easter pie is just beautiful, as are your words. The herbed goat cheese ravioli sounds delicious. Hugs, Jen

Reeni said...

This is not one of our traditions but something I've always wanted to make - to start new traditions. Much love and hugs XOXO.

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

Your Pizza du grane looks so delicious! I'm sure it was very comforting to have this tradtional pie for Easter and to celebrate the memory of your dad's life today.

♥ Pat

La Bella Cooks said...

Hope you had a fabulous Easter. You always have something fantastic going on in your kitchen and this is right up my alley.

theUngourmet said...

I'm fascinated with this pie! I've never tried anything like it. I like the orange and chocolate flavors in here. :) Hope your Easter was wonderful!

Mary Bergfeld said...

You really did a wonderful job with this. I love the flavors you've used. While this is not part of our Easter tradition, I'm thinking it should be. Are there Italians with freckles :-)?

Kim said...

Claudia - I love your posts! This one is filled with such tradition and the pie looks right on par with Easter. My kids would be crazy about those sprinkles.

I'm sorry to hear your ravioli filling leaked out into the pan. Sometimes we have to shrug our shoulders and laugh about our recipe failures, right? My family is still laughing about how awful our ham was. It kinda gave us something to laugh about, in a strange way.

I hope you had a wonderful Easter:D

Barbara GF said...

That's a beautiful Easter wheat pie, Claudia, lattice work and all! Like a seasoned recipe, memories make the meal more memorable. I'm sure your heart and soul are filled with them.
And don't take any lip from a wayward crust! :-)

Anonymous said...

Your pie looks fantastic, I've never had anything like that, would love to try! Hope you had a wonderful Easter weekend!

3 hungry tummies said...

I love reading about traditional dishes like this! Thanks for sharing the recipe!

Gloria Baker said...

What absolutely nice and yummy Easter pie!! gloria

Juliana said...

Claudia, what an interesting pie, wheat pie! It sure sounds and looks tasty with all the yummie ingredients in it :-)

Velva said...

Claudia, this is such an interesting and flavorful pie. I have never heard of wheat pie but after reading your directions, I can see why it would be delicious.

Some dishes just pass the test of time. This appears to be one of those dishes.

Happy belated Easter to you and your family.

janet said...

Wow, what a pie!! I understand the need to not have a totally traditional Easter, and do some different things. My heart is with you. I hope the spring season brings some renewal and peace to your soul.

OysterCulture said...


I'm not sure I have ever seen a wheat pie, and I just know it will be delicious and not just because you showed it to us. What a lovely treat and that you for sharing. It looks so colorful and festive I think the nieces and nephews will love it.

I understand making changes given all that you have been through and only hope it gets easier with each passing day.

Gera@SweetsFoodsBlog said...

Hope you've had a nice Easter! Your pie looks adorable with charming colors :)

All the best,


Kathleen said...

This looks like a lovely treat for Easter!

Lyndas recipe box said...

I've not heard of this pie before Claudia, but it looks delicious! Too bad the dough gave you such a hard time, bit it certainly looks amazing to me. I'd love a slice with my coffee right now- even better shared with a friend!
Hope your Easter was special!

Anonymous said...

Looks delicious!! Always so comforting to see what you come up with! Belated Happy Easter, and I so need to try to make this!!

Ann said...

Pie looks so yumm

My Little Space said...

That pie looks delicious! Btw, have ever tried slowcooker wheat sweet soup with the final touch of coconut milk? That is awesome!

Katy ~ said...

Looks good to me! I'd eat it and be very very happy!!

Anonymous said...

Our recipes are almost identical. Mine calls for heavy cream instead of milk. My crust is a cookie crust that is sweet and crunchy. No chocolate chips or sprinkles is another difference as is the cooking temperature: 325 in a standard oven, 300 in a convection oven.

Happy Easter in Minnesota from Long Island New York!