In my adopted Italian family, there are traditions and foods that I have learned to embrace that I never experienced in my Irish family. From having family over for a big dinner on New Year's Day to the Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve to the idea that pasta and potatoes make a great dish, my mind and tastebuds have broadened.
One food that is a must at this time of year in any Italian family is Pastiera - and in my family Pastiera Napoletana. Pastiera is a traditional pie that is eaten during Easter time that screams Spring. It is traditionally made with pre-soaked wheat grain (pre-soaking wheat grain takes two weeks), but we subbed rice for the wheat and I used Carol Fenster's Basic Pastry Crust for Double-Crust Pies as the crust for the Pastiera. My husband and in-laws couldn't tell the difference between the gluten-free and the traditional Pastiera.
Pastiera Napoletana (Easter Grain Pie)
Ingredients for Crust:
- 1 cup of Carol's Sorghum Blend (35% sorghum flour, 35% potato starch, 30% tapioca flour)
- 3/4 cup of tapioca flour
- 1/2 cup of sweet rice flour
- 3 tablespoons of sugar, divided
- 1 teaspoon of xanthan gum
- 1 teaspoon of guar gum
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 cup of shortening (I used Spectrum)
- 1/2 cup of milk
- 1 teaspoon of vinegar
- 1 egg white beaten with 1 tablespoon water for egg wash
Ingredients for Filling:
- 200 grams of long grain rice (I used American Basmati)
- 1 teaspoon of cornstarch
- 750 grams of milk
- 30 grams of butter
- zest of two lemons
- zest of two oranges
- 500 grams of fresh ricotta
- 300 grams of sugar
- 4 egg yolks
- pinch of cinnamon
- 100 grams of candied citron
- 1 tablespoon of vanilla
- 2 fluid ounces of Orange Blossom Water (purchase at an Italian Specialty store that carries items from Naples)
Directions for Crust:
- Combine Carol's flour blend, tapioca flour, sweet rice flour, 2 tablespoons of the sugar, xanthan gum, guar gum, salt, baking soda, and shortening in a food processor. Mix till crumbly;
- Add milk and vinegar to the processor. Blend until dough forms into a ball. Scrape down sides and blend again;
- Take dough and knead with hands until smooth;
- Shape the dough into two 1 inch thick disks, wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Directions for the Pastiera:
- In a pan, combine the rice, 500 grams of milk, 2 teaspoons of sugar, butter, and the zest of one lemon. Heat up the mixture for 10 to 15 minutes till the rice softens.
- In another pan, heat up the rest of the milk with one teaspoon of orange zest, two whipped egg yolks, 60 grams of sugar, and 1 teaspoon of cornstarch. Keep on low heat till milk sauce is thickened and the sugar and cornstarch is dissolved.
- Blend the fresh ricotta with 200 grams of sugar, 2 egg yolks, 1 tablespoon of vanilla, a pinch of cinnamon, and the rest of the lemon and orange zest. Once mixed, add the candied citron. Fold in the rice and cream mixtures. When mixed add in the orange blossom water.
- Take the two pie dough disks out of the fridge. Massage the disks of dough between your hands until they are warm an pliable. With a rolling pin, roll out one of the disks between two sheets of plastic wrap in a clockwise fashion to a 10 inch diameter;
- Remove the top plastic wrap, invert the crust, and center it on a 9 inch pie pan. Take off the rest of the plastic wrap and press crust into place.
- Pour in the pastiera filling'
- Take the second dough disk, and roll it out between two sheets of plastic wrap to a 10 inch diameter. Cut the dough into 1/2 inch wide strips. Place dough strips in a criss cross pattern on the pie;
- Shape crust edge;
- Brush crust with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar;
- Bake in a 350 oven for 1 hr 3o minutes on the bottom rack and 20 minutes on the top till amber.