Easter pie (pastiera) is found all over Italy, but its origins are Neapolitan. Tender pasta frolla pastry pies filled with fresh ricotta cheese and rice, sweetened with sugar, were made in batches, wrapped in clear cellophane, and given away as Easter gifts.
Many variations of this classic have survived; some use wheatberries or orzo (tiny pasta) in place of rice, but my favorite still remains the one from home, made with long-grain rice.
by Frank LaMark – PrimoItalians.blog
Italian Ricotta and Rice Pie by PrimoItalians.com
- 2 cups Unbleached, All-Purpose Flour
- 1 cup cake flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
- 1 X-Large egg (slightly beaten) plus 1 egg yolk
- 5-6 tablespoons ice water
- 2 tablespoons turbinado or raw sugar
- 1 cup wheat berries, or 1 cup long-grain rice, or 1 cup Arborio rice
- 2 cups whole milk
- 3 inch piece vanilla bean, slit lengthwise
- 1 pound ricotta cheese, well drained
- 3 LG eggs
- 1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
- 2 tablespoons grated orange zest
- 1 cups sugar
- 1 tablespoons vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
- Lightly spray a 10 1/2 x —1-inch tart pan with removable bottom with butter spray. Set aside.To prepare the dough, mix the all-purpose and cake flours, salt, and sugar in a food processor or bowl. Add the butter to the flour mixture and pulse to blend if using a food processor, or use a pastry blender or fork to blend the ingredients by hand. Add the whole egg and enough ice water to make a dough that is soft and not dry. Do not overmix or the dough will be tough. Gather the dough into a ball and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. Chill the dough for 30 minutes.To prepare the filling, pour the wheat berries or rice and milk into a 1-quart saucepan, scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the saucepan with a small knife, cover, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low and continue cooking until all the milk is absorbed. This will take about 10 minutes. Let cool.In a large bowl, beat the ricotta cheese, eggs, orange juice and zest, and sugar until smooth. Stir in the vanilla extract and cinnamon. Fold in the cooled wheat berries or rice. Set the mixture aside.Preheat the oven to 375ºF.Divide the dough in half. Roll each half on a lightly floured surface into a 14-inch circle. Line the tart shell with one rolled-out half and trim the edges even with the top sides of the tart pan.Fill the tart shell with the ricotta filling. There will be a little of the filling left over. This can be baked separately in a small ovenproof dish or in small ramekins.Carefully roll the second sheet of dough loosely over the rolling pin and unroll it over the top of the filled tart. Trim off the excess dough, making sure the edges are sealed. Use the leftover dough to make a decorative pattern on top of the tart. I use a small rabbit cutter to make cutouts for the top.Brush the tart with the egg yolk and sprinkle the turbinado sugar evenly over the top.Bake in the middle of the oven for 40 to 50 minutes or until the top is golden brown and a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the center of the tart.Cool the tart on a rack, then carefully remove the sides of the tart pan and place the tart on a decorative serving dish. Cut into wedges to serve. Chocolate Chips Optional.