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31 March 2010

pastiera napoletana

a treat to get out of this weird state of mind of mine: baking a pie. not a normal pie, but a special one that is a tradition in naples at easter: la pastiera! two particular ingredients make it unique, moisture taken from orange tree blossom and cooked wheat. the result is a yummy tart filled with a cream of ricotta cheese, candid fruit, vanilla extract, minced lemon, milk and eggs baked in a sugary pastry crust.   

a treat for my husband, mainly, as i'm not a big fan of candid fruits, because he misses the yummy traditions of his region. the food of naples, like the city itself, is at its most exuberant at easter, reviving its aristocratic traditions of a rich past. i thought to surprise him by calling his mom and asking her secret recipe. every neapolitan housewife thinks to keep the best recipe ever. my mil is a talented chef, her milleanry experience makes her produce a delicious pastiera. alfonso is still smiling in bed now!

he's not the only one smiling, though.  the reputation of the cake is so famous that it even put a smile on the face of austere maria therese empress of austria, nicknamed 'the queen who never smiles', when she ate a slice of it during one of her visits to naples.

the legend says mermaid partenope, protectress of naples, concoted it from the food offerings the population offered her every spring, so that the cake was the only thing that was sweeter then her voice. more realistically, the nuns living in the monastery of san gregorio armeno, who were excellent cooks for rich families, wanted to create an easter cake that represented the resurrection of chirst and they wanted it to have the same scent of orange trees growing in the convent's gardens. so they added eggs, symbol of new life, to the white ricotta cheese, symbol of purity, mixing them with extracts of wild flowers, which represent the perfume of spring.

life is better with some sweetness in your stomach, isn't it? 


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