Friday, April 6, 2012

Our Italian Easter: Pastiera

I was fortunate enough to marry a nice Italian boy, with strong Italian roots and traditions.  My hubby's father and grandparents came to America in the early 1970s from the old country, and his grandparents learned very little English despite living in the States for over 30 years.  His little Italian grandma, "mom-mom", made huge feasts every Sunday, with homemade pasta, sauce, sausage, and even homemade wine.  I'm terribly disappointed that I never got to meet this wonderful lady, specifically because I wish I could have gotten a good cooking lesson from her!  She was the real deal.

Every year for Easter, mom-mom made my hubby and his family pastiera (pah-stee-air), a traditional Italian Easter dessert.  It's essentially a cake, flavored with vanilla and citrus.  Pastiera recipes vary by region and family, but my hubby's mom-mom made hers with arborio rice and lemon.  I think every family thinks their pastiera is the best, but I will always believe that mom-mom's is the height of perfection.

Mom-Mom's Pastiera
6 eggs
1 cup arborio rice
Zest of two lemons
1 tbsp vanilla
1-1/3 cups sugar
1 lb. ricotta cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook arborio rice according to package instructions.

Aborio rice has big, fluffy, glorious grains.

While rice is cooking, grate lemon zest with a fine grater.  I <3 my Microplane grater.  2 bald lemons will remain.  The interior of the fruit will not be used.

Also, butter your baking dish.  I used a 9"x9" baking dish, but a round cake pan would work great too.

Beat eggs together, then combine with rice, sugar and vanilla.  Then stir in lemon zest.

Add 1/2  of the ricotta cheese. 

Mix well, ensuring that all lumps of ricotta are gone and mixture is smooth.

Mix in the rest of the ricotta cheese, smothing out any lumps.

Pour mixture into the buttered baking dish.

This cake doesn't rise much, so don't worry if the mixture nears the top of the baking dish. 

Bake uncovered for 1-1/2 to 2 hours. 
Check after 1-1/2 hours (it should be completely set and slightly brown on the top).

Voila, Pastiera!

Cover with Press 'n Seal and store in the refrigerator.

I like to serve this slightly warmed with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  You can heat a 2"x 2" square of pastiera for 30 seconds in the microwave and it will come out perfect.  You can eat it cold, too, but I like it warm.

Bonus Round:
After all is said and done, you'll end up with a delicious dessert and two bald lemons.  You can do a few different things with the lemons.  You can juice them and use the juice in another recipe or to keep your apple slices from turning brown.  If you don't need the juice for any other cooking, you can cut slices and freeze them with water in ice cube trays.  These make a great addition to a glass of iced tea or water when guests come over.  (Your guests will be super impressed that you have these on hand, by the way, and think of you as the next coming of Martha Stewart.)   If you don't have ice cube trays, you can also quarter the lemons and grind them up in your garbage disposal.  The citrus juice instantly cleans and refreshes a smelly garbage disposal.  And who doesn't love a fresh disposal??  My husband has no appreciation for this, but I get pretty excited about it.



Lauren said...

That looks delicious!! :-)

Jill said...

Looks wonderful! Plus, I appreciate the citrus freshness of a clean disposal. We do the same thing. Love it!

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Tampa, Florida, United States
I'm a wife, daughter and amazing twin sister. I'm a mom to my adorable dog, Bella. Loves: Shopping, cooking, baking, good grammar and Dave Matthews Band. I'm also a Bath and Body Works addict, a Michigan State Spartans fanatic, and an iPhone aficionado. I see beauty in simple things and little things make me ever-so-happy. Welcome to my world!

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