Easter Wheat Pie (Pastiera Napoletana di Grano)

It wouldn't be Easter in Italy without this classic sweet ricotta and grain pie.

By Cooking With Nonna

Sometimes called Easter Grain Pie, this Italian dish is a holiday tradition, especially in the southern part of the country. The wheat-based crust is symbolic of springtime, and is filled with a sweet ricotta before it's baked. From the online series Cooking With Nonna, this version includes small pieces of candied fruit, sure to appeal to kids.

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Ingredients:

For the Filling:
1/2 pound wheat berries or hulled wheat (from soft wheat)
8 large eggs, separated
3 pounds ricotta cheese
2 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
Candied fruit pieces (optional)

For the Pastry Dough:
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
6 large eggs
Pinch salt
1 lemon, zested
5 tablespoons vegetable shortening

Directions:
To prepare wheat for the filling:
Rinse hulled wheat with water and place in a large bowl. Add enough cold water to cover and let soak overnight in the refrigerator. Drain the wheat and place in a saucepan with enough cold water to cover. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 20 to 30 minutes, until tender. Cool completely for use in the recipe.

1. In a large bowl, beat 8 egg yolks. (Set egg whites aside in a separate bowl for later.) Add ricotta, wheat, and sugar. Mix until well incorporated. Add vanilla and candied fruit pieces and mix well. Beat egg whites until fluffy and foamy and fold into ricotta mixture.

2. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, 6 eggs, pinch of salt, and lemon zest. Knead until a dough is formed.

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease baking pans with shortening and set aside. Cut a piece of the dough, according to the size of the pan, and roll it out with a rolling pin. The dough should not be too thick. Lay dough into the greased baking pan. Fill the pan with the ricotta mixture.

4. For the top crust, cut another smaller piece of dough and roll very thin. Cut this into strips and place across top of pie, in a criss-cross pattern. Press the dough edges together with a fork, like a pie.

5. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.

Serves 6

Adapted with permission from CookingwithNonna.com.

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