There are many versions of the traditional Italian Easter dessert, Pasteria, featuring my favorite ingredient, creamy ricotta. This Neapolitan version uses arborio rice instead of the more traditional wheat berries – both signifying spring and rebirth. This delicious creamy version is like a gourmet rice pudding – the blend of rice, ricotta and cinnamon melt in your mouth and elicits immediate ‘mmmmmmmmm’s’ from the table. Other versions include a flaky crust and there is even a web site just for Pasteria – www.pasteria.it. I decided to try Martha Stewart’s cheesecake-like version of this recipe rather than make a crust as I wanted something lighter to serve alongside the other Easter desserts and breads. I served mine alongside fresh sliced balsamic marinated strawberries but it is truly wonderful on its own. And I am saving a tiny piece for my very own La Pasquetta – or Easter Monday – when the Italians take to the hills for a picnic. (I will post a blog about my own La Pasquetta experience in Sicily on Monday!)
Ricotta Neapolitan Easter Pie: Pasteria
- 1 quart whole milk
- 3/4 cup arborio rice
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
- 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
- Unsalted butter, for pan
- All-purpose flour, for pan
- 3 pounds fresh ricotta cheese, drained 3 hours or preferably overnight
- 3 large whole eggs plus 3 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
- Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
- Bring milk to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in rice, cinnamon, salt, and vanilla bean. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until rice is very tender and has absorbed all liquid, about 30 minutes.
- Remove pan from heat. Stir in 3/4 cup granulated sugar. Cover; let cool, stirring occasionally. Discard vanilla bean.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour an 8-inch springform pan. In a large bowl, combine the rice mixture, ricotta, whole eggs and egg yolks, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Pour into prepared pan. Bake until golden on top and almost set in the center, 65 to 70 minutes; cover with foil if starting to brown too much. (Note: I had to leave mine in for an additional 10 minutes.)
- Transfer pan to a cooling rack.
- When cake has completely cooled, run a knife around edge to loosen. Gently remove ring; transfer cake to a serving platter. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar.