Pastiera: The Neapolitan Easter Cake

There are many stories about pastiera's origins as there are variations on the recipe for the traditional Easter dessert. Many believe it is derived from the pagan celebrations at the return of Spring, when Ceres' priestess brought an egg to symbolize "new life in procession," but the the modern pastiera, was probably invented in a peaceful and secret Neapolitan convent. An unknown nun wanted that cake, symbol of the Resurection, to have the perfume of the flowers of the orange trees which grew in the convent's gardens. She mixed a handful of wheat to the white ricotta cheese, then she added some eggs, symbol of the new life, some water which had the fragrance of the flowers of the spring time, cider and aromatic Asian spices. We know for certain that the nuns of the ancient convent of San Gregorio Armeno were considered to be genius in the complex preparation of the Pastiera. They used to prepare a great quantity for the rich families during Easter time. Every good Neapolitan housewife considers herself to be the one and only to have either the authentic or the best recipe of the Pastiera. There are two different ways of preparing the Pastiera: the oldest one mixes the ricotta cheese to the eggs; the most recent and innovative one, reccomends to mix thick pastry cream which makes the Pastiera softer. The Pastiera has to be cooked with some days advance, no day later than Maudy Thursday or Maudy Friday, in order to allow the fragrances to mix properly to have as a result that unique taste.

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