Traditionally made for Easter, pastiera is a ricotta pie popular in different parts of Italy. However, it’s most famously a Neapolitan recipe. Like many Italian dishes, there are, of course, variations of pastiera Napoletana. The most well-known is made with cooked wheatberries, ricotta and candied fruit baked in a pie crust. But, in different areas of Naples and Campania, locals also make pastiera with rice or pasta. This Neapolitan ricotta and pasta pie is simpler to make than the wheatberry version, but it’s just as delicious!
A little pastiera Napoletana history.
Although I couldn’t find a reference about the origins of Neapolitan ricotta and pasta pie, pastiera with wheatberries has a long and ancient history. There is a legend about some fishermen who were stuck at sea because of a sudden storm. Once they managed to return to land, people asked them how they had been able to manage for such a long time. They replied that they had been able to eat ‘Pasta di Ieri’ (yesterday’s pasta) made with ricotta, eggs, wheat and herbs! Hence the name pastiera!
Irrespective of whether the fisherman story is true, it is a fact that Neapolitan pastiera dates back to the 1600s. The first written recipe was published in 1693 in the cookbook Lo Scalco alla Moderna (the modern steward) by Antonio Latini. Latini was steward to Don Stefano Carrillo, first minister to the Spanish Viceroy of Naples.
The recipe for pastiera in Latini’s book was different to the one traditional today. It included parmigiano cheese, pistachios and pistachio milk with everything wrapped in a marzipan paste. What is considered the real original recipe is the one from the convent of San Gregorio Armeno in the historical centre of Naples.
Apparently, the nuns who lived there wanted to make a cake that could combine some of the most symbolic ingredients of the Easter period, first and foremost eggs, which represent rebirth in Christian symbolism. The pastiera made at the convent became famous. The nuns prepared large quantities during Holy Week offering the cakes to Neapolitan noble families.
Versions of Neopolitan ricotta and pasta pie.
There are actually a few different versions of Easter pie with pasta. Known as ‘pastiera ‘e ferellini’ in the local dialect, one version comes from the towns of Torre Annuziata and Torre del Greco situated on the coast of the Bay of Naples between Naples and Pompei. This recipe calls for dried angel hair pasta.
These two municipalities are pretty close to Gragnano, where some of the best dried pasta in Italy has been made for over 500 years. Although not a verifiable fact, I read that the use of pasta in this pastiera is likely connected to the fact that pasta is such an important local product.
The recipe below is for another type of pastiera with pasta known as pastiera with tagliolini or pastiera di Mondragone. Mondragone is a coastal town northwest of Naples. There they usually make this Easter pie with homemade tagliolini pasta. I used nests of very fine dried tagliolini. You could also use angel hair pasta.
Other ingredients in this pastiera with pasta.
Pastiera with pasta can be made with ricotta or without. However, I think ricotta is a traditional pastiera ingredient and decided to include it. Rice pastiera usually has ricotta in it too. It also calls for a pie crust but recipes for the pasta version don’t always include pastry. I didn’t. Mostly because I wanted to make the simplest and easiest version of this classic Neapolitan Easter dessert.
Apart from the pasta and ricotta, all you need is eggs, milk, butter, cinnamon, vanilla, orange blossom water and orange and lemon zest.
How to make pastiera with tagliolini.
This recipe is super easy to make. First, cook the pasta very slightly less than al dente. Then drain it well and put it in a bowl with the butter and mix well. Once the pasta has cooled a little add the milk and mix again. Blend or mash the ricotta with the sugar and the vanilla, cinnamon and other aromas. Then add the eggs a little at a time. Mix everything together before incorporating the ricotta mixture into the pasta and milk.
Finally grease a 23 cm (9in) round, square or rectangular cake pan, sprinkle it with a little sugar and add the pasta mixture. Cook your pasta pastiera in a preheated oven at 180°c for about 40-45 minutes. The top should turn a golden-brown in colour. Let your pie cool and then sprinkle with a little icing sugar, slice and serve.
Let me know what you think!
Although this Neapolitan ricotta and pasta pie is traditionally an Easter recipe, I think it is perfect for any occasion. As a rather unusual dessert option pastiera with pasta will wow your guests. It’s full of unique Southern Italian dessert flavours that all the family will love!
If you try this Neapolitan ricotta and pasta pie recipe, do please let me know what you think by commenting here on the blog or on The Pasta Project Facebook page. Your feedback is much appreciated!
Other sweet pasta recipes to try.
- Chocolate and walnut sweet pasta pie
- Fig and prune cjarsons from Friuli Venezia Giulia
- Cinnamon butter gnocchi from Veneto
- Easter ravioli from Le Marche
More tagliolini recipes you will like.
WANT TO SAVE THIS RECIPE FOR LATER?
You can bookmark this page, print this recipe or pin it for later.
Want to know more about my life in Italy? Why not subscribe to my newsletter? New subscribers get a free series of recipe e-books too!
Neapolitan Ricotta and Pasta Pie (pastiera Napoletana)
- 23 cm (9in) round, square or rectangular (9×13) cake pan
- 250 g tagliolini (9oz) or angel hair pasta
- 100 g fine sugar (3.5oz) or icing sugar
- 200 g fresh ricotta (7oz) cow's milk or sheep's milk ricotta
- 150 g fresh milk (6floz)
- 5 eggs medium sized
- 1 knob butter 1.5 tbsp
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 vial orange blossom water
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 1 tsp orange zest
- Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until very slightly less than al dente. Then drain it well and put it in a bowl with the butter and mix well. Once the pasta has cooled a little add the milk and mix again.
- Blend or cream the ricotta with the sugar, the vanilla, cinnamon and other aromas. Add the eggs a little a a time. Mix everything together well.
- Incorporate the ricotta mixture into the pasta and milk.
- Finally grease a 23 cm (9in) round, square or rectangular cake pan, sprinkle it with a little sugar and add the pasta mixture. Cook your pasta pastiera in a preheated oven at 180°c (360°f) for about 40-45 minutes. The top should turn a golden-brown in colour. Test for doneness by inserting a knife into the pie. If it comes out clean, remove the pastiera from the oven.
- Let your pie cool and then sprinkle with a little icing sugar (optional), slice and serve.
If you are interested in learning how to make homemade pasta and different types of gnocchi, check out my shop page for some great video online courses from my friends in Rome! Nothing beats learning to make pasta from Italians! Plus while you’re there why not order a copy of one of my pasta recipe cookbooks or checkout some recommended pasta making tools?
Orange blossom water? Where might one get that and why is it not mentioned?
Hi Jaik, orange blossom water is made from the petals of bitter orange blossoms. It’s popular in Middle Eastern and French cuisine. You may find it online. But if you can’t, you can leave it out and use more orange zest or use orange oil instead (just a couple of drops as more concentrated).
Sabrina Borda says
This is a fantastic idea!!
Thank you! Hope you will try this version of pastiera. It’s super easy and so delicious!
Did you mean Atripalda? a city near Avellino?
My grandmother (family from Naples) also used to make a savory one. Bucatini, eggs, ricotta, mozzarella, raisins, and pignoli nuts, s&p. She called it muliach (not sure how it’s spelled but sounds like mool-yah-ch). I could never find an actual recipe for it. None of my Italian peeps have ever heard of it. I still make it but no one else appreciates it as much as I do.
Fran saltarelli says
My family is from a trip Alda. At Easter we make a savory baked pasta with bucatini, eggs, ricotta and years ago bits of lard and lots of Black pepper. I don’t know what it’s called, but it’s delicious. It is baked and looks similar to your baked pasts
Susan Pallozzi says
My family calls this meach made with perciatelli by Ronzoni. I have been looking for the recipe for years. Thank u. I will try it this weekend.
Hi Susan, thanks for your comment! I didn’t quite undrstand the name your family gives to this recipe, but please do let me know if it’s the recipe you have been looking for or if there’s something different! All the best from Verona.
My parents are from Mondragone and pastiera with tagliolini is something we look forward to all year. We don’t use ricotta but do have a sweet crust with lattice top. Then my mother takes all the crust scraps and baked them into a cake. Slightly sweet, dry as a bone but oh so good with coffee. Waste nothing thanks for bringing this recipe to light for the masses!
Joanne Nigro-Nilsen says
I am preparing my notes for my radio show Ciao on WCNY Classic FM here in Syracuse, NY. It’s primarily a music show but, of course, we frequently talk about food! I will refer to your website and maybe this week even try this recipe. My grandparents were all from the Naples/Salerno area and made the traditional Pastiera. My mother and aunts all used the rice. Last year I used Arborio rice, no crust. This recipe is intriguing. Thank you for posting.
Hi Joanne, thank you for your comment. And, thank you so much for planning to mention my blog on your radio show. I’m sure you’ll love this pasta pastiera. I’ve made it a number of times and it’s always delicious. In fact, I’ll be amking it again for our Easter lunch. Do let me know how yours turns out when you make it. All the best from Verona.
I’m hoping you can help me…my parents were from Caserta, and also made the pastiera with rice, and without a crust.
I would be forever grateful if you had a recipe to share. Both of parents have now passed, and no one I speak to about this dessert knows what I’m talking about. Thank you I’m advance.
Anindya Sundar Basu says
Again your blogpost throws up some new recipe of Pasta and I am bookmarking all the recipes to be made someday. Thanks for sharing the recipe.
Moop Brown says
This pasta looks super thick and textured, definitely seems like something everyone will enjoy.
Stine Mari says
I love how easy this is to make! It was very delicious and will make again for Easter. I didn’t know exactly why eggs were the symbol of Easter, that was an interesting read.
Lori | The Kitchen Whisperer says
Marrying into an Italian family I’m always looking for different ways to make it. This looks amazing!