Neapolitan Easter Pie

Neapolitan Easter pie
Photo: Johnny Miller
1 10-inch pie

The wheat berries in this Italian grain pie, known as pastiera, are fitting for the Easter holiday, as they symbolize rebirth and renewal. The grains get soaked in water overnight before they are cooked in milk. Afterward, they are mixed with ricotta cheese and pastry cream to make an exceptionally delicious filling.


Vanilla Pastry Cream

  • 2 cups milk

  • 1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise and seeds scraped (or 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract; omit step 1 if using)

  • 4 large egg yolks

  • ½ cup sugar

  • ¼ cup cornstarch


  • 5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

  • Pinch of kosher salt

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

  • 1 cup sugar

  • Finely grated zest of 1 orange

  • 3 large eggs


  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons spring wheat berries (4 ounces)

  • 2 cups milk

  • 1 cup water

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • Pinch of kosher salt

  • 1 ⅓ cups (12 ounces) ricotta

  • ¾ cup sugar

  • 1 large egg, for egg wash


  1. Vanilla Pastry Cream:

    Bring milk and vanilla seeds and pod to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Remove from heat. Cover; let stand 20 minutes.

  2. In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks until smooth. In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch. Gradually add milk mixture in a slow, steady stream and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and begins to bubble, about 5 minutes.

  3. Whisking constantly, slowly pour one-third of milk mixture into egg yolks. Pour mixture into remaining milk in saucepan. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until mixture comes to a full boil and is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 2 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat.

  4. Strain mixture through a fine sieve into a heatproof bowl; discard solids. Cover with parchment or plastic wrap, pressing directly on surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until well chilled and firm, at least 2 hours or up to 2 days. Whisk to soften slightly just before using.

  5. Crust:

    In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in orange zest. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is fully incorporated. Reduce speed to low, and beat in flour mixture.

  6. Divide dough into 2 disks, one larger (approximately two-thirds of dough) and one smaller. Press each piece into a disk; wrap in plastic and refrigerate 1 hour or up to 1 day.

  7. Filling:

    Place wheat berries in a medium bowl. Add enough water to cover by 2 inches. Refrigerate overnight.

  8. Drain wheat berries, and transfer to a medium saucepan with milk, water, butter, and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, and cook until tender, about 1 hour. Drain, and spread on a baking sheet. Let cool about 30 minutes.

  9. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, stir together ricotta and sugar. Add cooled wheat berries and pastry cream. Stir to combine.

  10. On a lightly floured surface, roll out larger piece of dough to a 14-inch round, about 1/8 inch thick. Fit into a 10-by-2-inch springform pan. Pour filling into shell. Trim excess dough to 1/2 inch above filling. Roll out remaining piece of dough, 1/8 inch thick. With a pastry wheel, cut into twelve 3/4-inch strips. Weave strips into a lattice over filling; trim lattice flush with edge of dough.

  11. Lightly beat egg and brush evenly over top of pie. Bake until crust is golden and filling is bubbling, 60 to 90 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, and let cool 20 minutes. Run a sharp knife around edge to gently loosen pie. Remove outer ring from springform pan. Let pie cool completely. Serve.

Cook's Notes

John Barricelli, an excellent baker and a longtime friend of Martha's, learned to make this pie from his grandfather. The recipe appears in our book, " Martha Stewart's New Pies and Tarts."

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