Pastiera (Neapolitan Easter Cake)


Pastiera (Neapolitan Easter Cake)


My mother still makes this cake when I go home to visit. She bakes it on a large sheet pan and cuts it into small, thick squares. She often tucks a piece into a napkin and makes me take it with me when I leave to run an errand...that's an Italian mamma for you... never wanting anyone to go hungry. Even though I usually write recipes that serve two, this is an exception: this will make enough pastiera to feed a crowd! Make some for your neighbors or your extended family - spread the love around...


1 pound angel hair pasta
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
10 eggs
3 cups milk
1 teaspoon orange water
1 teaspoon vanilla

How to Serve:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bring a deep pan of salted water to a boil, and crumble the pasta into the boiling water. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until al dente. Drain the water and add 2 cups of sugar to the hot pasta, stirring well. Let cool; you want the pasta to be cool enough that it doesn't cook the eggs, which you'll add in the next step.

Crack the eggs over the sugary pasta, and use your hands to combine everything together. Add the milk, orange , and vanilla, mixing until an even, soupy mixture is formed.

I like to divide the mixture into a couple of different baking dishes, for variety. You might choose two 9-inch pie pans, or one larger lasagna-type dish plus two small dishes - whatever you'd like. Divide among baking dishes, spreading with a spatula to a depth of about 2 inches.

Bake the cakes for 50 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown. If you have any smaller pans in the oven, watch carefully for signs of darkening around the edges. Turn oven off and let the pans cool in the oven for an additional 15 minutes. When completely cool, about 45 minutes, place a large serving dish over the top of the baking dish and gently turn upside down, letting the cake fall on to the plate; then repeat this by placing another plate atop the cake and turning it again so that the cake will be face up.

This is a very simple, rustic cake. I like to slice it and eat it with my fingers. It makes a great accompaniment to espresso, or fresh fruit, or it makes a great snack when you're on the run!

You may notice that in the picture above, there is a cup with dried fruit and one with toasted walnuts; I was thinking about adding them, but decided to keep the recipe traditional (simple and plain) at the last minute. If you'd like to add nuts or dried fruit, be my guest!

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