Wheat Pie for Easter is a Neopolitan tradition. There are different legends about why. Some say the wheat represents the Resurrection. Others believe it stems from the much-anticipated arrival of a grain ship during a famine. I suppose both could be true.
It’s a rich, fruity, creamy pie. It’s a lot of work–and a lot of carbs. But it lasts a few days; a small piece is very filling, and it’s only once a year.
Notes on Ingredients for
Easter Wheat Pie
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Pasta frolla is the basic pastry dough for Italian baking. My (grand-mother’s) recipe is here. You can use regular American dough if you prefer, but pasta frolla is sweeter and fruitier and suits Easter wheat pie better. You can freeze it ahead of time and thaw it in the fridge overnight. The traditional top crust for Easter wheat pie is a diagonal criss-cross, but you can make a perpendicular lattice if you prefer. I use a fluted pastry cutter, but a straight pizza wheel is fine.
Use the best ricotta you can find and afford. Some options:
- Making your own ricotta is surprisingly quick and easy. Just be sure to drain it thoroughly. I drain mine overnight in the fridge for Easter wheat pie.
- If you have a good Italian salumeria nearby, you can find fresh ricotta there.
- The best pre-packaged ricotta I know is from Salvatore Bklyn. If you live on the Eastern seaboard between southern Connecticut and northern Virginia, you may be able to order it from FreshDirect. It’s pricey, but it’s a very dry ricotta, so it will save you draining time.
- The best brick-and-mortar grocery-store ricotta I’ve found is Bel Gioioso. My local Wegmans carries it, and you might be able to order it via Instacart.
Wheat berries are whole wheat kernels. They come hard or soft, red or white. Use the soft, white ones for Easter wheat pie. They can be pricey, but I’ve found decent ones on Amazon. (And you can get 5 percent cash back if you use an Amazon credit card.)
Alternatively, there is jarred wheat marketed specifically for Easter wheat pie. It is called Grano Cotto per Pasteria (cooked grains for pasteria, what Neopolitans call Easter wheat pie). You can find it at an Italian market or on Amazon.
Citron is a large, dry citrus fruit with a very thick rind. Both candied citron peel and candied orange peel are available via Amazon, if you can’t find them at your local grocery store.
Also called orange blossom water or orange floral water, it is distilled from orange blossoms and has a very light floral flavor. If you have a Middle Eastern market nearby, you can probably find some there. Otherwise, Nielsen Massey makes a good one; it’s pricey, but a bottle keeps for several years.
I was lucky enough to know one of my Italian great-grandmothers, my French-Canadian great-grandmother, and both my grandmothers, as well as my mother. Now that they’re all gone, it has been a wonderful project to make again the recipes they’ve left behind. It makes me feel close to them again, and like I’m keeping part of them alive. So far, none of their recipes has provided the scavenger-hunt for ingredients of Easter wheat pie. But it’s worth it. I hope you think so too.
Easter Wheat Pie
- pasta frolla I like to use orange instead of lemon zest when making Easter pie.
- 1/2 c. soft white wheat berries, cooked, drained, cooled Follow package directions to cook wheat. If no package directions: Soak wheat berries overnight or up to three days. Drain. Place wheat berries, 4 c. water, and ½ tsp salt in med. pot; bring to boil; reduce heat to simmer; cover; cook until soft., approx. 90-120 min.
- 1 lb ricotta, well drained
- 1½ c. sugar
- 3 eggs, separated
- ½ c. milk, boiled and cooled
- 2 tbsp finely chopped candied orange peel
- 2 tbsp finely chopped candied citron peel
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tbsp orange water
- powdered sugar, for dusting
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Blend ricotta, sugar, and egg yolks in lg bowl. Beat egg whites and blend in to ricotta mixture. Add milk, wheat, candied peels, cinnamon, and orange water. Blend thoroughly.
Divide pasta frolla in slightly unequal portions. On lightly floured board, roll out lg portion from center, keeping in circular shape, until dough is approx. 1/8" thick. Transfer to 9½" deep-dish pie plate. Fill pie plate w/ ricotta mixture. Roll out remaining pasta frolla. Cut into 1/2"-3/4" strips. Make criss-cross top. Crimp edges together and trim off extra dough.
Bake at 350 F until filling is firm and golden, approx. 90 min. Remove from oven. Let cool. Dust w/ powdered sugar as desired before serving. Pie should keep 3-4 days in fridge.