Pastiera Napoletana and its Secrets – Authentic Neapolitan Ricotta and Wheat Berry Easter Pie Step-by-Step

Pastiera Napoletana is one of the most delicious Neapolitan cake known for its crispy crust and its insanely addictive perfumed filling that is rich and soft like a cheesecake – thanks to ricotta – but grainy like a rice pudding – thanks to whole wheat berries – simply amazing!


pastiera napoletana best neapolitan ricotta wheat berrye aster pie cake

Pastiera (pron. Puhss-tee-A-ruh) is a classic Easter pie, especially in Naples area, and is usually made on spring time but nowadays you can find it in restaurants or pastry shops all year around.

This cake – dated back to the ‘700 in Gregorio Armeno convent in Naples – is easy to make especially if you follow my instructions (and secrets) step by step although it takes time and planning – the most dedicated of pastiera bakers insist that it should take at least 3 days to make it (from Maundy Thursday to Holy Saturday) – but there really isn’t much “work time” – just more “wait time” and the end result is well worth every minute you spend on it, trust me!

Today’s post isn’t just a recipe. It’s a lesson.
And I’ve really made some effort to keep this post from being too long, but I really want you to make this, so I’m guiding you through every single visual-step with photos so you know exactly what you are doing.

You’re not convinced to make it yet, right?

I really want you to challenge yourself and making this pie that tastes SO UNBELIEVABLY GOOD from scratch and of course even for the pleasure of making something remarkable, traditional and timeless.

Do you really want to miss this beauty???

pastiera authentic italian ricotta berry pie cake

No, you don’t, right? So let’s keep reading this TO-DIE-FOR recipe and I promise you’ll be so amazed by this pie that even a Neapolitan wouldn’t believe you made it. – Yes, you read that right.
By making this pie you may say you’re italian and you will fool even an italian – on condition that you won’t let your english accent to be heard, of course!

I searched and tested several recipes before finding THE ONE. Every family has their own recipe and along the italian boot you can find millions of variations. The latest (newest) ways of preparing pastiera is by using custard (instead of just eggs) to make the filling softer and wetter, but I’m not in favor of that, it would change too much the tradition and you know how much I love keeping heritage alive! And BTW, if you do in the right way the classic recipe you still have a soft and moist filling.
(10/04/2015 update: in all Penisola Sorrentina, not in Naples, it’s tradition to use pastry cream in the Pastiera filling, this dated back to about 100+ years.)

What I did is finding the most traditional homestyle recipe and adapting it to a modern palate. The result is a comfort and tasty pie crust (called “pasta frolla” in italian) filled with whole wheat berries cooked in milk, half “creamied up” with a mixer for a softer consistency – so you don’t have a too crunchy and crumbly texture – mixed with ricotta, eggs, sugar, candied citron, a mix of spices and the typical “springy” scent of orange blossom.

Pastiera Napoletana – Authentic Neapolitan Ricotta and Wheat Berry Easter Pie

Difficulty: medium
Preparation: 1 1/2 hour = 20 minutes for the Pie Crust + 60 minutes for the filling
Cooking Time: 90 minutes
Yield: 12-16 servings (one 30cm / 12inch ø pie or two 22cm / 9inch ø pies)

INGREDIENTS:

Pie Crust or “Pasta Frolla”

  • 500 gr / 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 200 gr / 7 oz / 2 sticks lard/butter at room temperature (tradition says lard for longer shelf life)
  • 200 gr / 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 1 yolk
  • 1 lemon zest (only the yellow part of the lemon, not the bitter white one)

Ricotta and Wheat Berry filling

  • 550 gr / 1.2 lbs cooked wheat berries* (“cooked grain” or “grano cotto“)
  • 400 ml / 1+3/4 cups whole cow’s milk
  • 40 gr / 3 tbsp butter
  • a pinch of salt
  • 600 gr / 1.4 lbs sheeps’s ricotta (or at least a mix with cow)
  • 500 gr to 600 gr / 2 to 2.5 cups granulated sugar (I use 500 gr –  ≈ 2 full cups)
  • 7 medium eggs
  • 1 orange zest or 5-8 drops of pure Sweet Orange essential oil (organic!!!)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional)
  • seeds from 1 vanilla bean or 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
  • 3-4 tbsp orange blossom water or 4 gr orange blossom flavouring or 8-10 drops of pure Neroli essential oil (organic)
  • 70 gr / 1/2 cup chopped candied citron** – I don’t recommend getting the waxy, artificially coloured stuff…

Garnish

  • powdered sugar / icing sugar

cooked wheat berriesif you cannot find cooked wheat berries: put 200 gr / 7 oz uncooked wheat berries in a bowl covered with water for 3 days – changing water twice a day to clean them. Drain and rinse under cold water then simmer for about 1 1/2 hours without stirring, until soft. Drain and reserve until needed (cooked wheat berries can be stored in the fridge for a week).

** if you don’t like eating chopped candied fruits just leave them out or mix them along with half wheat berries. I prefer the latter because the taste of candied fruits give a boost to the pie and you won’t feel their presence.

INSTRUCTIONS

DAY 1 (Maundy Thursday) – 30 minutes

In a heavy bottomed saucepan place the cooked wheat berries with butter, milk and a pinch of salt over medium heat, stirring occasionally (to avoid the berries from sticking onto the bottom of the pan) until it becomes thick and creamy like oatmeal, about 30 minutes.
Let it cool then place in a cool and dry place covered (OUTSIDE the fridge) for about 12 hours.

wheat berry milk butter

(I used a Thermo mixer that helped me in the cooking)

wheat berry milk

(I used a Thermo mixer that helped me in the cooking)

In the meanwhile, mix well ricotta with sugar.

ricotta sugar

Place this creamy mixture in a clean* cotton cloth and store in the fridge for about 12 hours (*do not use fabric softener on the cloth!).
That’s the SECRET that neapolitan grandmothers always used to do to drain ricotta from water. (IMPORTANT STEP)

ricotta inside cloth ricotta enclosed cloth

DAY 2 (Good Friday) – 50 minutes

To make the Pie Crust

Place in a bowl flour, sugar, butter/lard and lemon zest and combine with a fork or a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse meal – you can do this by using a food processor for about 15 seconds.

pie crust ingredients lard butter lemon zest pastry blender cutter butter flour

Add 3 medium eggs and 1 yolk and mix JUST until the dough is uniform and holds together.

pie crust dough orange eggs

Turn the dough onto your work surface and gather into a ball. Divide the dough into two pieces one larger than the other.

pie dough ball cut

Cover both with plastic wrap and refrigerate before using (this will chill the butter and relax the gluten in the flour) – you can do this passage on DAY 1 if you want.

pie crust balls plastic wrap

To make the filling

Remove ricotta from the cloth and put it in a bowl.
It should look dry like that.

dry ricotta cotton cloth pastiera secret

Add eggs, cinnamon (optional), vanilla and orange blossom flavouring and stir until all is mixed well – do not over beat! – freshly beaten eggs will make the filling rise while cooking then sink when cooled, presenting a hollow and some cracking on top and you don’t want that, right?

ricotta orange eggs vanilla cinnamon mixed ricotta eggs pastiera pie

In a mixer, blend half the amout of wheat berries – this will ensure a creamier filling. As I said before, if you don’t like eating pieces of candied citron you can blend them now with wheat berries – but tradition says to use them whole.

blender wheat berries candied citron wheat berry

Add wheat berries (whole and mixed) to the (yellow) ricotta mixture along with finely chopped candied citron if you don’t have mixed it before.

To make Pastiera Napoletana

Preheat the oven to 325° F (165° C – gas mark 3) and place oven rack in the center of the oven.

Remove the larger pie dough from the fridge and place it on a wax/baking paper.

Put another wax/baking paper over the dough – to prevent the pastry from sticking to the rolling pin and to ensure uniform thickness – and roll the pastry into a 14 inch (36 cm) circle – about 1/8 – 1/4 inch (0,3 – 0,5 cm) thick.

pie crust rolling pin easy rolled pie crust baking paper

Gently remove the first wax/baking paper and transfer the dough to a 12 inch (30cm) greased springform pan (you can leave the second baking paper, your choice).

remove baking paper rolled pie crust

rolled pasta frolla pie crust pastiera pan pie crust pasta frolla pan

Make sure that the height of the edge has to be 2.5 inch (6 cm) – if the pie is shorter pastiera would be drier while if it’s taller pastiera would be too moist, so that’s the best height for a good pastiera.

holes pie crust pan pasta frolla

Poke holes with a toothpick or a fork all over the pie. This will prevent air pockets during the cooking.

Put the filling onto the pastry base.

filling pie crust pastiera

Remove from the fridge the remaining dough ball and roll out the pastry using the wax/baking paper method used before.

With a pastry wheel cut 5 long strips 1.5 inch (4cm) wide (this width is a peculiarity of pastiera) – usually narrower strips are used for fruit tarts.

If room temperature is a bit hot and it’s messing up the working of the pastry dough, you can help to chill the dough by putting some ice bags on it, before removing the baking paper.

pie crust ice

Using an offset spatula, gently transfer the strips to the pie: lay them across the top of the pie to form a criss cross diamond pattern (not square) (2 strips under and 3 over).

pie crust pasta frolla strips

Trim the edges of the strips to fit the pan then lightly press the pastry around the edges to seal.

Now, if you want, you can brush the pastry gently with some egg wash (whisk one egg with 1tbsp milk or cream) to make it shiny like those pastieras sold in bakeries.

Bake Pastiera for about 90 minutes at 325°F (165°C – gas mark 3) until the crust is golden and the filling is amber-brown on top.

It’s important, though, not to open the oven door while it’s baking (or at least for the first 45 minutes) as the batter may collapse.

The long cooking time at low temperature allow pastiera to cook evenly and to remain lightly moist inside – this will also ensure a longer shelf life.

When Pastiera is baked, turn off the oven, open the oven door and leave the pie in the turned off oven for about 15 minutes.

When it’s cooled, store Pastiera in its pan covered with plastic wrap in a cool place (room temperature), DO NOT refrigerate (if you’re not living in the caribbean of course).

pastiera out oven easter

Try with all your self control to wait until 2 days before eating a slice.

DAY 3 (Holy Saturday)

Wait…. I know, waiting is torture. Pure torture.
But if you can wait, this delicious “springy” parfumed pie is even more flavourful and moist on day 3 or 4 – heavenly I say.
It takes A LOT of willpower, so ummm… you definitely don’t have to wait…. but resting time allow flavours and spices to mingle nicely, so have a try….

DAY 4 (Easter)

Dust neapolitan pastiera with a bit of powdered sugar and…… here it is, the Majesty Queen Pastiera Napoletana ready to be devoured!

pastiera napoletana best ricotta easter pie

Pastiera can be stored at room temperature (covered with plastic wrap) for about 5 days, although I have never had one last that long.

neapolitan pastiera easter pie

You can even freeze it and when you want to eat it just thaw the pie out (or a slice) and leave it – well covered – at room temperature (do not microwave). It will be like fresh-made.

pastiera authentic italian ricotta berry pie cake

Pastiera Napoletana pie is totally not bikini friendly, I know, but totally worth every bite and BTW your mind would be so grateful, this is what’s really important (at least make it once a year!). And as I always say, let’s put us on a diet tomorrow, not today!

best pastiera italian pie closeup

MORE TECHNICAL INFORMATION FOR PASTIERA EXPERTS:

If you follow the recipe above, you’ll turn out to have a perfect Pastiera but if you want to make some changes you need to know several things to help you out.

You need to balance liquids and solids to obtain good results so:

  • if ricotta is too wet you need to use drier wheat berries (they need to have absorbed all the liquid when cooked in milk);
  • if ricotta is dry you need to use creamy wheat berries (not overcooked in milk);
  • the batter needs to be creamy (a bit thick) – if it’s too liquid you need to add eggs – so, when cooked, they create a retaining structure and the pie won’t droop in the middle.

authentic italian ricotta pie naples Other related recipes you may like:

best italian cheesecake ricotta mascarpone fluffy soft Authentic Italian Cheesecake (Torta di Ricotta e Mascarpone)

authentic gelatin-free panna cotta best perfect italian Piedmont Authentic Gelatin-Free Panna Cotta

tenerina pie cake best italian ferrara chocolate tender heart Tenerina: tender, rich and delicate chocolate pie

Pastiera Napoletana and its Secrets - Authentic Neapolitan Ricotta and Wheat Berry Easter Pie
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Pastiera Napoletana is one of the most delicious "springy" Neapolitan cake known for its crispy crust and its insanely addictive perfumed filling that is rich and soft but grainy like a rice pudding, simply amazing! - Please read through the recipe in full before beginning.
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 12-16
Ingredients
Pie Crust or "Pasta Frolla"
  • 500 gr / 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 200 gr / 7 oz / 2 sticks lard/butter at room temperature (traditions says lard for longer shelf life)
  • 200 gr / 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 1 yolk
  • 1 lemon zest (only the yellow part of the lemon, not the bitter white part)
Ricotta and Wheat Berry filling
  • 550 gr / 1.2 lbs cooked wheat berries
  • 400 ml / 1+3/4 cups whole cow's milk
  • 40 gr / 3 tbsp butter
  • a pinch of salt
  • --
  • 600 gr / 1.4lbs sheep's ricotta
  • 500 gr to 600 gr / 2 to 2.5 cups granulated sugar (I use 500 gr - ≈ 2 full cups)
  • --
  • 7 medium eggs
  • 1 orange zest or 5-8 drops of pure Sweet Orange essential oil (organic)
  • ½ tsp cinnamon (optional)
  • seeds from 1 vanilla bean or 1½ tsp pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
  • 3-4 tbsp orange blossom water or 4 gr orange blossom flavouring or 6-8 drops of pure Neroli essential oil (organic)
  • 70 gr / ½ cup chopped candied citron
Garnish
  • Powdered sugar
Instructions
DAY 1 (Maundy Thursday) - 30 minutes
  1. In a heavy bottomed saucepan place the cooked wheat berries with butter, milk and a pinch of salt over medium heat, stirring occasionally (to avoid the berries from sticking onto the bottom of the pan) until it becomes thick and creamy like oatmeal, about 30 minutes.
  2. Let it cool then place in a cool and dry place covered (OUTSIDE the fridge) for about 12 hours.
  3. In the meanwhile, mix ricotta with sugar. Place this creamy mixture in a clean* cotton cloth and store in the fridge for about 12 hours (*do not use fabric softener on the cloth!). (IMPORTANT STEP)
DAY 2 (Good Friday) - 50 minutes
To make the Pie Crust
  1. Place in a bowl flour, sugar, butter/lard and lemon zest and combine with a fork or a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse meal - you can do this by using a food processor for about 15 seconds.
  2. Add 3 medium eggs and 1 yolk and mix JUST until the dough is uniform and holds together.
  3. Turn the dough onto your work surface and gather into a ball.
  4. Divide the dough into two pieces one larger than the other. Cover both with plastic wrap and refrigerate before using (this will chill the butter and relax the gluten in the flour) - you can do this passage on DAY 1 if you want.
To make the filling
  1. Remove ricotta from the cloth and put it in a bowl.
  2. Add eggs, cinnamon (optional), vanilla and orange blossom flavouring and stir until all is mixed well - do not over beat!
  3. In a mixer, blend half the amout of wheat berries (and citron if you like) - this will ensure a creamier filling.
  4. Add wheat berries (whole and mixed) to the ricotta mixture along with finely chopped candied citron if you don't have mixed it before.
To make Pastiera Napoletana
  1. Preheat the oven to 325° F (165° C - gas mark 3) and place oven rack in the center of the oven.
  2. Remove the larger pie dough from the fridge and place it on a wax/baking paper.
  3. Put another wax/baking paper over the dough - to prevent the pastry from sticking to the rolling pin and to ensure uniform thickness - and roll the pastry into a 14 inch (36 cm) circle - about ⅛ - ¼ inch (0,3 - 0,5 cm) thick.
  4. Gently remove the first wax/baking paper and transfer the dough to a 12 inch (30cm) greased springform pan (you can leave the second baking paper, your choice).
  5. Make sure that the height of the edge has to be 2.5 inch (6 cm).
  6. Poke holes with a toothpick or a fork all over the pie. This will prevent air pockets during the cooking.
  7. Put the filling onto the pastry base.
  8. Remove from the fridge the remaining dough ball and roll out the pastry using the wax/baking paper method used before.
  9. With a pastry wheel cut 5 long strips 1.5 inch (4cm) wide (this width is a peculiarity of pastiera) - usually narrower strips are used for fruit tarts.
  10. Using an offset spatula, gently transfer the strips to the pie: lay them across the top of the pie to form a criss cross diamond pattern (not square) (2 strips under and 3 over).
  11. Trim the edges of the strips to fit the pan then lightly press the pastry around the edges to seal.
  12. Now, if you want, you can brush the pastry gently with some egg wash (whisk one egg with 1tbsp milk or cream) to make it shiny like those pastieras sold in bakeries.
  13. Bake Pastiera for about 90 minutes at 325°F (165°C - gas mark 3) until the crust is golden and the filling is amber-brown on top.
  14. When Pastiera is baked, turn off the oven, open the oven door and leave the pie in the turned off oven for about 15 minutes.
  15. When it's cooled, store Pastiera in its pan covered with plastic wrap in a cool place (room temperature), DO NOT refrigerate (if you're not living in the caribbean of course).
  16. Try with all your self control to wait until 2 days before eating a slice.
DAY 3 (Holy Saturday)
  1. Wait
DAY 4 (Easter)
  1. Dust neapolitan pastiera with a bit of powdered sugar and...... here it is, the Majesty Queen Pastiera Napoletana ready to be devoured!
Notes
If you don't like eating chopped candied fruits just leave them out or mix them along with half wheat berries. I prefer the latter because the taste of candied fruits give a boost to the pie and you won't feel their presence.
Do not open the oven door while it's baking (or at least for the first 45 minutes) as the batter may collapse.

Pastiera can be stored at room temperature (covered with plastic wrap) for about 5 days.

You can even freeze it and when you want to eat it just thaw the pie out (or a slice) and leave it - well covered - at room temperature (do not microwave). It will be like fresh-made.

Ultimate Best Authentic Bolognese Sauce – the Great Italian Sauce!

AUTHENTIC BOLOGNESE SAUCE

You know that I’m always searching for best/perfect recipes, don’t you? Well, I’ve already told you in my Best Authentic Bolognese Sauce post what my favourite sauce for pasta was and I thought that my Mom’s Ragù was the best recipe ever, but recently I tried another one, just out of curiosity and to confirm my theory, and I was literally amazed!


ultimate best authentic bolognese sauce

This recipe is so perfect, rich and so delicious that I’m asking how couldn’t I ever imagined that? I tried many other recipes but no one satisfied me more than my mom’s recipe even if those were made by great grandmothers.

Now, look at the photo below… do I need to add more words to convince you???

authentic best tagliatelle bolognese sauce

Another reason why I was skeptical before trying this recipe is because it does not contain garlic. And I love garlic in Bolognese Sauce, it gives a wonderful taste. But this recipe is so tasty itself and is balanced in every part of it. So, garlic lovers, before adding some garlic, taste the sauce with pasta (not alone).

This Great Authentic Bolognese Sauce is heavier (more fats) than other recipes I shared with you, but worth everything, even your bikini, trust me. Next time you’ll make Tagliatelle you’ll want to try this one, really!

This is very simple to make too, just few easy steps and some time at home, but you don’t have to look constantly at the stove so you can do other things while it cooks.

best authentic bolognese sauce delicious

I use this recipe just for special occasions, such as when I have guests or on special Sundays, while for “daily” lunchtime I always use my Mom’s recipe because it’s “healthier” (if a Bolognese sauce can be called that ahah!) and has less fats so I can continue in following my diet. That’s why I don’t remove this recipe from the blog, because is still valuable.

best italian tagliatelle bolognese sauce

As I told you before in the other post, the secret for a special Bolognese Sauce, that we (italians) call Ragù (pron. Ruh-goo), is the long cooking time, 6 hours are best.

Yes, it can be ready after 2 hours but it will be just a sauce with some meat in it and very very bland.

People say that the habit of cooking meat for long hours is given by the fact that many years ago it was very tough, so long cooking times ensured a better tenderness to the meat, but I do not agree with that because when a Bolognese Sauce is cooked for at least 4 hours (or as I suggest 6), the meat along with olive oil, vegetables and tomato perfectly combine together to form a unique mouth-watering sauce, so there’s really a huge difference in the taste, not just in tenderness (the pictures below show the difference).

best bolognese sauce before

After 2 hours of cooking the sauce is watery, bland and the meat is whitish.

best bolognese sauce long hours

After 6 hours of cooking the sauce is dense and full of taste!

So this is the best Bolognese Sauce recipe I have ever ever ever eaten, period. If you know another recipe that is better than this one (I’m a bit skeptical but..), please let me know!!! It would be another huge discovery!

Enough said, now let’s move to the recipe!

italian grandma tagliatelle bolognese sauce

Ultimate Best Authentic Bolognese Sauce *

* (adapted from Beniamino Baleotti’s Ragù alla Bolognese recipe, he works as a cook at Agriturismo Le Ginestre in Pianoro (Bologna). If you ever plan to go near there make sure to visit him and have a traditional lunch there or make a pasta course, he speaks Japaneese too! I made some adjustments to his recipe such as swapped out lard for butter, because for me the first one gives a too piggy taste.)

Difficulty: easy
Preparation: 20 minutes Cooking Time: 4-6 hours
Yield: 6-7 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 4-5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 500 gr / 1lb / 18 oz ground quality beef (94% lean if possible)
  • 300 gr / 2/3 lb / 10 oz ground quality lean pork meat (chuck/shoulder or loin)
  • 200 gr / 1/2 lb / 7 oz ground pork belly (skinned, raw/no seasoned)
  • 450 gr / 16 oz / 4 1/2 cups soffritto vegetables OR 2 medium onions, 3 carrots and 2 celery stalks finely chopped
  • 150 ml  / 2/3 cup red wine (no bubbles)
  • 600 gr / 1 1/4 lbs / 20 oz plain tomato sauce
  • 2 sage leaf
  • 1 bay leaf
  • a pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
  • kosher salt to taste

Instructions:

Heat oil and butter in a heavy, bottomed pot and fry ground pork belly until it’s brown and crispy (about 8-10 minutes).

Don’t skip this passage, it’s the key for a tasty sauce!!!

butter olive oil bolognese sauce

pancetta pork belly bolognese sauce

crispy pork belly bolognese sauce

crispy pancetta bolognese sauce closeup

Crispy pork belly

Add vegetables and fry them for about 10 minutes until they start to soften and color a bit (so vegetables are more savoury and sweet), scraping the bottom of the pan occasionally.

soffritto bolognese sauce

Mine were frozen

soffritto pork belly bolognese sauce

Add the remaining ground meat, breaking it up with a fork and cook until it’s browned all over (5-10 minutes) and all the water, that the meat releases, is evaporated.

soffritto pork belly meat bolognese sauce

seared meat bolognese sauce

Add red wine, give a stir and let the liquid reduce for 2-3 minutes or until you no longer smell alcohol.

red wine best bolognese sauce

Add tomato sauce, sage, bay leaf, nutmeg, salt and cover the meat with some water.

tomato authentic bolognese sauce

Partially cover with a lid and simmer Ragù for at least 4 hours (6 is better), stirring occasionally (about every 1 1/2 hours). During that time, if you see that the sauce is drying to much add some water (not at the end of the cooking time though!).

Here’s a photo of the sauce after just 2 hours of cooking (watery and bland).

best bolognese sauce before closeup

That’s how the sauce has to look like after 6 hours of cooking:

best bolognese sauce after closeup

As you have read, there’re just few steps to follow. It’s not complicated at all, so on the next rainy Sunday have a try and let me know if it’s your best italian Bolognese Sauce recipe too! And don’t forget that Ragú can be used with every kind of pasta, not just Tagliatelle!

italian ragu bolognese sauce perfect tagliatelle

ultimate great authentic italian pasta sauce mouth watering tagliatelle bolognese sauce

Ultimate Best Authentic Bolognese Sauce - the Great Italian Sauce!
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
The most delicious and authentic Bolognese sauce ever.
Author:
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 4-5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 500 gr / 1lb / 18 oz ground quality beef (94% lean if possible)
  • 300 gr / ⅔ lb / 10 oz ground quality lean pork meat (chuck/shoulder or loin)
  • 200 gr / ½ lb / 7 oz ground pork belly (skinned, raw/no seasoned)
  • 450 gr / 16 oz / 4½ cups soffritto vegetables OR 2 medium onions, 3 carrots and 2 celery stalks finely chopped
  • 150 ml / ⅔ cup red wine (no bubbles)
  • 600 gr / 1¼ lbs / 20 oz plain tomato sauce
  • 2 sage leaf
  • 1 bay leaf
  • a pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
  • kosher salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Heat oil and butter in a heavy, bottomed pot and fry ground pork belly until it's brown and crispy (about 8-10 minutes).
  2. Add vegetables and fry them for about 10 minutes until they start to soften and color a bit (so vegetables are more savoury and sweet), scraping the bottom of the pan occasionally.
  3. Add the remaining ground meat, breaking it up with a fork and cook until it's browned all over (5-10 minutes) and all the water, that the meat releases, is evaporated.
  4. Add red wine, give a stir and let the liquid reduce for 2-3 minutes or until you no longer smell alcohol.
  5. Add tomato sauce, sage, bay leaf, nutmeg, salt and cover the meat with some water.
  6. Partially cover with a lid and simmer Ragù for at least 4 hours (6 is better), stirring occasionally (about every 1½ hours). During that time, if you see that the sauce is drying to much add some water (not at the end of the cooking time though!).

Authentic Gelatin-Free Panna Cotta

Thinking of a famous dessert you can find in almost every italian restaurant, I remembered how my grandmothers use to do it, with simple and easy available ingredients. I’ve made several tests to achieve a perfect result because unfortunately I didn’t have a recipe in hand….. so now let’s talk about a delicious, creamy, delicate and authentic gelatin-free Panna Cotta!


authentic gelatin-free panna cotta best perfect italian

Panna Cotta (pron. pun-nuh cot-tuh – means “cooked cream”) is a great italian dessert, born in the Piedmont region and then widespread all over Italy, generally made from cream, set with gelatine, served chilled and topped with chocolate, wild berries or caramel sauce.

But some time ago people didn’t have widely available gelatin in their pantry and they used egg whites instead. So this recipe can be useful to use up leftover egg whites instead of throwing them away (you can freeze extra egg whites and defrost them in the fridge when you’re ready to use them).

Today you can find gelatin in every grocery store and you can do Panna Cotta easily in few minutes, but I like this traditional Panna Cotta recipe the most because I think it has the real Panna Cotta taste.

parmigiano reggiano discount

Authentic Gelatin-Free Panna Cotta

Difficulty: medium
Preparation: 5 minutes + cooling time Cooking Time: 90 minutes
Yield: 4

Ingredients:

  • 500 ml double / heavy cream (2+1/3 cup)
  • 150 gr egg whites (about 5 medium eggs, but try to be precise) *
  • 80/100 gr granulated white sugar (I use 80 gr / 3 oz) *
  • 1/2 empty vanilla pod or 1/4 vanilla pod with seeds

(*I prefer to not convert these ingredients in volume measures because in desserts the weights are essential for the final result)

Instructions:

Place the cream, sugar and vanilla pod in a pan and bring to the simmer. Remove from heat, remove the vanilla pod and let cool.

cream vanilla pod sugar panna cotta

Preheat oven to 300°F – 150°C – gas mark 2.

In a bowl beat the egg whites with a fork, paying attention to not create foam or bubbles or your Panna Cotta will come out with holes, until the whites are become liquid quite like water and have lost elasticity. If you can find them at the grocery store, use pasteurized egg whites that are better because they usually are perfectly liquid.

Update: a reader commented saying that she used an immersion blender to beat the egg whites instead of a fork. It took about 15 seconds to make the texture like water, and by keeping the whole blade under the surface it made no bubbles.

egg whites bubbles

Add egg whites to the cream mixture (as you can see from the picture above, I created foam, because I was in a hurry, but I resolved by using a sieve in adding egg whites to the cream mixture and it also stopped any egg whites impurities).

Mix well with a fork and divide the mixture among buttered non-stick moulds.

panna cotta mixture mould

Immediately, pour boiling water into a baking pan until the water level reach 3/4 of the moulds.

panna cotta boiling water

Place the moulds in the pan (bain-marie method).

panna cotta moulds baking pan

The picture may show 1/3, but the boiling water has to reach 3/4 of the moulds height.

Bake at 300°F – 150°C – gas mark 2 for 1 1/2 hour (90 minutes) or until the surface is golden brown.
If you bake Panna Cotta at 275°F – 140°C – gas mark 1 you would need about 2 hours and the surface will be less coloured.

Turn off the oven and let cool Panna Cotta completely inside it before covering the moulds with plastic wrap.

panna cotta baked

Refrigerate several hours (at least 4).

To serve, unmould the Panna Cotta by passing a thin knife, or a long needle, heated in boiling water around the inside of each one. Turn each Panna Cotta out onto a dessert plate holding the base with a warm cloth to help the release. If you don’t like the soft brown crust at the end of Panna Cotta, remove it before serving.

Spoon your favourite sauce or fresh fruit over or just dust with some icing sugar.

authentic gelatin-free panna cotta italian best

Ooops! Sorry, I couldn’t wait! 😉

authentic gelatin-free panna cotta eat best

And now you have your creamy, hearty, authentic Panna Cotta! Yes, it’s a bit long recipe but really worth the results!

Authentic Gelatin-Free Panna Cotta
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Creamy, hearty, authentic Panna Cotta!
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 500 ml double / heavy cream (2+1/3 cup)
  • 150 gr egg whites (about 5 medium eggs, but try to be precise) *
  • 80/100 gr granulated white sugar (I use 80 gr / 3 oz) *
  • ½ empty vanilla pod or ¼ vanilla pod with seeds
Instructions
  1. Place the cream, sugar and vanilla pod in a pan and bring to the simmer.
  2. Remove from heat, remove the vanilla pod and let cool.
  3. Preheat oven to 300°F - 150°C - gas mark 2.
  4. In a bowl beat the egg whites with a fork, paying attention to not create foam or bubbles or your Panna Cotta will come out with holes, until the whites are become liquid quite like water and have lost elasticity.
  5. Add egg whites to the cream mixture..
  6. Mix well with a fork and divide the mixture among buttered non-stick moulds.
  7. Immediately, pour boiling water into a baking pan until the water level reach ¾ of the moulds.
  8. Place the moulds into the pan (bain-marie method).
  9. Bake at 300°F - 150°C - gas mark 2 for 1½ hour (90 minutes) or until the surface is golden brown. If you bake Panna Cotta at 275°F - 140°C - gas mark 1 you would need about 2 hours and the surface will be less coloured.
  10. Turn off the oven and let cool Panna Cotta completely inside it before covering the moulds with plastic wrap.
  11. Refrigerate several hours (at least 4).
  12. To serve, unmould the Panna Cotta by passing a thin knife, or a long needle, heated in boiling water around the inside of each one. Turn each Panna Cotta out onto a dessert plate holding the base with a warm cloth to help the release.
  13. If you don't like the soft brown crust at the end of Panna Cotta, remove it before serving.
  14. Spoon your favourite sauce or fresh fruit over or just dust with some icing sugar.

Calf’s Liver Venetian Style (Fegato alla Veneziana)

AUTHENTIC FEGATO ALLA VENEZIANA (CALF’S LIVER VENETIAN STYLE)

Fegato alla Veneziana (pron. Fay-gah-toe Ah-lah Vay-nez-e-ah-nah*) is one of the most traditional Venetian dishes known all over the world for its simplicity and above all because it’s appreciated even by those who don’t like eating liver.


fegato alla veneziana calf liver venetian style perfect best

I’m one of them, even if I’m born in a land where offal parts are a strong presence in the traditional cousine, but I don’t like most of them, one in particular: liver (well, at least until I tried this recipe) 😀 .

I cannot stand its strong bitter taste. Maybe because when I was young a friend of mine gave me for the first time a plain boiled liver (for me the worst thing on earth to eat!) and I remember that I covered it with a lot of ketchup to be able to chew it because I didn’t want to give a bad impression for having not eaten it.

The second time in my life I ate liver was definitely better. I went to Tuscany and they served me Chichen Liver Patè on Crostini. I realized that was liver patè at the end of the meal, but it tasted good (you have to treat livers with a special treatment so they lose a bit of their bitterness – try this amazing Crostini recipe).

The third time I ate liver was the best, and was with the recipe I’m showing you today.

Because I want that my son tastes all kind of dishes, even those that I don’t like, I bought a Calf’s liver (the best and healthy between livers).
I followed the Venetian style recipe… I taste it out of curiosity…. and I was amazed! I really liked it a lot!
And above all it doesn’t taste like liver at all! The meat it’s so tender and the sweet onions are the perfect combination!

Have I said that it’s a lot cheaper than other meats? That doesn’t hurt, right? So try it and let me know!

Calf’s Liver Venetian Style (Fegato alla Veneziana)

Difficulty: easy
Preparation: 5 minutes Cooking Time: 25 minutes
Yield: 2-3 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 pound / 250 gr calf’s liver (or pork)
  • 1/2 pound / 250 gr white onions
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • a bunch of fresh parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

Cut the onion into thin slices (here it’s called venetian style).

cutting onion sliced onion

Trim the covering membrane, blood vessels and any blemishes from the liver (these parts would become tough after the cooking process).

trim skin liver

Cut the liver into about 2L x 1/2h x 1/2w inch or 5L x 1h x 1w cm strips, but I know that it’s a little bit tricky to cut them into even pieces so keep this just as an example.

cut liver strips If you want the dish to have a thicker sauce and to make the liver softer, flour the strips and set aside.

liver in flour In a skillet (preferably non-stick) large enough to hold the onions and the strips of liver in a single layer, add oil and butter over a medium-high heat.

Add onions, white wine, season with salt and reduce the heat to medium-low (wine will give a mild flavour and a sweeter taste to the onions, you can skip it if you want a stronger flavour).

Cook the onions covered, stirring often to avoid them from sticking (if necessary add some water), until they are soft and fully cooked (about 20 minutes, it depends on how thin you cut the slices).

cooked onion Increase the heat to high and add the strips of liver along with the vinegar, stirring and tossing them constantly until browned outside and to your taste (if you want a medium rare liver cook it for 3 minutes) but no more than 6-7 minutes (starting from a fridge-cold meat) to avoid to eat a rubbery liver (I like it well done so I cooked the liver for 6 minutes and it was really tender anyway).

As you read before, I salted the onions so there’s no necessary to use more salt on the liver, but check the seasoning anyway and add salt, if you want, only at the end because it dehydrates the liver and makes it hard and stringy.

Add parsley and serve immediately.
calf liver venetian style

Traditionally, Calf’s Liver Venetian Style is served alongside with polenta but since we’re going to the warm weather it would be also good with a fresh and crunchy salad to balance with the liver tenderness.

Calf's Liver Venetian Style (Fegato alla Veneziana)
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
An authentic Italian healthy offal recipe that even children will love!
Author:
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup butter
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ pound / 250 gr calf's liver (or pork)
  • ½ pound / 250 gr white onions
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • a bunch of fresh parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Cut the onion into thin slices (here it's called Venetian style).
  2. Trim the covering membrane, blood vessels and any blemishes from the liver (these parts would become tough after the cooking process).
  3. Cut the liver into about 2L x ½h x ½w inch or 5L x 1h x 1w cm strips, but I know that it's a little bit tricky to cut them into even pieces so keep this just as an example.
  4. If you want the dish to have a thicker sauce and to make the liver softer, flour the strips and set aside.
  5. In a skillet (preferably non-stick) large enough to hold the onions and the strips of liver in a single layer, add oil and butter over a medium-high heat.
  6. Add onions, white wine, season with salt and reduce the heat to medium-low (wine will give a mild flavour and a sweeter taste to the onions, you can skip it if you want a stronger flavour).
  7. Cook the onion covered, stirring often to avoid them from sticking (if necessary add some water), until they are soft and fully cooked (about 20 minutes, it depends on how thin you cut the slices).
  8. Increase the heat to high and add the strips of liver along with the vinegar, stirring and tossing them constantly until browned outside and to your taste (if you want a medium rare liver cook it for 3 minutes) but no more than 6-7 minutes (starting from a fridge-cold meat) to avoid to eat a rubbery liver (I like it well done so I cooked the liver for 6 minutes and it was really tender anyway).
  9. Check the seasoning and add salt, if you want, only at the end because it dehydrates the liver and makes it hard and stringy.
  10. Add parsley and serve immediately.

Italian Carnival Sweet Fritters: Crostoli… or Chiacchiere, Frappe, Sfrappole, Cenci, Galani, Grostoli, Bugie…

AUTHENTIC ITALIAN CARNIVAL SWEET FRITTERS

These are my favourite Carnival Sweet Fritters ever! Crispy but light and no greasy at all thanks to vinegar added in. I could eat them all day long!


crostoli chiacchiere frappe sfrappole galani carnival sweet fritters italian

Here in Italy is not the right time to start a diet (or at least for me), because it’s Carnival time!
During this time we are used to eat/make typical Italian sweet fritters, among which there are, what I call, Crostoli (cross-toh-lee), but as you can see from the title, depending on what town you are in Italy, they’re called with different names.

from Wikipedia:
Carnival, or Carnivale, is a festive season which occurs immediately before Lent; the main events are usually during February. Carnival typically involves a public celebration or parade combining some elements of a circus, mask and public street party.
People often dress up or masquerade during the celebrations, which mark an overturning of daily life. The last day of Carnival is Mardi Gras. […]
[…] The most famous Carnivals of Italy are those held in Venice, Viareggio, Ivrea and Acireale. […]
-Read more information here on Wikipedia about Carnival in Italy-

carnival mask venice crostoli chiacchiere sweet fritters

A Venetian Carnival Mask

Crostoli are made from dough into thin rectangular sheets and then twisted as ribbons or kept flat with wavy borders, deep-fried and sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Crostoli flat

Remember that, when you eat one Crostolo, you can’t make you stop from eating more, even if the first mouth-impression seems not to be that amazing.

So here’s the recipe my grandmother taught me.

Carnival Sweet Fritters: Crostoli… or Chiacchiere, Frappe, Sfrappole, Cenci…

Difficulty: medium
Preparation: 30 minutes Cooking Time: 15 minutes
Yield: 3-4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 large or medium egg
  • 1 tbsp melted butter or extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch of finely grated lemon zest (only the yellow part) or 1 drop of lemon essential oil (organic)
  • 1 tbsp apple vinegar (plain vinegar or grappa also works well)
  • ≈1 – 2 cups all-purpose flour plus more for the working area
  • powdered sugar to garnish as needed
  • oil to fry (peanut, corn, sunflower…) as needed

Instructions:

In a bowl mix the egg, melted butter or evo oil, sugar, salt, vanilla, lemon zest and vinegar. Add flour until a no sticky dough is formed.
Knead the dough on a floured work surface for about 5-10 minutes until it’s smooth. Let it rest for about 15 minutes, covered with plastic wrap, in a cool place but not in the fridge.

After that, divide the dough into 4 pieces and roll them out on a floured surface with a rolling pin to form a strip as thin as you can.

Instead, if you use a pasta maker (like me), set it on the widest setting (1), take one piece of the dough and with the palm of your hand flatten it a bit, turn the crunk (or if you have an electric pasta maker switch on the start button) and feed the dough through the rollers.
Fold the edges of the strip towards the middle and feed it through the rollers several times, changing the setting of the pasta maker until you reach the smallest (5). Don’t worry if the strips are not perfect, Crostoli has to come out irregular anyway.

Crostoli little helper

My little assistant…

Cut the thin strips into ≈ 3.5 x 3 inch (9 x 7,5 cm) pieces with a pastry wheel cutter (with wavy edge is better).

Crostolo phase 1

Make 3 small cuts in the middle of each piece as shown above.

And follow the next photos to make the classic Crostoli shape (but you can leave them flat).

Crostolo 2 phaseCrostolo phase 3

Crostoli phase 4Crostolo phase 5

crostoli galaniCrostolo phase 7

Crostolo phase 8

And that’s the final Crostolo shape!

crostolo final shape sweet fritter carnival

Place over a floured surface.

chiacchiere ready

In a wide and high frying pan, heat up the oil until a wooden spoon dipped in starts to make little bubbles.

Deep-fry Crostoli, turning them twice until they lost their “white” color, do not overcook or they will have a burning taste.

Scoop them out and drain off the oil by putting them over a kitchen paper.

When they’re cool, sprinkle generously with powdered sugar.

crostoli chiacchiere sfrappole carnival

With that same pasta dough you can do sweet fritters Tortelli (traditionally filled with italian sweet mustard plus chestnut flour or jam or custard or Nutella). Yummy!!!

Italian Carnival Sweet Fritters: Crostoli... or Chiacchiere, Frappe, Sfrappole, Cenci, Galani, Grostoli, Bugie...
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Delicious Carnival Sweet Fritters, crispy and full of flavour.
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 large or medium egg
  • 1 tbsp melted butter or extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch of finely grated lemon zest (only the yellow part) or 1 drop of lemon essential oil (organic)
  • 1 tbsp apple vinegar (plain vinegar or grappa also works well)
  • ≈1 - 2 cups all-purpose flour plus more for the working area
  • powdered sugar to garnish as needed
  • oil to fry (peanut, corn, sunflower...) as needed
Instructions
  1. In a bowl mix the egg, melted butter or evo oil, sugar, salt, vanilla, lemon zest and vinegar. Add flour until a no sticky dough is formed.
  2. Knead the dough on a floured work surface for about 5-10 minutes until it's smooth.
  3. Let it rest for about 15 minutes, covered with plastic wrap, in a cool place but not in the fridge.
  4. Divide the dough into 4 pieces and roll them out on a floured surface with a rolling pin to form a strip as thin as you can.
  5. If you use a pasta maker, set it on the widest setting (1), take one piece of the dough and with the palm of your hand flatten it a bit, turn the crunk (or if you have an electric pasta maker switch on the start button) and feed the dough through the rollers.
  6. Fold the edges of the strip towards the middle and feed it through the rollers several times, changing the setting of the pasta maker until you reach the smallest (5).
  7. Cut the thin strips into ≈ 3.5 x 3 inch (9 x 7,5 cm) pieces with a pastry wheel cutter (with wavy edge is better).
  8. Make 3 small cuts in the middle of each piece (see pictures in blog post).
  9. Make the classic Crostoli shape (but you can leave them flat).
  10. Place over a floured surface.
  11. In a wide and high frying pan, heat up the oil until a wooden spoon dipped in starts to make little bubbles.
  12. Deep-fry Crostoli, turning them twice until they lost their "white" color, do not overcook or they will have a burning taste.
  13. Scoop them out and drain off the oil by putting them over a kitchen paper.
  14. When they're cool, sprinkle generously with powdered sugar.