It is believed that this dessert dates back to pagan times when ancient Neapolitans would offer all the fruits of their land to the Mermaid Partenope in spring - eggs for fertility, wheat from the land, ricotta from the shepherds, the aroma of orange flowers, vanilla to symbolise faraway countries and sugar in honour of the sweet mermaid. It is said the mermaid would take all these ingredients, immerse herself in the sea of the Bay of Naples and give back to the Neapolitans a dessert, which symbolised fertility and rebirth in Greek mythology. The recipe as we know it today was realised by Neapolitan convents, and nuns would make it for rich nobles of the area.
It is traditionally made at Easter and I always remember my mum and aunts making it. It is still made at home today, as well as bought in pastry shops throughout the Campania
region. In Naples
, Easter wouldn’t be Easter without a pastiera di grano, however, it is delicious to eat at any time. Wheat sounds a strange ingredient, but it really is delicious, especially with the delicate flavour of orange-flower water. Precooked wheat is obtainable from Italian delis and orange-flower water can nowadays be found in supermarkets.
Make it yourself
1 x 10-inch round shallow cake tin