Easter in south Italy has a synonym: Pastiera. Or better: Neapolitan Pastiera. And, of course, I am talking about food. Cake to be precise. With the babà, one of the most representatives of the city of Napoli. In spring, you can find it in restaurants, bakeries, pastry shops, even markets and supermarkets. According to the tradition, you cook a lot of Pastiere and then you gift family and friends with it.
What is Pastiera?
Pastiera is a shortcrust pastry pie with a filling of ricotta cheese. It is prepared with eggs, sugar, orange blossom water, candied citron and cooked wheat. The flavors are those of the Neapolitan bay in spring. To enjoy on a terrace, sipping limoncello or an espresso coffee.
Did you know why it has stripes on top? Unlike jam or apple pies, whose striped top should remember the grate of cloistered monastery, Pastiera is a real map of Napoli.
A map you can eat
First of all, to make a traditional Pastiera, one must follow strict rules. First of all you need top quality ingredients. Second, you have to prepare it no later than Good Friday, so that the flavors can all blend altogether.
The way it is “decorated” is also very important. In fact, the shortcrust pastry grid on the Neapolitan pastiera presents 3 parallel strips that cross perpendicularly other 4 strips, forming squares (and not rhombuses).
The reason is very precise: this scheme represents the plan of the historic center of Naples, or the ancient Neapolis.
How to read a Pastiera
The historic center of Naples is crossed by 3 ancient streets, parallel to the coast, dating back to the end of the sixth century BC. Since they were built in the Greek era, they should be called “plateiai”.
On the contrary, it is common to use the term “decumani“, a word that dates back to the Roman era:
- Upper Decumanus: via della Sapienza, via dell’Anticaglia, via Santi Apostoli.
- Major Decumano: via dei Tribunali. Decumano maggiore: via dei Tribunal
- Lower decumanus (Spaccanapoli): via Benedetto Croce, via S. Biagio dei Librai, via Vicaria Vecchia, via Forcella.
Four “hinges”, or more properly “stenopoi”, cross the “decumani” which are the alleys of the historic center:
- Vico S. Gaudioso, via Atri, via Nilo, via Giovanni Paladino
- Vico Limoncello, Vico Cinquesanti, via S. Gregorio Armeno
- Via Duomo
- Vico Grotta della Marra, Vico Sedil Capuano, via delle Zite
Where to find it in Napoli
In conclusion, when wandering in the centre of Napoli you can either use a map or travel with a Pastiera. And if you need to buy one, my favourite place is always one: Scaturchio.