The Neapolitan pastiera between history and legend

by Lidia Vitale

“Currite, giuvinò! There is a pastiera! "
E 'nu sciore ca blossoms in spring,
and with inimitable fragrance
satisfies primm 'o nose, and double belly.
Easter without pastiera nothing is worth:
it's 'on Christmas Eve without a tree',
is comm 'or Ferragosto without sun.
Guagliò, who's a pastiera. Who wants some?
The ingredients are good and genuine:
ova, ricotta, sugar and flour
(it's o ggrano approx mmiscated towater 'and flowers
enriches and multiplies flavors).

During the Easter period, a story about the origins of the Neapolitan Easter cake par excellence could not be missing: the pastiera.
There would be so much to tell, the anecdotes and legends connected to this wonderful delight for the palate are practically endless, but some things deserve to be said.
Historically, as for the casatiello (if you want to read the origins of the casatiello click here!), can be traced back to the beginnings of pastiera, as an accompaniment to pagan holidays in honor of the spring, when the priestesses brought an egg to the goddess Ceres (Roman goddess of Greek and earth and fertility).

Even at the time of Constantine spread of focaccia with ricotta, fruit of the offerings of milk and honey that the catechumens received at the end of the baptismal ceremonies on Easter night.

However, it is said that the current recipe was perfected in a Neapolitan convent (probably that of San Gregorio Armeno) in which a nun wanted to add to that famous cake, symbol of the Resurrection, i orange scents of the tree in the garden. He mixed the ricotta, eggs, wheat, cedar, orange blossom water and spices from distant lands.

But there is more.

Neapolitan Pastiera
The Neapolitan pastiera, photograph by Sara Carluccio

A legend about the origin of the pastiera

Among the many legends, it binds the first meal was in the hands of the gods. In fact, it is said that one beautiful mermaid named Parthenope, all of a sudden she had decided to move to our local waters and that she had enchanted with her splendid voice and her delightful song all the inhabitants of the area who, to thank her, decided to give her what they had most precious:

egg, symbol of fertility and life;
ricotta cheese, homage of sheep and shepherds;
flour, the fruit of the earth;
spices, representing the most distant lands;
orange flower water, for its perfume;
sugar, for the sweetness of the siren's song.

That mythological being was so enthusiastic about these gifts that he took everything into his abyss home, showing it to his companions, which they created with these ingredients the only thing in the world sweeter than the siren song: the first pastiera.

It must be added, however, that not even the sovereigns have escaped this sweetness.
Maria Theresa of Habsburg, called "the queen who never smiles“, After the many requests of her husband Ferdinand II of Bourbon, he convinced himself to taste a slice of pastiera.
Tasted the first bite, he couldn't help but smile, for the first time in public. Ferdinando could not help saying: "To make my wife smile we needed the Pastiera, now I'll have to wait until next Easter to see her smile again".

The recipe can be found on the website of the talented Sara Carluccio, also author of photography.

Lidia Vitale

Become a supporter!

With a small contribution you will keep the largest cultural dissemination site in Campania alive! Many advantages for you

Leave a comment

error: NOTICE: You can't copy the content!