If you were to look up “pastiera” in any Italian cookbook, the recipe would most likely be translated as “ricotta and grain pie.” But if there is one thing I’ve learned about Italian cooking, it’s that these names vary from family to family. In my long- time, dear friend’s family, “pastiera” meant something completely different. Yes, there is ricotta and eggs and sugar in the recipe, but the similarity stops there. There is no crust; there is no grain. There are noodles, of all things. Also there are eggs, ricotta, sugar, butter, vanilla and grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. It sounds like such a strange combination, doesn’t it? But I can tell you that heaven awaits you.
I hadn’t had this dish since I was a young girl in the 1950s and 60s. My friend’s mom, Ann (you’ve met her in several other recipe posts), would make this quite often, as she was quite the baker, and she would give it to us as an after school snack. Or if you were lucky enough to be sick, Ann would probably bring this to your home to heal you, as it was considered to be very nourishing. I actually had forgotten about this pastiera until about 5 years ago, when my friend made it for me when I broke my knee. One bite, and the memories flooded back to me. It is amazing how a certain taste can bring you back in time.
I’m just not sure exactly when you should serve this dish. Is it dessert? It’s rather heavy for after a meal. It does make for a delicious brunch, or even lunch. Actually, Ann was right….it is a perfect after school snack. That’s what I tell myself in the afternoon, when I sit down to a delicious, nostalgic piece!
1 pound fine egg noodles
1 1/2 pounds of ricotta
1 stick (1/4 pound) butter
2 cups sugar ( you can use a little less if desired)
1 TBSP vanilla
1 or 2 handfuls of grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Grease a 9 x 13 Pyrex pan.
3. Beat eggs, then add sugar. Beat well.
4. Add ricotta and mix until smooth.
5. Meanwhile boil noodles. Drain and put in a large bowl.
6. Add the butter to the hot noodles and mix until melted.
7. Add the vanilla and grated cheese. Mix again.
8. Add the ricotta mixture and mix until well blended.
9. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake in the oven for one hour or until the top is golden brown and set in the middle.
10. Cool before serving. I like it slightly warm. It can be frozen, but I doubt you’ll have any left.