Buona Pasqua! Happy Easter! Wizzzzzzz there goes a pastiera! Vroom – watch out! Another pastiera is zapping by. Screeeeeech – quick stop and one pastiera down! EEEEEKS – is that a flying pizza piena? WAIT A MINUTE – is that the pastiera I gave you yesterday? It just landed back on my table!
My best buddy, Rossella and I were laughing madly. The laughter was so loud that it crossed the Atlantic Ocean. As a matter of fact, the ocean between us must have been rockin’ and rollin’. She had been telling me that she had made a number of pastiera – a Neapolitan tart made with cooked wheat berries, eggs, ricotta cheese, flavored with orange flower water and candied citrus. In our part of Southern Italy, for Easter, we practice the Neapolitan tradition of baking pastiera and/or pizza piena — crust topped pie or calzone shaped pasta stuffed with ricotta cheese and dried meats. Women from Pontelandolfo, Casalduni and other villages in the Sannio hills visit their friends and bring them a gift of a lovingly baked pastiera or pizza piena.
As Rossella was talking I was thinking of my Aunt Julie making “pizza chiena” in my grandmother’s kitchen. She tossed in eggs, ricotta, mortadella, salami, cappicolla and rice to make a pie that would sink the Titanic. But boy were they good. BOING – it suddenly hit me why she made three or four but we only got to eat one! She too took them to other people’s house. But in Flagtown, NJ there weren’t any other Pontelandolfese to bring us a scrumptious gift.
Suddenly, I saw a parade of pastiera moving slowly up curvy mountain roads, into valleys, around centro storico, pausing for a moment at a house and dashing out again. Rossella, I said in my pigeon Italian, let me get this right. I make a bunch of pies and I bring them to a bunch of friends. They make a bunch of pies and bring them to a bunch of friends. What happens if they get more pies than they made? I bet they give to a friend the pie I made or you made. How long would it take before we got one of our own pies back as a gift? She started to giggle, I started to giggle. The laughter started to roll.
May this day of Resurrection be filled with peace, love, happiness, laughter and new beginnings.