Pizza Grana (Wheat Pie)
Pizza grana, or wheat pie is an Italian Easter tradition. And what better place to learn how to make it than Palazzone 1960 in Wayne NJ? Chef and owner Giancarlo Palazzone was kind enough to share his family's recipe with us! If you've never been to Palazzone 1960, you MUST try it! From the moment I walked in there it felt like staying with family in Italy. Not only are the Palazzone's from the same town where my cousin was Bishop (yes, I have a cousin who is a Bishop.) - their chef's name is Di Falco!! How could it NOT feel like home!? Their food is truly Italian; their pastries are, as Giancarlo says, made like grandma did 50-100 years ago. And you can taste it! And of course, you'll find most of North Jersey's Italian-American population in there on any given afternoon for their daily espresso. Simply by walking through the door, you can cross the Atlantic and land in Italy.
The pizza grana or pastiera di grano (everyone has their own version of the title) was born in Naples over 300 years ago. Legend has it, Naples had a queen who never smiled - except when she tasted wheat pie! So the King declared it had to be eaten every year, so at least once a year, he could see his wife smile. Italians love a good food legend.
For me, the wheat pie always reminds me of my grandmother. Not that she made it, because it IS a project. But she ALWAYS brought one to Easter dinner. And my Dad and I love it still. It's just another reason to love Palazzone and their traditional ways of cooking and baking. Now we always grab one from them for our Easter dinner - although this year, I'm thinking of giving this recipe a spin at home! I hope you'll try it too and make it part of your family's tradition!
Buon Appetito! Buona Pasqua!
Makes 2, 8-inch pies
For the Grain
2 C. wheat berries, cooked (you can purchase these jarred at Palazzone or here)
2/3 C. milk
1/3 C. butter
For The Crust
1 2/3 C. butter, room temperature
1 1/3 C. sugar
1/8 C. honey
zest of 1/2 a lemon
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
2 1/2 C. flour
For the Pies
2 C. prepared grain
2 2/3 C. fresh ricotta, whipped
1 2/3 C. sugar
2/3 C. custard cream (OR add an additional 3 egg yolks)
1/2 C. candied citrus (These can be found at Corrado's or here)
zest of 1 orange
zest of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp. cinnamon
To Make the Grain:
Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan.
Bring to a boil.
Stir and remove from the heat. Allow to cool completely before using. Can be stored in the refrigerator overnight.
To Make the Crust:
Cream together butter and sugar.
Add in honey, vanilla, lemon zest, and baking powder. Beat until smooth.
Add the eggs and salt. Beat until smooth.
Mix baking powder and flour. Add to the mixture until just incorporated. Work the dough as little as possible.
Form into a ball, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, and up to overnight. Allow to rest on the counter for 10 minutes before rolling out to 1/4 inch thick. Place dough in bottom of pie plates. Prick pastry all over with a fork. Save any scraps to put on top. Set aside.
To Make The Pies:
Beat together ricotta, sugar and custard (if using).
Add in the eggs and beat until smooth.
Mix in cooked grain and zests.
Finally add in vanilla, cinnamon and candied orange.
Pour into prepared pans. Create a cross-hatch pattern over the top with any left over pastry dough.
Bake at 350 for 50 minutes. Turn off the oven and allow the pies to sit in the warm oven for another 30 minutes. Remove and allow to cool. Top with powdered sugar before serving.