Pastiera di Riso

Written by: Sarah Ubertaccio



Time to read 3 min

Pastiera is a classic Italian Easter dessert that can neither be classified as a cake or a pie. Imagine if rice pudding, ricotta cheesecake, and pie crust came together as one, infused with orange blossom essence, vanilla, and cinnamon. That’s pastiera.

Here we’re making pastiera di riso, which uses Italian arborio rice. In the classic pastiera (also known as pastiera di grano) soaked or parboiled wheat berries are used. Although pastiera has origins in Naples, it’s now become quite popular all throughout Italy. After all, who can resist this delicious dessert?

Ask almost any Italian and they will tell you that making pastiera is a true labor of love. It’s a process that shouldn’t be rushed but rather done with patience over the course of two or three days, usually within the week leading up to Easter Sunday.

Similar to a cheesecake, this torte gets better with time. Once baked, let it sit out, covered, at room temperature for 2 or 3 days. It will last up to 5 days (although usually, it goes quicker than that!).  

Pastiera di Riso (Italian Rice Pie)




For the pasta frolla (shortbread crust):

3½ cups 00 flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
1¼ cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt (if using salted butter, omit)
4 large egg yolks
1 cup (2 sticks) cold butter, cubed
orange zest, from 1 orange

For the filling:

1 ½ cups arborio rice
2 ½ cups whole milk
½ cup water
1 ½ cups sugar
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
orange zest from ½ orange
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter
½ teaspoon salt (if using salted butter, omit)
2 cups whole milk ricotta, drained
4 large eggs, separated
2 teaspoons orange flower/blossom water

Special Equipment


To make the pasta frolla:

Whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder in a large bowl. Add butter and orange zest. Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, mix together on medium speed until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Finally, mix in the egg yolks just until the dough starts to come together into a ball. Cover in plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour. Dough can be prepared up to two days ahead of time and store in the fridge.

To make the filling:

Add the rice, milk, water, ¼ cup sugar, vanilla extract, orange zest, and cinnamon to a pot. Bring to a gentle boil, then turn heat on low and let simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture becomes thick and creamy the rice has softened. Stir in the butter.

Pour the rice into a shallow, wide dish and smooth it out across the bottom. Let cool for about 10 minutes. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. You can also let it sit in the fridge overnight.

Mix the ricotta in a bowl with the remaining 1¼ cups sugar and orange blossom water. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, and mix together.

Combine the ricotta mixture and the cooled rice mixture together and stir well to blend, breaking up any clumps of rice.

Beat the egg whites until stiff. Fold them into the rest of the filling.

To assemble the pie: 

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan with butter. Sprinkle on a thin layer of flour, coating the bottom and sides of the pan evenly.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out ⅔ of the dough to form a ¼-inch thick circle, large enough to cover the bottom and sides of your pan. Carefully transfer the disc to your pan and gently press it down to fit the angles of the pan. Trim excess dough from the edges.

Add the filling on top of the pasta frolla using a spatula to spread it out evenly.

Using the remaining pasta frolla, decorate the top. Roll the remaining dough into a ¼-inch thick disc. You can either cut out a lattice design by cutting out long rectangular strips of dough, or use cookie cutters to cut out different shapes (try our Brass Fluted Pastry & Pasta Wheel and/or our Brass Flower Ravioli Stamp !). Gently arrange the remaining dough on top of the pie.

Bake for about 1 hour, or until the edges are golden and a tooth-pick inserted comes out dry. Let the pie cool until at room temperature.

The flavor improves if allowed to rest for 2 or 3 days, covered, at room temp. Enjoy!

Sarah Ubertaccio