egg and rice gluten free cake with lemon

There are many versions of Pastiera, the Italian Easter pie. Some are sweet and some are savory, but they always include ricotta, a grain such as pasta or rice, and the most iconic sign of spring: eggs. A Neapolitan Pastiera (arguably the original), is made with a beautiful criss-crossed lattice crust. A Bolognese version can include golden raisins, pistachio, and walnuts. The version that Tara’s Italian grandmother makes has always been naturally gluten-free. It is made simply and crust-less with Arborio rice and citrus zest, and this is our take on her recipe. Nana isn’t sure if hers is a more Northern Italian version from Piedmont. All she knows is that this is how her mother made it and we love that. (Prop styling by Lisa Lee)

Serves 10

  • 2pounds whole milk ricotta cheese
  • soft butter, for pan
  • gluten-free flour, for dusting
  • 3cups heavy cream
  • 12cup short grain (Arborio or Carnaroli) rice (3.5 ounces)
  • 12-inch piece cinnamon stick
  • 12teaspoon fine salt
  • 1vanilla bean
  • 1tablespoon finely grated lemon zest (about 2 lemons)
  • 23cup sugar light brown (5 ounces)
  • 3large eggs
  • 2large egg yolks
  • confectioner’s sugar, for dusting
  • Place a cheesecloth-lined strainer over a bowl, letting extra cheesecloth extend well over the sides. Place the ricotta in the cheesecloth, wrap the cheesecloth to enclose, return to strainer. Use a large full can or jar to weigh down the ricotta. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.
  • 2
  • Butter and lightly dust an 8-inch springform pan with gluten-free flour. In a medium pot over medium heat, bring the cream to a simmer. Stir in rice, cinnamon, and salt. Slice the vanilla bean in half lengthwise, scrape the seed into the mixture, and add the pod. Return mixture to a simmer, reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring frequently and scraping the bottom of pot to prevent scorching, until the liquid is absorbed, the mixture is thick, and the rice is cooked through, about 30 minutes.
  • 3
  • Heat oven to 350 degrees. Remove from heat, remove cinnamon stick and vanilla bean. Stir in sugar and lemon zest. Scrape into a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients except confectioner’s sugar. Stir until very well combined, pour into the springform pan.
  • 4
  • Bake for about 90 minutes, rotating pan every 20 minutes or so, until browned on top but not completely set in the center. Let pastiera cool completely on a baking rack before unmolding. It will keep in the fridge for up to three days. Some say it’s even better after a day or two. Serve at room temperature and dust with confectioner’s sugar just before serving.