Winter is finally over and spring has come in all its glory! We have Pope Francesco to wish us a Happy Easter, the pilgrims are en route to Rome for Easter, and in the midst of all of this, here I am thinking about all the delicious food I will be eating in a few days’ time! No surprise there! I’m not exactly sure what the traditions are around the world, but I do know that here in Italy we like to treat ourselves well on Easter. And we definitely don’t limit celebrations to one meal a day!
As for most things in Italy, each region has different traditions, but the basic dishes exist all around. I’ve put together a sample menu of what we well-fed Italians like to gobble up on Easter Sunday, with some regional additions here and there.
Breakfast in Italy
Everybody knows breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and even more so when you’re allowed to eat all sorts of things, 100% guilt-free! The best thing about Easter breakfast is that it caters to everyone: the “salty” people, the “sweet tooths”, and the lucky ones that sit on the fence and just eat everything!!
The greatest and oldest Easter tradition is the chocolate egg. The egg, and it’s surprise, symbolizes not only the rebirth of life in Spring, but also the image of Jesus walking out of his tomb three days after his death. In Italy, tradition says you have to wait until Easter morning to crack your egg and find the surprise inside. Regardless of age, chocolate Easter eggs (or bunnies, or doves) are guaranteed to brighten your day.
On Easter you can’t possibly miss the Colomba Pasquale. The colomba (dove) represents the universal flood and the dove that flew back to Noah’s arc with the olive branch, representing salvation. The typical Colomba comes with raisins, canditi, and is coated in almonds and sugar crystals. Hint: try warming it up in the oven for a minute or two (or in the microwave for 10-20 seconds), and dunking it in your cappuccino!!
In the region of Campania (just south of Lazio), it is custom to eat the Pastiera Napoletana for breakfast. This fabulously moist cake has a pastry crust outer shell, and is filled with a mixture of ricotta, boiled whole wheat, eggs and canditi. Again, all the ingredients in the pastiera are a fruit of the earth and represent the rebirth of Christ.
For those of you who are not so big on desserts, our Easter breakfast tables always have a plate of salame corallino and hard-boiled eggs. And because you can’t possibly eat salami without bread, we also have a so-called pizza al formaggio, essentially a soft, cake-like cheese bread. Possibly my favorite part of breakfast!
To push all this food down, don’t forget to have a glass of un buon vino rosso! That’s right, we found a way to drink wine for breakfast too!!
Easter Sunday Lunch in Italy
After all that food, you would think we couldn’t possibly fathom the idea of eating lunch. You’re wrong! Easter lunch is even better!
Like I mentioned above, our Easter meals revolve around products that symbolize the rebirth of nature. For your pasta dishes, spring vegetables are a great idea as condiments. Have a go at your preferred pasta type with a creamy artichoke and asparagus sauce. Or how about pasta with ricotta and peas. If you are a lover of fish, try some pappardelle with asparagus and shrimp. Or if you’re feeling like risotto, simply use it as a replacement for pasta. It’ll still work wonders.
I recently attempted a risotto all’ortica (nettle risotto). You might think it’s a strange (and dangerous) thing to eat, but in Italy it’s very common. Make sure you read up on how to cook it properly to get rid of all the prickly bits though!
For your main dishes, it is tradition in Italy to eat lamb, or abbacchio (baby lamb). Lamb represents Jesus, the Lamb of God, innocent and immaculate. There are a number of ways to cook lamb. If you choose to make costolette (lamb ribs), you can either make them scottadito (which is literally translated to finger burner) or fritte panate (pan fried). Costolette scottadito are simple lamb ribs cooked on the barbecue. If you choose to make them fritte dorate dip them in egg, roll them in breadcrumbs, and fry them in extra virgin olive oil. Alternatively, cook your lamb al forno con le patate (in the oven with roast potatoes).
And if that wasn’t enough, for dessert take out what’s left of the cakes and chocolate from breakfast! Like my mom always says, “No leftovers, please!”