Easter in Italy is a big deal. The religious celebration comprises a week of festivities known as holy week (Settimana Santo) including Good Friday (Venerdì Santo) and Easter Monday (Pasquetta – ‘little Easter’).
While the churches and towns are busy with parades, services and other eccentric traditions (see the Scoppio del Carro in Florence!) we’ve cooked up some great Italian Easter foods with recipes for you to try.
1. Torta Pasqualina
Torta Pasqualina is one of the many savoury pies that pop up in springtime in Italy. This one, in particular, hails from Liguria, the beautiful coastal region in the North-East. Straight from the rugged clifftops, it’s filled with ricotta cheese, fresh greens, such as chard and wild herbs and makes for a fragrant and seasonal Italian Easter dish!
☆ Interesting fact – To show the dexterity of the cook, traditionally this cake is made with 33 layers of pastry representing the 33 years of Christ’s life
What you need:
- 2 rolls of puff or shortcrust pastry (or make your own!)
- 2 pounds of chard or spinach
- 9 oz. of ricotta
- 4 eggs, and 1 egg white to brush the pastry
- 3.5 oz. grated parmigiana
- local fresh herbs, chopped. Eg. marjoram, oregano
- a pinch of salt
- 1 round baking tray
How to make Torta Pasqualina:
- Preheat the oven to 355° F/ 180° C
- Stew the greens in a large pan on a medium hit with the lid on so they release their water
- Drain the excess liquid and coarsely chop the vegetables
- Add the parmesan, ricotta, herbs, salt and one egg to the vegetables in a large bowl and stir well
- Lay one layer of pastry in the baking tray on a piece of baking parchment
- Spoon in the filling leaving 3 spaces for the next step…
- Carefully break each remaining egg into the holes in the mixture
- Place your second layer of pastry on top and brush the pie with egg white so it browns in the oven
- Bake for around 45 minutes or until the pastry is cooked and golden
2. Pastiera Napoletana
The Pastiera Napoletana, a classic Easter tart in Naples filled with a particular boiled wheat, candied citrus and ricotta, is an Italian Easter recipe which has been subject to many alterations and experiments according to La Corriere. Adding cream to the cake, or putting butter in the pastry, traditional recipes have always been subject to alterations and to some traditional Italians, this can be considered as much as blasphemy!
For the sake of avoiding upsetting any Italian nonna‘s you might encounter, here we have an original, traditional recipe for you
☆ Interesting fact – One thing remains undisputed, and that’s that the pastry cake needs 3 days to ‘mature’ before being eaten on Easter Sunday
Ingredients for Pastiera Napoletana
For the pastry –
- 10oz. 00 grade flour
- 5 oz. caster sugar
- 5oz. lard or butter
- 3 egg yolks
For the cooked wheat –
- 8 oz. wheat grain
- 10 fl.oz. milk
- zest of 1 lemon
- 1 tbsp butter
For the custard –
- 17 oz. ricotta cheese
- 12 oz. sugar
- 6 egg yolks
- 4 whipped egg whites
- a pinch of ground cinnamon
- 1 lemon
- 2 teaspoons of orange blossom water
- 7 oz. candied citrus peel
How to make Pastiera Napoletana
- Preheat oven to 340° F/ 170° C
- Sieve the flour into a bowl and add the sugar butter in cubes mixing with your hands until a crumbly mixture, then blend in the egg yolks until you have a pastry dough
- Leave the dough in the fridge to rest for 30 minutes
- Put the wheat to boil in the milk with the lemon zest, butter and cinnamon until the liquid is absorbed
- After around 90 minutes with the lid on (add more liquid if necessary) leave the grain to cool in a bowl
- Whip the ricotta in a separate bowl with the sugar and add the egg yolks one at a time for a silky mixture
- Add the rest of the ingredients for the flavour : cinnamon, citrus peel, lemon juice, orange blossom water
- Stir in the cooked grain and finally fold in the egg whites making sure to whip the entire mixture well
- Roll out 2/3s of the pastry to a 4mm thickness and line a round baking tray
- Spread in the mixture and decorate with strips of pastry on top in a lattice decoration
- Bake in the oven for around 1 1/4 hours until cooked
Colomba di Pasqua
The Colomba di Pasqua, or Colomba Pasquale is literally the ‘Easter dove’.
It’s in essence an altered version of the Christmas Panettone: a big airy brioche, blended with candied citrus and studded with sugared almonds.
Most important of all, it’s shaped into a festive shape, somewhat arguably resembling a dove!
For a great Colomba di Pasqua to get you in the Italian Easter mode, that you can make at home we recommend Olivia’s Cuisine recipe that she’s tweaked to perfection.
You’ll be making it in several steps:
- The starter for the bread dough
- The dough itself
- The glaze
- The toppings
☆ Interesting fact – The Colomba di Pasqua was commercialised by the Milanese baker and businessman Angelo Motta as an Easter version of the popular Panettone that Motta foods was making
3. Abbacchio a Scottadito
Eating lamb at Easter is not unique to Italy. It’s Christian heritage relates eating lamb with consuming the ‘body of Christ’, where he is known as ‘the lamb of God’. However, it is also contended that it dates back to Jewish ancestry, with the blood of lambs being used to ward off the plague.
Regardless, a more simple reason might be that, as Easter nears and Spring blooms, hopping lambs begin to be born and seen in the fields. For the meat-eaters of us, lamb – in Italian ‘agnello‘ – is a seasonal choice.
In Italy, each region has its own way of cooking lamb at Easter. From stewed in a terracotta pot in Southern parts of Puglia and Basilicata – called ‘U Cutturidd’ – to lamb meatballs in Trentino in the North – ‘Polpettine Pasquale’. And in Molise they eat lamb with cheese and boiled eggs! – ‘Cacio e Uova’!
For our Italian Easter recipe we chose the Roman speciality of Abbacchio a Scottadito – chops from a suckling lamb roasted in rosemary.
What you’ll need:
- lamb chops
- fresh rosemary
- extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper
- optional garlic
Prepare the lamb chops by beating the meat and then marinating in oil, salt and pepper and finely chopped garlic. Place in a casserole dish sprinkled with rosemary and leave to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. Heat a grill pan (or barbecue if you prefer!) and cook on a high heat until done to your taste.
These are called ‘scottadito‘ because they should be served searing hot!
In the province of Foggia, you can recognise the arrival of Easter by the appearance of ‘Scarcelle’ in the pastry shops.
In effect, these are prettily decorated fairy cakes, either large of small in the shape of doves or rabbits or other forms with white glazed icing and sprinkles! But there’s a hidden surprise in these unusual cakes…
☆ Interesting fact – Making these cakes, you go about making a cake batter as usual, but then you add up to 4 entire boiled eggs! – shell and allF
You can choose your own sponge or butter cake recipe here. Although in Italy they’d tend to use olive oil instead of butter and at a squeeze of lemon or lemon zest for a fresh flavour. Then form into a shape of your choice, traditional Italian or avant-garde invention and insert your boiled eggs.
Make a glaze of whipped egg whites, lemon juice and icing sugar and when your cake is fully cooled ice the surfaces and add your decorations before it sets.
Buona Pasqua from Artviva!