The Italian saying goes ‘Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi’ and if we translate it literally the meaning is: (you can/should spend) Christmas with your own family and Easter with whomever you like.
Easter is a smaller family occasion than Christmas
Indeed, Easter is a smaller family occasion than Christmas and many people make the most of le vacanze di Pasqua for a spring holiday, rather than to visit parents or relatives. But despite this, Easter lunch is still very much alive as a tradition in Italy and most people I know would mark the occasion with a family gathering around some traditional food.
The Pasqua con chi vuoi part of the saying, in my experience, has actually more to do with Easter Monday, or Pasquetta, which is the traditional day for picnic in the country with friends, where you, guess what, eat the leftovers from the Easter feast!
In my family, Easter lunch used to take place at my auntie’s house: this auntie is an amazing cook and one of the few people I know who is perfectly at ease opening her house to guests and cooking for a large crowd. Her meals are never the same, but for big occasions like Easter I do remember there were some staples of the Italian tradition that she would often include.
Easter lunch italian style
Here is how I give my Easter table an Italian twist, following her steps:
Le uova benedette (blessed eggs): Easter food of course involves eggs and these are at the centre of one of my strongest visual memories of Easter lunch. Rather than chocolate eggs, which are divine in a totally different way, le uova benedette I am used to are simple hard-boiled eggs decorated with an olive leaf, taken from church on Palm Sunday. I am desperate when it comes to food presentation and this picture bears witness to that, but I promise you they CAN look quite pretty!
Mental note: ask my auntie how she makes everything seem to effortless when it comes to entertaining.
La corallina: one of the most delicious things you can ever taste in Italy, according to…me! Cured, salty meat that you just can’t stop eating: the only dilemma is how thick the slice should be – a good problem to have! Possibly the one thing I miss the most when abroad for Easter lunch and one of those things that make me wonder why in such a connected world, some foods are still so reluctant to travel.
La torta pasqualina (Easter cake). Not quite the decadent chocolate cake the name might suggest, this is a yummy tart with spinach, ricotta and yes: eggs!
La colomba: maybe the most typical Easter dessert, la colomba is to Easter what panettone is to Christmas. The name of the cake comes from its shape – with a bit of imagination, it resembles a dove…To be honest with you, we all eat it but it hasn’t got as many fans as its Christmas ‘relatives’ pandoro and panettone.
If you’ve ever had it, I’d love to know if you liked it? I find it nice for breakfast, with coffee, but it doesn’t get me particularly excited, despite the generous amount of almonds and sugar on its crust. Picking is the word that comes to mind here…
La pastiera napoletana: THE cake of the Easter tradition and yes, one thing I absolutely adore and never tire of. La pastiera is a traditional dessert originally from Naples, but hugely widespread in the whole of Italy, especially the south. It is made with a shell of pastry and a filling of cooked wheat, ricotta and orange blossom water and it is one of those foods in Italy you just MUST try. La pastiera can be made at home, but if you are Italy and especially in Naples, do pop into a pasticceria and have a slice. It really is something very special!
Do you make anything special for Easter lunch? I’d love to hear your own tradition or what you think of Italian Easter food, if you’ve tried it.
Happy Easter everyone, buona Pasqua a tutti!