Pasqua in Italy
Pasqua is a religious feast highly celebrated, probably the most important one after Christmas.
Lot of religious celebrations and feasts will be held during the Settimana Santa the “Holy week”: from door to door home blessing organized by local parishes, to main celebrations in all local and major churches. On my opinion is the most touching moment of the week is holy Thursday with the “Foot washing” that Jesus performed on behalf of the apostles: this task as one of His last acts on Earth delivers an important message of how we are supposed to be as Christians: helping our neighbors. I find this ceremony almost intimate for the deep sense of community revealed by this very simple and familiar act. I remember as a child going to mass on this day and watching my male friends and now I still enjoy my nephews sharing with me the personal experience they live in this special day.
As all Italian major celebrations religion is one of the 2 halves of the same feast: the second one is of course food! Every region will perform in this special day the best of its tradition: from homemade pasta served on many different combinations of sauce, stuffing and ingredients to a large selection of main courses which include meat and many vegetables presentation.Of course pastry, sweets and typical Easter cakes are a must and also in this case local regional desserts will offer a great variety to choose from.
Easter Breakfast in a typical roman family
Rome on Easter day wakes up very early, excitement in all families starts with a very special breakfast which in my opinion represents a meal itself. Usually the whole family meets at grandma house, everyone will bring some of the dishes prepared for this special and rich menu: hard-boiled painted eggs, cheese, Corallina a particular variety of salami, Frittata coi Carciofi (Artichokes omelette), Coratella coi Carciofi a typical tradition of Jewish-Roman cuisine made from humble ingredients such as liver, lungs and heart stewed with artichokes, Easter Pizza Romana (a type of highly sponge cake) to be eaten with Chocolate Easter egg. Of course red wine to accompany this “simple” traditional roman breakfast…… few hours later lunch will be served and consumed by the bravest ones with a very resistant stomach J
Let’s have some time to digest the reach meal and discover what are the regional traditions for the best moment of the meal: dessert time! Just like Panettone is the typical Italian Christmas cake “Colomba” represents all over Italy the traditional Easter cake: the dough for the colomba is made in a similar manner to panettone, fashioned into a dove shape (colomba in Italian) and topped with pearl sugar and almonds before being baked. It’s commonly eaten with Easter Chocolate Eggs and it’s really loved by adults and kids.
Dessert Time: Naples and its worldwide famous Pastiera
One of the most famous Regional pastry for Easter is the “Neapolitan Pastiera”. Probably started in the ancient roman times pastiera was reinvented in a monastery and it’s today the most famous tart of Naples and surroundings. Its’ a cake you can find in shops all year around but still represents the Ester traditional tart. The real recipe is a secret: everyone has his own and believes to own “the one and only” real recipe for the best homemade pastiera. The cake is simple but elaborate: on a pie shell the filings ingredients are made of cooked wheat, ricotta cheese, eggs and orange flowers essence which makes this tart very unique!! When I was young I worked as a sous chef in a restaurant runned by a family from Naples so I was able to receive from them as a special gift their recipe which I keep jealously and I prepare every year on 10/12 invidual pieces which I donate to friends and family. Of course my recipe is the one!! 😉
La Fugassa Veneta
One of my best friends live in venice where she also owns a restaurant with her husband. Venice has been a regular stop on my Italian trips when I was still leading groups through Italy few years ago. Thanks to her I learned many local traditions and most of all I discovered this very unique specialty:“La Fugassa” which is a simple and plain sponge cake made of very simple ingredients: flour, milk, eggs, yeast, butter, sugar, orange and lemon zest, Vanilla extract.
It’s not rich on creams or filled with special ingredients, it’s a sponge cake but the softness and light consistence reminds of a fluffy cloud which melts in the mouth….. there’s one shop in Venice where the Fugassa is still made in a very traditional way, the elderly man was about to close the business few years ago but luckily his niece picked up the business and the shop is still in great shape for the joy of venetians and occasionally customers like me.
Pizza di Pasqua or Spianata Teramana from Abruzzi Region
Sab’s (my husband) family comes from Abruzzi region and my mother in law for Easter prepares her regional tradition recipe called “Pizza di Pasqua or Spianata”. Also in this case the basic ingredients are very simple but the consistence of the dough is very different from the venetian Fugassa and the flavor is different from the Easter Pizza romana served on the Easter Breakfast menu. The Pizza di Pasqua reminds of a Panettone but with a special flavor given by the presence of a plant: anis or aniseed. The preparation takes a couple of day because the dough will need to rise few times before the final baking. Sab loves it because for him this is the cake of his childhood and because the tradition is to eat the Spianata with chocolate egg and suddenly he feels like a kid again. The cake is also accompanied by a glass of sweet liquor as a very enjoyable after dinner treat.