At an Italian table, Easter is on par with Christmas in terms of traditional dishes, rituals, family recipes, and a large gathering of relatives to share it all with. It’s one of the most important holidays in Italy and has a wide variety of both seasonal and symbolic foods that are enjoyed.
In Italy Easter spans two days, Pasqua or Easter day and Pasquetta, the Monday following Easter (literally “little Easter”) which is also a holiday – leaving plenty of room for delicious traditional foods and regional dishes. Here are some of our favorites!
Ricotta and Eggs
Newly-sprung spring has much to do with typical Easter fare, so you’ll often find dishes prepared with fresh ricotta made from the sweet and creamy milk of sheep that have been nibbling on new green pastures, along with plenty of eggs both fresh, cooked, and of course chocolate; all symbolizing rebirth.
The main event at an Italian Easter dinner is lamb which is as important to celebrating this holiday as turkey is to an American Thanksgiving. Lamb (known as agnello or abbadacchio in Rome) obviously recalls the religious Catholic symbol of Christ but spring celebrations with lamb go back to Old Testament times – in fact it’s often served for Passover.
Lamb is usually roasted, often with carrots and potatoes, flavored with rosemary, but is also often cooked as a stew with vegetables, used in meatballs, mixed into pasta dishes, or served with artichokes; a popular Spring vegetable throughout Italy.
Pastiera Napoletana is a traditional sweet Easter cake made of a pastry crust with a filling of ricotta cheese, eggs, cooked wheat berries, lemon, and vanilla and flavored with orange flower water. It can take up to three days to make and fills the streets of Naples with an orange blossom scent.
Another ubiquitous Italian Easter baked good is the Colomba, a sweet yeasted bread in the shape of a dove, studded with almonds, and symbolizing peace. They’re almost an Easter version of panettone and are often gifted and enjoyed for Easter breakfast.
Fava Beans and Pecorino
On Pasquetta, fresh beans (broad beans or fava bean), are consumed with Locatelli Pecorino cheese pecorino cheese as a snack or appetizer in Lazio and the southern regions of Italy. This tradition goes back to Ancient Roman times along with the making of Pecorino Romano in italy. Learn more here!
Salami with Boiled Eggs
A simple combination that’s often served for Easter is an appetizer of salame e uova sode (salami and boiled eggs) known as Fellata di Pasqua. Symbolically the eggs represent rebirth and while the salami the fortune of the farmers, who awaited the Easter festivities to put meat on the table after the Lenten fast.
This savory and symbolic pie is made of 33 layers of phyllo sheets (the number of years of life of Christ) following a recipe believed to date back to 15th century Genoa. It is stuffed with chard or artichokes signifying springs new growth, herbs, and eggs for rebirth
Pizza di Pasqua or Casatiello
Also known as Crescia di Pasqua or Torta al Formaggio, Pizza di Pasqua is a savory cake made throughout central Italy served for breakfast on Easter or as antipasto during the Easter meal. It is made with flour, eggs, Locatelli Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano Reggiano. A similar dish, Casatiello is a rustic cake stuffed with cheese, pancetta, salami, and whole eggs. Both cakes of meat and cheese were traditionally used to celebrate the breaking of the Lenten fast and abstinence from meat products throughout the Lenten season.
Another delicious traditional baked tart that celebrates breaking the Lenten fast? In southern Italy and in many Italian American homes Pizza Gaina or Pizza Rustica (also known as “Easter Meat Pie”) is a mandatory part of the Easter celebration for dinner or for brunch. This pie of eggs, ricotta, mozzarella, a wide variety of cured meats, and Locatelli Pecorino Romano is the perfect way to get a taste of an Italian Easter celebration in your own home.
Happy Spring and Happy Easter from all of us at Locatelli!