Easter, la Pasqua, is the second biggest holiday in Italy after Christmas.
A famous Italian saying goes “A natale con i tuoi a pasqua con chi vuoi”, which means that you should spend Christmas with your family but you may spend Easter with whoever you would like to instead.
Despite the saying, Italians on Easter Sunday like to spend lunch time with their family, and have the afternoon off from family duties with friends or, even more commonly, they’ll organise something special for Easter Monday, we call it Pasquetta – literally “little Easter”.
But let’s get down to the real business… FOOD!
In the centre of Italy, it’s very traditional to start the day with the Colazione di Pasqua, or Easter breakfast, which consists of: frittata with herbs (mostly fresh mint), a delicious savoury bread made with lots of Pecorino and Parmesan cheese called “torta di formaggio”, a few slices of Corallina, a salami typically eaten during this time of the year, and lots and lots of chocolate – from the easter egg of course! The chocolate Easter egg is a tradition enjoyed by both kids and adults in equal measure in Italy…what’s not to like about a giant egg made of chocolate!
However, Easter Lunch is the true protagonist of the day. As for any other big celebration, all the family will gather together, usually at nonna’s house, and will sit at the table for hours enjoying what her, mamma, and all the other aunties have been cooking over the weekend.
Starters can vary, but the big main course will definitely be roasted LAMB, followed by vegetables (artichokes are a must) potatoes, various savoury cakes, one of which is the very traditional Torta Pasqualina – named after Easter itself – filled with cheese and spinach and whole hard boiled eggs.
For Christians both lamb and eggs have a particular religious symbol. Eggs have always been a symbol of rebirth and “the Lamb of God” is the phrase usually used to referred to Jesus. Easter after all is in fact the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus.
Last but not least… DESSERTS!
The most iconic easter dessert, known around the world and produced only at this time of the year is La Colomba, made with the same ingredients used for Panettone and Pandoro, shaped to look like a dove and topped with toasted almonds. Other traditional desserts can vary from region to region, like Pastiera Napoletata, as the name suggests, is typical of Naples and surrounding areas, and it is made with cooked wheat, eggs, ricotta cheese,
and flavoured with orange flower water. La Cassata, instead, is typical of Sicily, and it is similar to the Pastiera but a bit more elaborate in the decoration. It is a round sponge cake moistened with fruit juices or liqueur and layered with the same filling you can also find in cannoli made with ricotta cheese and chocolate chips. It is then covered marzipan, and topped with candied fruit.
The leftovers – and there will be plenty – make for the perfect Pasquetta picnic lunch. As mentioned above, Pasquetta is the day after Easter and it is usually when people go on day trips to explore the beautiful cultural cities Italy has to offer, or to a day out at the beach or on a sunny field – a day off from work and a day to relax and enjoy friend’s company.