Italian Easter feasts!
by Livia Caruso
Natale con i tuoi, la Pasqua con chi vuoi. This common Italian proverb, “Christmas with your family, Easter with whomever you wish”, nicely sums up the Italians’ attitude towards Easter. It is another traditional religious festival, with the same wealth of food and celebrations the Italians do so well, only it has a more relaxed feel to it.Allora, che cuciniamo? The centrepiece for any Italian celebration is the food. So, what is typically eaten by Italians at Easter? As Italy is still a ‘young’ country, having been united for just over 150 years, there are still distinct regional dishes. For example, in Liguria, you would find the Torta Pasqualina, the Easter pie. This savoury dish is mainly spinach and a lot of eggs; although it is traditionally meant to have 33 layers of puff pastry! In Sicily on the other hand, you could find il risotto con gli asparagi, asparagus risotto, as a first course, seeing as springtime is the season for asparagus. You may also find pappardelle con sugo di agnello. The pappardelle are cooked with the sauces of the lamb prepared for the second course. This method of cooking pasta for Easter is quite common throughout Italy, as lamb, cooked in various ways, is the traditional second course of choice.
Desserts are the focus of the Easter meal. There are many different types. In Sicily, there are biscuits called Acceddu cullovo, which in Sicilian dialect literally means ‘Bird with eggs’. The famous Neapolitan specialty is the Pastiera Napoletana. This is a real homely dish, made lovingly as the 12-hour long cooking time shows! It is a pie made with grain and with an orange ricotta filling. As a Neapolitan saying goes, Pasqua senza pastiera niente vale, “Easter without the Pastiera is worth nothing”.
The desserts common throughout Italy however include the Colomba, an Italian cake in the shape of a dove with candied pieces that has made its way over to England through gourmet stores and restaurant chains such as Carluccio’s. Then there are also uove di pasqua, the equivalent of our chocolate easter eggs, with the difference being they are often very big and all have a surprise inside the hollow chocolate. Here are recipes for homemade Colomba and Acceddu cullovo, for those of you who wish to procrastinate, or need fuel for upcoming summatives.
Colomba (Italian candied Easter cake, in the shape of a dove)
Ingredients (for 8 people):
200g plain flour
130g caster sugar
100g of butter,
50g potato starch
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
Sugar to taste
Butter and flour for the mould
Preheat oven to 180°.
In a bowl, mix together the flour, potato starch, 10 g baking powder, vanilla extract, 1 pinch of salt, grated lemon rind, caster sugar and butter.
Then add the molasses and two whole eggs and mix it with an electric mixer until mixture is smooth and bloated.
Pour the mixture into an already buttered-and-floured mould in the shape of a dove. Ensure that the mixture is distributed evenly into the mould, then sprinkle with almonds.
Bake in the preheated oven for about 50 minutes, checking the mixture by stabbing it with a toothpick. The last 15 minutes of cooking, cover the mould with aluminum foil to avoid that the surface becomes too dark.
Once cooked, cool for 15 minutes on a wire rack. Sprinkle the cake with powdered sugar. Serve.
Acceddu cullovo (Sicilian Easter biscuits)
500 g plain flour
200 g caster sugar
100 g butter
2 tsp baking powder
Boiled eggs (as many as you wish)
Icing sugar, or melted chocolate
Preheat the oven to 180°.
Mix the flour in a big bowl with the sugar, butter, baking powder and 2 eggs. If the mixture becomes very hard, add a bit of milk.
Spread some flour on a wooden board and roll out the mixture with a rolling pin, trying to achieve a thickness of about 0.5cm. Cut out shapes as you please (traditionally- bird-like figures).
Put the hard boiled eggs onto the figures, fastening them on by creating a cross pattern with the same mixture. Mix the last remaining egg and brush it onto the dough before putting them in the oven.
Leave until golden, should take around 20 minutes.
To attach the chocolate eggs, use a mixture of icing sugar with a few drops of water or some melted chocolate.