Easter in Italy is a very big deal, almost as big as Christmas.
In fact, it is the second holiday where food appears to be the main centre of attention, around which all celebrations revolve.
A famous italian saying goes “A Natale con i tuoi a pasqua con chi vuoi” which roughly translates to “Spend Christmas with family and Easter with whoever you like”.
Despite the saying, Easter lunch is a family tradition not many Italians would want to miss… No matter the family feuds, the annoying old uncle who never misses a chance to comment on the fact that you haven’t settled down yet, or the loud screams of your younger cousins, Easter Lunch at Nonna’s house is A MUST.
Unlike on Christmas, the true Easter eating marathon starts in the morning, with an unusually heavy breakfast for our Italian standards of caffe and cornetto.
On that morning, especially in the centre of Italy, it’s tradition to start the day with a frittata with herbs (mainly fresh mint), accompanied by a few slices of Corallina, a typical salami consumed particularly over this period, a delicious savoury bread made with lots of Pecorino and Parmesan cheese called “torta di formaggio”, and chocolate – from the easter egg of course!
Coffee is still essential, so a nice espresso and maybe a juice won’t be missing from the banqueting table.
A few hours later, when you’ve just started digesting this not long “light” breakfast, it’s food time again.
Every member of the family will gather at Nonna’s house and after the usual kissing and chatting procedures – which may last hours by the tme every member of the family has showed up carrying food, gifts and Easter eggs – everyone will be assigned a job by Nonna or Mamma and will help out setting the table, or taking the serving plates filled with delicious food to the dining room. When all the preparations are done and the food is ready to be eaten, you will surely hear the familiar shout
“E’ PRONTOOOOO” – which is the equivalent of the English “Lunch is ready!”
Starters can vary, and the big main course will definitely be roasted LAMB with roasted potatoes, a side of artichokes and other seasonal vegetables, and eggs in various shapes and forms, as a symbol of rebirth.
Just like eggs, lamb has a religious symbolic meaning. Easter is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus, usually referred to as the “Lamb of God” – so the two symbols of rebirth are offered together on the table.
One of the best parts of an Easter Lunch are obviously THE DESSERTS!
The variety is incredible, and each region has their own special one they make only once a year just for this occasion. The two most famous ones, that represent Italy from north to south are:
La Colomba, the most iconic Easter cake, similar to the Pandoro and Panettone, is made in a dove shape especially for this celebration. The word “colomba” in fact means ‘Easter dove.’
The traditional recipe includes sugar, yeast, flour, eggs, butter and topped with toasted almonds.
La Pastiera, probably the most famous Neapolitan dessert, and typical of this time of the year. It’s key ingredients are cooked wheat, eggs, ricotta cheese, and flavoured with orange flower water – perfect for the spring time.