Easter is the most important holy feast in the Christian religion and comes 40 days after Lent when we give up something we enjoy as a form of penance. And in Italy, there are more than 3,000 celebrations from the north to the south including processions, religious rites, sacred representations, festivals and folk traditions. Entire villages go down to the streets during Holy Week to celebrate and commemorate the sacred drama of the death and resurrection of Christ.
I spend Easter together with my family – my husband Manuele, mum and dad and my parents-in-law. We enjoy our Easter lunch all together and this year we’re having roast beef (I confess, I don’t like lamb!), artichokes sautéed with olive oil and garlic, and meat lasagna with béchamel and Chiocciole Pasquali for dessert. The weekend ends with Easter Monday, a holiday here in Italy and we spend the day outdoors with friends and family. I’m hoping for a beautiful day because we’re planning a barbecue at home and a nice, long bike ride through the countryside.
There are many Easter menus in the various regions of Italy but throughout the country, there are two main food themes – lamb, the symbol of innocence and purity and the egg, the symbol of life and rebirth.
Some of the typical regional dishes are:
Veneto – the famous Colomba Pasquale.
Campania – Pastiera Napoletana, an Easter cake made of pastry crust, ricotta, farro, eggs, spices and candied fruit. A very caloric bomb!!!
Liguria – Cappon Magro, a rich and elaborate salad of seafood and vegetables with an anchovy and caper dressing.
Sicily – Pasta Con le Sarde (Pasta with Sardines) made of long pasta, sardines and wild fennel.
Piedmont – Lasagne Gran Magro, a meatless Lasagne made of a rustic sauce of butter, olive oil, anchovies, parmigiano and pepper.
Friuli – Baccalà alla Cappuccina, salt cod with anchovies, raisins and pine nuts.
And we have chocolate bunnies (coniglietti), too!
The origin of my recipe for Chiocciole Pasquali comes from Trentino and means Easter snails…
- 300 gr (2¼ c.) flour
- 120 gr (1/2 c.) drained Ricotta
- 4 Tablespoons milk
- 1 sachet of yeast for sweet (32 g) or 1 T. baking powder
- 1 egg yolk
- 0,5 dl (2 tsp.) olive oil
- 70 gr vanilla sugar or ⅓ c. sugar and 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1 icing sugar sachet 125 gr or 1 c. of powdered sugar
- 1 albumen/egg white, slightly beaten
- 60 gr (1/3 c.) sugar
- 90 gr (1/2 c.) chocolate chips (or raisins)
- 50 gr (1/2 c.) chopped almonds
- 2 Tablespoons of ground cinnamon
- Grated zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange
- 2 Tablespoons of rum
- Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F.
- In a bowl, combine flour, ricotta, milk, yeast (baking powder), egg yolk, olive oil, vanilla sugar (sugar and vanilla) and icing sugar (powdered sugar).
- Mix well with electric mixer until smooth and homogeneous.
- Roll out the dough on a well-floured surface into a rectangular shape about 30 x 50 cm(12" x 20") and a little less than 5 mm (1/4") thick.
- Brush the dough with some of the albumen/egg white.
- Spread the sugar, chocolate (or raisins), almonds, cinnamon, zests of lemon and orange, and sprinkle the rum.
- Roll up the dough tightly lengthwise like a jellyroll.
- Slice the roll to obtain discs around 1 cm(1/2") thick.
- Butter up a baking sheet and lightly dust with flour (or use parchment paper).
- Place the discs on baking sheet.
- Brush them with beaten albumen/egg white.
- Bake in oven at 180/350° for around 25 minutes until the discs are golden.
- Makes about 20 biscuits/cookies.