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Traditional Italian Easter food you can make at home during lockdown

Traditional Italian Easter food you can make at home during lockdown
Get cracking in the kitchen over Easter. Photo: freestocks/Unsplash
Like last year under lockdown, there's not much to do in Italy this Easter apart from stay at home and eat. So here are 12 classic Italian Easter dishes to try in your own kitchen at this time of year, from traditional lamb and artichokes to an unusual pig's blood dessert.

Lamb

Easter Monday is known as Pasquetta (“Little Easter”) in Italy, but is also sometimes called Lunedì dell’Agnello or “Lamb Monday”, giving a clue to the most traditional centrepiece of the lunch table.

Romans typically prepare lamb soup or cook it in an egg and citrus sauce, southern Italians often put it in a stew, while elsewhere it will be roasted with garlic and rosemary – every family and restaurant will have its own special recipe.

This Tuscan-style roast leg of lamb recipe is a traditional and elegant dish to add to your Easter menu.

Photo: Jason Leung/Unsplash

However, recent years have seen the meat fall off the menu, coinciding with a rise in Italians opting for a vegan diet. Ex-PM Silvio Berlusconi famously “adopted” five lambs in a pro-vegetarian Easter stunt.

If you don’t eat meat, why not opt for the veggie-friendly lamb cake? It’s an elaborate dessert made in the shape of a sheep, which you can find in many bakeries.

Fish

Good Friday, a sombre date in the Catholic calendar, was traditionally a day of fasting. These days some Catholic families opt for fish, typically choosing light dishes with simple dressing.

In fact, many people observe meat-free Fridays for the entire Lent period – some even keeping to the tradition the whole year round – in tribute to Jesus’ self-sacrifice.

This cod with tomato and olives dish is perfect for Good Friday and the whole Easter weekend beyond.

Photo: John Dryzga/Flickr

Artichokes

Stuffed, braised or fried, enjoyed as a side dish or appetizer, artichokes are a springtime staple and a common feature of the Easter meal.

Try this pan roasted artichokes recipe – it’s a winner as an entrée or side dish.

Photo: Kim Daniels/Unsplash

Sciusceddu (meatball and egg soup)

Originating from Messina in Sicily, this dish is traditionally eaten on Easter Sunday and is a bit like Chinese egg drop soup.

The name comes from the Latin word juscellum, meaning simply “soup”, and it’s an easy dish to master, with the meatballs and eggs prepared in broth with herbs and cheese.

For a fluffier, soufflé-like result, try this recipe which will delight both the eyes and the taste buds.

Photo: Zeppoli’s Italian Comfort Food/Flickr

Torta alla Pasqualina (Easter pie)

Don’t be fooled by the word torta: this one is savoury rather than sweet. It’s a Ligurian staple, a kind of quiche with spinach and cheese.

Tradition dictates that there should be 33 layers of pastry – one for every year of Jesus’ life, so the story goes – and three is an important number in Christian doctrine too. It’s possibly the trickiness of the preparation that means the pie is reserved for special occasions.

This recipe is much more straightforward with equally delicious results. Best served cooled down with a glass of white wine. Squisito!

Sanguinaccio Dolce

Sanguinaccio is the Italian version of what Brits call black pudding and what Americans know as blood sausage – yet unlike those savoury dishes, Sanguinaccio Dolce is in fact a dessert made from pig’s blood and chocolate.

The dish is traditionally eaten in the run-up to Easter across much of Italy’s centre-south, but is particularly associated with the region of Basilicata, on the instep of Italy’s boot.

READ ALSO: Six of the most weird and wonderful Italian dishes

Photo: Snekse/Flickr

The recipe combines dark chocolate with pig’s blood to make a rich, sweet and acidic cream, which can be eaten with savoiardi biscuits or used as a filling for shortcrust pastry tarts.

We’re not sure this counts as a recommendation, but in the TV series Hannibal, the title character lists it as one of his favourite desserts.

For more of the history of this dessert, along with a great recipe to try yourself, see here.

If the idea of pig’s blood puts you off, here’s a blood-free variation of the pudding. Just don’t tell any Italians you’ve messed with their recipes.

Colomba di Pasqua

This cake is perhaps the best known culinary symbol of Easter in Italy. Named “Easter dove”, it’s baked in the shape of a bird to symbolise peace and is made with candied citrus peel and almonds.

You’ll see them everywhere in shops in the run up to Easter in Italy, but if you fancy spending your lockdown weekend having a go at your own creation, try this recipe.

Photo: Nicola/Flickr

Riso Nero di Pasqua (Black Easter rice)

Another Sicilian speciality, this dish is prepared using black rice. However, while black risotto is usually covered with squid ink, this is a sweeter treat – the colouring comes from chocolate. The riso nero is a dessert similar to rice pudding, made with milk, rice, cocoa and chocolate, while decorations usually consist of cinnamon and sugar sprinkles.

The legend goes that the dessert was first made in homage to Sicily’s Black Madonna, a mysterious statue in Tindari thought to be responsible for numerous miracles.

Why not whip up a batch of your own chocolatey rice with this simple Sicilian recipe?

Rice cake 

An alternative rice-based dessert and typical of Emilia-Romagna, this simple cake is made of rice and eggs, usually flavoured with lemon or perhaps a liquor.

Photo: Susan Filson/Flickr

It’s not exclusive to Easter and is also a popular choice during the Christmas period and other religious festivals. Centuries ago, locals would hand it out to neighbours, pilgrims or people taking part in religious processions.

Unleash your inner chef and have a go at making this Italian cake with this recipe.

Pastiera Napoletana

This Neapolitan dessert is found across the south of Italy at this time of year, and its orange-spiked ricotta filling leaves it deliciously moist. The original recipe is thought to have been created by a nun who specifically chose to use ingredients signifying life.

Photo: Antonello Serino/Flickr

If you’re making your own, be warned that chefs usually recommend starting the process on Good Friday to allow plenty of time for the flavours – from orange peel and orange flower water – to infuse before Easter Sunday.

If you’re ready to get cooking, give this recipe a whirl and you’ll be set for a slice for breakfast on Easter Sunday morning.

READ MORE: Why is Good Friday not a holiday in Italy?

Pan di Ramerino

You’ll find that each region boasts its own varieties of Easter breads, sweet or savoury. One of the best is the Tuscan Pan di Ramerino, similar to the British hot cross bun and flavoured with raisins and rosemary.

Eat these on Holy Thursday, when you can buy them from street vendors or any bakery in the region. Local priests often bless the bread.

Try your hand at this sweet Tuscan bun with this delicious recipe.

Easter eggs

If you’re worried about doing without more familiar comforts, fear not – chocolate eggs have become a part of Easter tradition in Italy, often with a hidden treat in the middle.

Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP

You’ll see elaborate displays of extravagantly wrapped eggs lining shop windows all throughout Lent.

Think you can rival the shop-bought eggs? All you need is some chocolate, icing and your imagination. Oh, and these easter egg recipe tips might help, too.

Resist until Easter Sunday if you can.

READ MORE: The essential guide to an Italian Easter


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