Easter, or Pasqua in Italian, is the important of all the Christian festivals. And in Italy it is celebrated with some distinctive dishes. In Liguria, for example, the north west corner of Italy which is home to the picturesque villages known as the Cinque Terre, people will make Torta Pasqualina – an Easter pie made with artichokes and eggs.
The Festive Food of Italy
In her book The Festive Food of Italy (pub. Kyle Cathie, £5.99, photos Will Heap) Maddalena Bonino says that lamb, wheat and eggs always feature in Easter meals in Italy. Her explanation is that lamb represents Christ, and also symbolises spring; the egg acts as a secular symbol of life (think of those chocolate Easter eggs), and wheat acts as a symbol of resurrection. Maddalena Bonino, in what is an informative and colourful little book, goes on to say that apparently, in some parts of Italy, farmers take lambs and wheat to church on Good Friday to be blessed.
Other Easter culinary specialities that you’ll find in Italy are chocolates or marzipan sweets, with an image of a lamb bearing Christ’s flag of victory. You’ll also see colombe in patisseries – cakes which are similar to Panettone but in the shape of a dove. Look out too for Pastiera Napoletana – which Maddalena says is a cake made with wheat, fresh ricotta and candied orange peel. The run up to Easter is a lovely time to visit Italy, as the patisseries and chocolate shops all seem to have stunning window displays, with delicious cakes and the most elaborate chocolate eggs you can imagine.
This recipe from The Festive Food of Italy, (which appears here with permission) is for an Easter dish:
Lamb with Egg and Lemon Sauce – Agnello Brodettato – Recipe
Ingredients – Serves 6
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, finely sliced
- 85 g Parma ham, diced
- freshly ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 1kg shoulder of leg of lamb, cut into cubes
- 4 tablespoons plain flour
- 250ml lamb stock
- 150ml dry white wine
- 3 egg yolks
- juice of 1 lemon
- small bunch of parsley, finely chopped
- Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the sliced onion and diced ham. Season with plenty of pepper and the nutmeg.
- Toss the cubed lamb in the flour, add to the onion and ham and fry gently until all the pieces are golden.
- Pour in the stock and simmer until almost evaporated, then add the white wine, season with a little more pepper, cover and leave to simmer for about 2 hours.
- Lift the lamb pieces out of the saucepan, place in a serving dish and keep warm.
- Whisk the egg yolks and lemon juice and stir into the cooking juices away from the heat. Pour over the lamb, sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve immediately.