Pasqua and Pasquetta (Easter Sunday and “Little Easter” the following day) are among the most widely celebrated holidays in Italy, rivaled only by Christmas. Easter Monday, a national holiday in Italy, is devoted to fun with friends after spending the weekend at church and with family.
Whether it’s spending time with family or celebrating with friends, one thing that is front and center at all Italian get-togethers and that is indulging in an Italian Feast!
Serious feast days call for serious food. While there are major regional differences in the preparation of food in Italy, there are certain items you can expect to make their way onto the menu, no matter where in Italy you may be celebrating.
Many Pasqua treats in Italy, like hollow chocolates and decorated eggs, would still be familiar icons to any kid in Atlanta, Georgia. Symbols of rebirth, fertility, the harvest, and the Resurrection are included in nearly every dish, making for a meal that’s both delicious and meaningful.
So between the universal staples throughout Italy and the variations on recipes from region to region, read on to learn how you can incorporate a little more Pasqua in your family’s Easter menu this year.
Agnello – Lamb
Both in season and symbolic of the sacrifice being celebrated, agnello or lamb, is the centerpiece of any traditional Italian Pasquet. The preparation of the dish depends on the region in which you’re dining. For a Central Italian preparation, try agnello cacio e uovo, a lamb fricassee cooked with egg. A favorite in Southern Italy is to serve lamb with spring peas and an aged cheese (such as Parmesan), as in this recipe.
Or, if you prefer a Roman lamb dish, expect one that includes for red wine, such as this one one with abbacchio brodettato (lemon-egg sauce) from The Sun Sentinel. If you’re styling your lamb dish in the Roman style, Roman-style artichokes are incredibly prevalent. Pasqua coincides with the artichoke harvest in Italy, and there are even artichoke festivals dedicated to the occasion. In fact, there are as many variations on this dish as there are cities in Italy! As long as there’s lamb (or, if you’re in Sardinia, goat), and as long as it’s delicious, you’re celebrating Easter Italian-style!
Uovo – Eggs
Did you notice how many eggs are listed in the recipes above? A lot, and it’s no coincidence. This symbol of rebirth shows up in surprising ways in Pasqua entrées, sides, and desserts. This Roman Easter Soup from Serious Eats makes a great entrée for Easter Monday or a starter for the big family meal on Sunday.
In Sicily, the traditional Easter soup is sciusceddu; it’s an egg-drop soup with meatballs and ricotta cheese. For those who prefer soups without eggs, I suggest this Napolese Minestra di Pasqua for a kale-and-meat-based alternative.
For Easter breakfast, one of the most traditional Italian egg-centric breakfasts is torta pasqualina, which highlights Chard or any one of your favorite local, leafy greens, for a healthy and delicious treat.
And, of course, after an egg hunt on Easter Sunday, plan on eating plenty of hard-boiled eggs on Easter Monday. Include it in a charcuterie plate with salami, sausage, cheese, and bread. Or you can put all these things together in a Neapolitan casatiello. Seriously. Look at this thing. It’s amazing!
Colomba Pasquale – Dove Cake
No matter how you decide to plate your savory dishes, be sure to end with this traditional cake, shaped like a dove and topped with dried fruit and nuts.
And it doesn’t matter whether you dine in or dine out for Easter, or whether you celebrate early, late, or right on time. In the creative and joyful spirit of Italy, there’s no wrong way to enjoy Italian traditions.
If you want to enjoy the taste of Italy in Atlanta without doing the preparation yourself, we welcome you to join us in our restaurant for an authentic taste of Pasqua. Our full dinner menu is available here.