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How Italians Feast on Easter (Starring Ricotta & Lamb)

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At an Italian table, Easter is on par with Christmas in terms of traditional dishes, rituals, family recipes, and a large gathering of relatives to share it all with.

Newly-sprung spring has much to do with typical Easter fare, so you'll often find dishes prepared with fresh ricotta made from the sweet and creamy milk of sheep that have been nibbling on new green pastures, along with plenty of eggs.

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Torta Pasqualina (Easter Chard and Ricotta Pie)
Torta Pasqualina (Easter Chard and Ricotta Pie)

From top to toe of the Italian peninsula, you'll find dishes—both sweet and savory—that illustrate this well.

In Liguria, there's torta pasqualina, an Easter pie of chard, ricotta, and eggs (of the eight eggs, some are cracked into little pockets dented into the ricotta filling, so that when the pie is sliced, sunny rounds of yolk are revealed).

Photos by Emiko Davies

Or consider Naples' famous pastiera, a ricotta and wheatberry tart that is known to perfume the streets of Napoli with orange blossom water, lemon, and vanilla, and that, when done properly, takes three days to make.

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Pastiera Napoletana (Neapolitan Wheatberry and Ricotta Easter cake)
Pastiera Napoletana (Neapolitan Wheatberry and Ricotta Easter cake)

But the main event at Easter is the lamb, prepared just as often for traditional and symbolic reasons as for others (it's much like what turkey means to an American Thanksgiving).

Roman kitches are known for abbaccio al forno, a roast leg of young, local lamb rubbed and stuffed with garlic and herbs and cooked together with crisp, golden potatoe. It's a dish so delicious that it's reason enough to visit the Eternal City at this time of year in particular.

Abbacchio al Forno (Roast Lamb with Potatoes)
Abbacchio al Forno (Roast Lamb with Potatoes)

Elsewhere, you'll find the same family favorites that may appear on the Christmas table or at any other special occasion: passatelli in brodo, a light, warming and friendly entrée (think of the equivalent comforting qualities of chicken noodle soup), popular in the central north; or Tuscany's answer to tiramisu, the rather retro zuppa inglese, which is a huge, chilled trifle-like dessert of liquor-soaked sponge fingers layered with vanilla and chocolate pastry cream and jam.

Passatelli in Brodo
Passatelli in Brodo
Zuppa Inglese
Zuppa Inglese

Meanwhile, Easter breakfast is a breeze.

These days, it's customary to gift to each and every friend and family member a giant colomba, a sweet, yeasted bread in the shape of a dove, studded with whole almonds and pearl sugar; it's an Easter version of panettone. By Easter Sunday the kitchen counter will be overflowing with them. For breakfast, simply serve it in thick slices to enjoy as is or with broken pieces of chocolate Easter eggs (there are plenty of those, too).

#freshfromtheoven #italian #easter #cake. La #colomba e pronto per manigare #dolcemio #homemade #oldschool

A photo posted by Dolce Mio (@dolce_mio_cakes) on

Make your own Italian Easter feast:

Torta Pasqualina (Easter Chard and Ricotta Pie)

Torta Pasqualina (Easter Chard and Ricotta Pie) by Emiko

Passatelli in Brodo

Passatelli in Brodo by Emiko

Abbacchio al Forno (Roast Lamb with Potatoes)

Abbacchio al Forno (Roast Lamb with Potatoes) by Emiko

Pastiera Napoletana (Neapolitan Wheatberry and Ricotta Easter cake)

Pastiera Napoletana (Neapolitan Wheatberry and Ricotta Ea... by Emiko

Zuppa Inglese

Zuppa Inglese by Emiko

Fresh Rosemary & Heather Wreath

Fresh Rosemary & Heather Wreath

$49

What dishes are always on your Easter table, year after year? Tell us in the comments!


Our magical menu genie will plan your holiay feast for you.

Tags: springtime, spring, easter, feast, easter feast, holidays