It's a long held tradition that for pasquetta, the day after Easter Sunday, Italians take to the outdoors—a hike in the woods, a wander in the hills, or a day at the beach. Easter brings mild spring weather; fruit blossoms and wild herbs are flourishing and everyone is ready to enjoy a simple alfresco meal after a long winter (and an even bigger meal the day before).
Neopolitans have the perfect picnic bread for this occasion: the casatiello. This rustic, symbolic bread—the eggs encased in crosses on the top is said to be a representation of the crown of thorns—is enriched with lard, which makes it both crumbly and soft at the same time. It is often stuffed with a delicious, savory filling of salami, provolone, eggs—which can either go in the filling, on top for decoration, or both—and a bit more pork, like prosciutto, cicoli, or spicy pancetta, for good measure.
It's usually the sort of recipe that changes from family to family, passed on down through generations, but there are those that are willing to buck traditions, such as larger than life Roman pizzaiolo Gabriele Bonci, who injected a bit of Rome into this Neopolitan classic with a casatiello “alla carbonara,” which is essentially rolled up pizza dough with a thick and generous filling of egg, cheese, and salami.
There are as many variations of this recipe as there are Neopolitan families, and this is true not only for the ingredients but also for the method. Some simply mix in the filling ingredients to the dough, shape it roughly into a log and put it in the pan, others spend hours folding lard and cheese through the dough like a flaky croissant before rolling up with the filling. This recipe is something in between. It features a simple dough, quite like a pizza or basic bread dough recipe, rolled out into a rectangle; you have to sprinkle the ingredients of the filling over the dough, roll it up, and leave it to rise before baking.
Like the Neapolitan pastiera, it is often made the before Easter, when it is eaten fresh out of the oven with fava beans and cold cuts. But half the fun is making sure there are leftovers saved for later, even if it's too chilly to enjoy outdoors at a picnic, it makes for a great snack, especially when lightly warmed.
- 20 grams fresh yeast (7 grams or 1 tsp of active dry yeast)
- 600 grams (4 3/4 cups) bread flour
- 330 milliliters (1 1/3 cups) lukewarm water
- 60 grams (1/4 cup) softened butter, plus more for greasing
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 85 grams (3 ounces) grated pecorino cheese (you can use Parmesan instead)
- 200 grams (7 ounces) of salame napoletano (or your favourite salami)
- 200 grams (7 ounces) of provolone dolce (or a semi-aged pecorino cheese or other good, firm, melting cheese)
- black pepper to taste
- 4 whole eggs, plus 1 yolk for glazing