At Christmas and New Year’s Eve, Italians are likely to stick to traditional dishes, but, at Pasqua, there is much more diversity. There is no typical antipasto or even primo piatto (first course) for Pasqua. But, since this is the season for early produce, young cured meats and cheeses, these are usually served in some form. Some popular first course dishes include: Fried Artichokes, Insalata di Polpo (Octopus Salad), swordfish or tuna seasoned with grapefruit and generous platters of young pecorino, fava beans and salumi.
In many homes of every region, various kinds of Torte Pasqualine (savory Easter pies) are prepared—using flour, eggs, cheese, spinach and sometimes a variety of other ingredients. The many different versions of Torte di Pasqua seen at Easter are testimony to the creativity encouraged on this holiday.
Other popular pasta dishes for Easter are Lasagna, in all its varieties, and baked Pasta, for which every household in Italy has a different recipe. Those who have the time and skill to prepare homemade pasta might make their own local specialty (such as, orecchiette, cavatelli or pici), or stuffed pastas as ravioli or tortelloni. A great alternative to pasta, which is always hard to refuse when cooked well, is risotto made with very fresh seafood, baby peas or asparagus.
THE MAIN COURSE
For the main course, roasted or grilled meat is usually served. For centuries, the most popular choice for Easter has been lamb—not just in Italy, but in many other Mediterranean and European countries too. In Rome, families love their lamb marinated with lemon and rosemary and then roasted. Another typical Roman recipe is succulent Grilled Lamb Chops served with roasted potatoes and artichokes. Amazing lamb stews are prepared for Pasqua, the sauce duly put aside to season the ravioli or fresh pasta served the next day, on Pasquetta. In Tuscany, lamb is slowly braised with onions and carrots, then served with seasoned cannellini beans. In the Puglia region, boiled lamb is served with fresh herbs and vegetables. In Trentino, they fry delicious polpettine (little meatballs) made with ground lamb, scallions, parsley and rosemary..
Dolci (dessert) is an important part of the Easter feast. Chocolate eggs are, of course, among the favorite. In Italy, they always contain a surprise inside for the kids. The Pastiera Napoletana is another authentic Easter tradition; originating in Naples, this cake is made with ricotta cheese, candied fruit and orange-blossom water. In Sicily, cassata and cannoli are the traditional dessert; and in Sardinia, is usually served the casadina, made with ricotta cheese and sultanas. Pizza di Pasqua is a famous Easter treat made all over Italy. Sometimes it is prepared as a dessert, other times as a savory pastry, together with cheese.