What do you eat for Easter? Giulia shares her Tuscan family’s Easter menu that mostly relies on family traditions passed down by her grandmother.
My family is quite traditional when it comes to celebrating festivities with food. We have a collection of traditional Easter recipes that we make year after year. Sometimes we slightly change a preparation, but the Easter menu always remains the same: fresh pasta, lamb, peas and eggs. Lots of eggs.
Easter Menu: let’s start with eggs
The starters for an Easter lunch can change year after year: crostini neri, the typical Tuscan chicken liver crostini, local cold cuts such as prosciutto crudo, salame and soppressata, pecorino and fresh fava beans… But there is always one constant in our Easter starters, the blessed eggs. These are plain hard-boiled eggs, cooked as long as it takes to recite the Apostles’ Creed, as my grandmother would say, then peeled and placed with care in a small basket. The eggs are blessed during the Mass on Easter morning and always open our lunch, simply seasoned with a pinch of salt.
First course is always fresh pasta
When it comes to Easter recipes, in our family the first course is always fresh pasta. It can be a bowl of home-made tagliatelle with grandma’s rich ragù sauce, or a tray of lasagna, made with the same ragù, béchamel sauce and thin sheets of fresh pasta. The dish is baked until crisp, and served in large portions. Sometimes, along with the classic lasagna, my mum would also make a batch of mushroom lasagna: it’s Easter, so it is a day to celebrate! Most of the time, my grandma would also make tortelli maremmani. These pasta pockets are filled with fresh ricotta and spinach, and seasoned with a hint of fresh marjoram and nutmeg. We usually dress them with brown butter and sage, and a shower of grated Parmigiano Reggiano.
Lamb as Easter’s main course
Lamb is probably the most typical Easter food in our family. It is an ancient legacy, which dates back to the Jewish Passover, but for us it is quite simply related to familial habits. Lamb can be roasted with fresh herbs and white wine- in this case, we would select a lamb shoulder, rub it with salt, finely chopped rosemary, sage and garlic, before dousing it in extra virgin olive oil. We would then allow it to sit for one hour in a hot oven to roast until golden brown and juicy, basting it from time to time with some white wine and juices from the pan. Sometimes my mum would buy lamb cutlets from the butcher to fry. She would dip the cutlets in a beaten egg and coat them with breadcrumbs, before frying the cutlets until crisp and golden. She would then soak a few slices of day-old bread in the leftover egg in order to fry them, too. Needless to say, this was a very special treat.
Our Easter side dish
As a side dish, along with the roasted potatoes that are a favourite of children and adults alike, we traditionally make piselli alla fiorentina, green peas made according to the Florentine tradition: a clove of fresh garlic, a pinch of sugar, parsley, extra virgin olive oil and a few strips of pancetta or prosciutto. Have some bread ready to mop all of the juices left at the bottom of the saucepan. Even though my mum would always use frozen peas from a bag, if you have the chance to find fresh peas the result will be astonishingly better.
Easter menu: a schiacciata to end on a sweet note
To close the Easter meal, we usually bring to the table the chocolate eggs we gifted each other in the morning. Along with the chocolate eggs, there’s one Easter recipe that cannot be missing on our table: schiacciata di Pasqua, which is also one of my fondest memories. It is not the common schiacciata you would find in a bakery, flat and doused with extra virgin olive oil. It is a domed sweet bread, with a glossy dark brown surface and a yellowish dense crumb, delicately flavored with aniseeds and rosolio.
This treat is known as schiacciata (or stiacciata), as Italians used to break (schiacciare in Italian) many eggs to make it. Picture this: it’s spring and now the chickens produce eggs at a fast pace. You make an omelet, you cook a fried egg, you make also a fricassee, but then you still must find a way to use so many eggs. So, back in the day, the women would bake the Easter schiacciata. Not just one or two, though, they baked them in incredibly large quantities, to give to their neighbors, relatives, the doctor, the pharmacist, all of the notables of the time. The Tuscan Easter schiacciata is not as buttery, rich and sweet as the traditional Italian colomba (another sweet bread shaped as a dove). It is very humble, and it takes some time to be completely appreciated. It is traditionally eaten with a wedge of the Easter chocolate egg or soaked in a tiny glass of vinsanto, the ever-present sweet wine on our holiday tables!