Easter in Italy

Easter in Italy is a huge affair of traditions, food and festivities which varies from region to region, writes Alison Lambert.

 

Chocolate eggs and hot cross buns are not on the menu, but they have their own traditions that have carried through the centuries.

I have picked a few simple recipes to add to your Easter traditions and to bring a little piece of Italy into your home.

 

 

 

 

 

Photos: Simon Lambert
Photos: Simon Lambert

Salami and boiled eggs (salame e uova sode)

An antipasto plate to start is perfect as your guests get to graze before the festivities begin.

This simple combination of salami and eggs is a tradition that has gone on for centuries.

The egg represents rebirth and the salami is for the future of the farmers. I have not included a recipe for this.

The most important factor is using good-quality ingredients and not overcomplicating the antipasto.

Serve at room temperature and have it so it can eaten as finger food.

Lamb with potatoes (abbacchio a scottadito)

This dish is traditionally made with a leg of lamb cut in a specific way so  it comes with the kidneys and liver still attached. 

However, I have simplified the dish to make it more economical, so we can all enjoy lamb this Easter.

SERVES 4

INGREDIENTS

8 lamb or hogget shoulder chops
3 sprigs of fresh rosemary, roughly chopped
2 bulbs of garlic, separated
4 red onions, peeled and sliced into thick wedges
600g potatoes, peeled and cut into large pieces
olive oil
1 glass of white wine
1 cup of beef stock
sea salt and cracked black pepper

METHOD

Heat the oven to 190degC.

Heat a large heavy-based fry pan to hot and add a little olive oil.  Sear the chops so they are golden brown on each side.

Remove and place in a large deep-sided oven dish.

Add the onions and garlic and brown. Remove and add to the pan with the chops.

Now add the potatoes and brown lightly on all sides. Pour over the wine and stir to remove any bits off the bottom of the pan.

Add the stock and herbs and return to the boil.

Place the potatoes over the lamb and pour the liquid from the pan over the lamb and vegetables.

Bake for 30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender and the sauce has thickened.

Serve on the table in the oven dish with your favourite accompaniments.

Ricotta and green torte (torta pasqualina)

This torte is served throughout Italy. Some make it with their own pastry, some use puff, some use short, but I am using filo as it saves a lot of time and the end result is light and crispy.

Use a 23cm-25cm diameter removable bottom cake tin

SERVES 8-10

INGREDIENTS

350g packet filo pastry
olive oil

Filling
1kg greens - silverbeet, kale, spinach
1 onion, sliced thinly
2 Tbsp oil
sea salt flakes
cracked pepper
1 Tbsp chopped fresh marjoram leaves
8 eggs
100g parmesan cheese, grated
250g ricotta
pinch nutmeg

METHOD

Heat the oven to 180degC.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to the boil.

Remove all stalks from the greens and discard. Wash the leaves well.  When the water is boiling plunge the leaves in and cook for 3-4 minutes, drain, cool and squeeze out excess water.  Roughly chop and set aside.

Add 2 tablespoons oil to a fry pan and cook the onion for 5 minutes. Add the greens, marjoram and cook for a further 2 minutes, season lightly with salt and pepper. Set aside to cool.

Once cooled, add 2 eggs and 30g parmesan cheese.  Mix to combine.

Mix the ricotta with 2 eggs, 50g of grated parmesan cheese, add a pinch of nutmeg and season lightly.  Stir well to combine.

Lightly grease the tin with olive oil.

Layer the base and sides of the tin with filo pastry, brushing with oil between every layer. I use the whole packet of filo pastry so the sides and base are generously covered, allowing the filo pastry to overhang the sides.

Add the greens and spread evenly over the base.

Now add the ricotta mix and spread evenly.

Separate the four remaining eggs, adding the whole egg yolks evenly on to the top of the ricotta.

Using a fork, lightly beat the egg whites and pour over the ricotta mix, sprinkle over remaining parmesan cheese and roughly fold over any filo pastry which is overhanging.

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the filling has set and the pastry is golden.

Cool before cutting.

Italian Easter cookies (anginetti)

I found these cute little Easter cookies and thought it was a nice addition to our Easter basket.

MAKES 24

Cookies
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup orange juice
125g butter, softened
3 large eggs
3 cups flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Icing
2 cups icing sugar
decorative jelly crystals or sprinkles

METHOD

Heat the oven to 180degC and line baking trays with baking paper.

Blend the oil and sugar together.

Beat in the eggs, then the softened butter until well combined.

Beat in the orange juice.

Sift together the dry ingredients and mix until combined.

Roll into 24 evenly sized balls and space apart on the baking trays.

Bake for 10-15 minutes.

Remove and cool completely before icing.

To make the icing

Mix the icing sugar with 1-2 tsp hot water until no lumps are visible and the consistency is spreadable.  If too thick, add a drop or two more of water and if too runny add more icing sugar until you get the desired consistency.

Dip the top of the cookie into the icing and place on a tray and sprinkle over crystals in the shape of a cross.

Continue until all the cookies are iced and decorated.

Happy Easter everyone!

 

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