La Pasqua (Easter Sunday)

Easter in Italy, like in any other place is a family gathering where everything commences on the table and ends on the table after endless hours of eating.  You sit down while the sun is still up and shining and stand up when it already finished its shift for the day and the moon's turn is up.  That is, if you are still able to stand up after putting on 10 kilos in one sitting.

We all know the religious significance of Easter so I will just tackle how this special day is celebrated by my family and I guess like the rest of the population in this part, the traditional way.  

Blessed olive branches in a church on Palm Sunday.

You think about Easter a month ahead at the least.  If you are intending to just relax in a restaurant and not get frazzled by all the planning, cooking & cleaning up, then you are smart and I salute you.  I, on the hand, chose to physically harass myself in the kitchen.  That's an exaggeration.  I enjoyed the planning and preparations but when the clock struck midnight on Saturday night and I was still working in the kitchen, I kicked myself for not googling ristoranti (restaurants) instead of antipasti (appetizer).  For the past years, we have celebrated Easter with my husband's relatives in someone else's house or sometimes in a restaurant. Last year, after weeks of indecisiveness, we finally decided to book a restaurant a week before Easter. One, two, three, four restaurants after and I think we tried about ten, we still had nowhere to eat. They were all fully-booked, some a month before even.  We never encountered anything like it in the past years.  Have all the women abandoned ship and decided to be pampered by chefs and waiters instead?

Grapes dipped in gorgonzola & pistachios, grapes wrapped in emmenthal & different kinds of prosciutto.
Appetizer plate.
Bruschetta with tomatoes & basil.
Friday afternoon, I went out ingredient hunting in the supermarket.  It was packed with people clutching the same thing I had in my hands.  A long handwritten list of our own versions of ingredients to buy.  Hands up, I would say that they all have the same things on their lists.  I was not doing the traditional food, my mother-in-law was, so I was not jostling with the others in getting the same thing.

One thing I love about Italy is how for centuries, they still follow the same straight gastronomical line.  There are traditional food for every occasion that varies in every region. 

My mother-in-law took care of the traditional salty & sweet cakes for this year's celebration.  They are more elaborate than my usual quick dishes and besides, they are best left to the ones who have been doing them for decades.  I know I have to do them too sooner or later.

Torta di Pasqua al Formaggio

Pastiera Napolitana (second one at the back)
Easter menu in Rome starts with the torta di pasqua or sometimes called pizza pasquale, an Easter cheese cake that is Umbrian in tradition.  It is not to be confused with the Ligurian torta pasqualina which is the typical salty cake in Liguria. The torta di pasqua is a raised cheese bread using three kinds of cheese, parmigiano, gruyere & pecorino.  My mother-in-law puts some pieces of prosciutto too and this year, took away pecorino and I think I prefer it this way because I ate more than usual.  Like any traditional food, every family has their own version.  This is accompanied by slices of the almost meter long salame corallina, hard boiled egg and red wine.  For the meat, there's lamb and pastiera napolitana for dessert.  It's a pie filled with ricotta, wheat, candied orange peel with the essence of orange water.  Then there is the colomba, a sweet cake similar to the Christmas cake panettone but shaped like a dove which is the symbol of Easter. 

Slices of the Colomba with chocolate eggs.
And of course the part that all children are waiting for is the exchange of the chocolate eggs with gifts  inside.  Every child receives one from every family member & friends.  It's every parent's nightmare.  My main preoccupation is to find hiding places in the house for these eggs and ration the amount of chocolate consumption of the kids.  Problem is, my five-year old knows how to count so he knows perfectly well how much he and his sister had amassed.  And problem number two, how do you hide such humongous sized eggs?

One of the chocolate eggs my kids amassed.
Easter bunnies & eggs made of chocolate.
Easter lamb made of sugar & water.
Grilled salsicce & lamb.
Dessert plate of fresh strawberries with mint, prosecco & creme de cassis poached pear with lavender & chocolate eggs.
Prosecco & creme de cassis poached pears with lavender.  After all my paranoia about cooking them intact, I finally did when I found the perfect pear williams. They really are much more beautiful this way. 

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