Growing up in a Calabrese-Canadian family Easter was a big food holiday after the long fast of Lent. Even with Nonna reciting "Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi" -- spend Christmas with your family and Easter with whomever you want -- we stuck close to home for all the great food.
Both sides of my family immigrated to Canada from Calabria well over 50 years ago so what we consider Italian traditions are more likely family microcosms of traditions that no longer exist in Italy or with other families. Our food traditions have evolved based on ingredients available in small towns, culinary skills, and individual tastes, likes and dislikes. Today we celebrate our food mash-ups.
The names of foods I claim as our own, based on dialect, faint memories and the influence of Italian neighbours from Abruzzo, Tuscana, Friuli, and other regions. If you share any of these food traditions I’d love to hear your stories.
This is a favourite of mine because it falls in my category of one-pot cooking, that is, it’s really easy to make. For us, pastieri is a cold pasta square made with eggs, ricotta and parmigiano or romano cheese. It’s great for Easter brunch.
Baskets & Paparelle (Ducks)
Nonna Filomena would make these for her grandchildren. The paparelle or ducks were made for the girls and the baskets were made for the boys. Making these decorative breads requires a lot of skill and patience. Our family has preserved these traditions through the family cookbook that I mentioned in a previous post.
Straw poll isn’t an Easter delicacy, it’s a quick poll I put out to my Facebook friends and family asking what they were making for Easter. Here’s a sampling of responses:
TB: I am making the traditional Perugian/Umbrian? Pasqua dinner -- lamb. I was thinking about making a nice Easter Bunny stew, but my butcher said agnello per Pasqua
JA: Matzoh with charoset and smoked salmon salad (not combined, and in lieu of Gefilte fish).
CM: Veggie patties and veggies grilled on my baby Weber...and a few ice cold beers to boot.
WA: those new pre-made Easter cookies ... (grin)
I love my family’s diversity!
This is my favourite Easter food, probably because of its off-the-charts fat content. The Easter pizza is bread dough baked around layers and layers of sliced meats and cheeses, evenly stacked to make a geometric pattern when cut. The pizza is served cold and feeds a large extended family. I’m working on a version made in a loaf pan.
All my nonnas made sweet Easter bread often with whole eggs baked into them. Sometimes braided, sometimes shaped into an alphabet letter to represent your first name. I ran into my Italian neighbour the other day and asked her if she makes Easter break. She said, “I don't make the Easter bread with the eggs in it anymore. No one eats them, it's a waste.” I don’t recall eating the eggs either.