Feast like an Italian this Easter
A New Zealand Easter is all about the long weekend, school holidays and indigestion from gobbling too much chocolate! In Italy, Easter is called Pasqua and is known as a festival of friends, family and feasting! Hmm, families and feasts ... it sounds so much nicer than getting a bellyache from cheap compound chocolate wrapped in shiny foil. Here's how to turn your long weekend into something more, umm, cultural than a fluffy white Easter bunny.
Easter is a big deal in Italy
In a Catholic country like Italy, Easter is a big deal, more akin to Thanksgiving for Americans than what we New Zealanders know as Easter. Those wine and food loving Italians throw massive parties for Pasqua, as it follows six weeks of lent - which is all about penance and going without. After a week of serious religious observations including solemn processions and mass, the country explodes on Easter Sunday in bright colours and street parties to celebrate new life. It's a day of excess, that's best demonstrated at the dinner table!
There's a saying in Italy: “"Natale con i tuoi e Pasqua con chi vuoi" - Christmas with your family and Easter with whoever." Easter really is a time to get together with everyone important in your life, (or not so important!) and share in a meal of all the good things that have been on hold in the name of lent - meat, eggs and sweets!
The Pasqua menu
When planning your Easter feast menu think excess and know that there's no shame in over catering! Here's a few foods to consider:
- The most important dish to serve on Easter Sunday is lamb (which represents the sacrifice of Christ as a lamb) - Garlic and Rosemary BBQ lamb with a side dish of Duck fat roast potatoes is perfecto!
- Eggs are also a must as they symbolise new life and Italians love to make all sorts of egg frittatas for Easter that can be cut into pizza-like slices for everyone to share.
- Your table should also be overflowing with an array of salads including at least one platter of Balsamic roast vegetable salad along with a selection of cold meats and pastas galore such as Pesto pasta and Tomato based sauces.
- Crusty breads and Olive Focaccia are a must as are mountains of antipasto platters.
- For dolci (dessert) have an array of sweets on offer including the classic Italian dessert, Tiramisu, as well as special Easter treats for kids like Caramello Egg Brownies. If you really want to go all the way though, the traditional Italian Easter dessert is a baked ricotta cheese pie called Pastiera Napoletana (there are zillions of recipes online).
A table abundant in culinary delights is THE most important aspect of Easter feasting, so there really shouldn't be much room on the table for decorations, but a red tablecloth with white and green napery (the colours of the Italian flag) will add to your theme.
Eggs are the universal symbol of life and rainbow dyed eggs are an Italian Easter tradition. Get creative with your kids by dyeing eggs and placing these in a bowl as a table centrepiece - if room allows it! At the end of your feast, your kids will love playing this Italian game:
One child holds an egg and their opponent hold another. They smack them together to see which one cracks first. The child whose egg remains intact is the winner and then plays against another child. The tournament is kept up with all the other kids at the table until there is only one egg standing. The child with the strongest egg is the winner!
Play some classic Italian tunes on your stereo to create a bit of ambience such as Vivaldi's Four Seasons or Italian opera arias.
Now let the Italian in you come out. Keep your guests' plates and glasses full and express your ideas forcefully. And there you have it-an Italian family Easter feast!