The Italian cuisine is certainly renowned throughout the world and for Italians the most effective way to celebrate a Feast is…eating! Each event has its own peculiar dishes, including Easter! From North to South, each region of Italy has its peculiar Easter dish.
Culinary traditions in this period differ in every region of Italy, and not just from one region to another, but even between cities.
There are of course also a couple of dishes that cannot be missed on the festive table of each Italian family!
We selected the top 5 (+1) typical Italian dishes for Easter, so that, if you are travelling to Italy in this period of the year (which is highly suggested for the warm weather) you will know what to look for!
Have a look at our food & wine experiences in Italy!
When it comes to food, Naples has always something peculiar to offer! In fact, the city is not only home of some of the most famous Italian dishes, such as pizza, but it boasts a huge selection of traditional plates for Feasts like Christmas (check what to do in Naples at Christmas and Easter.
The most famous one is the so called “casatiello”, which is a savory bread filled with an assortment of salami and cheeses, mixed in a dough made with eggs, flour and lard. The mixture of cured meat and cheeses varies from recipe to recipe, probably every family has its own!
In line with tradition, Neapolitans put on the top of the bread 4 or 6 whole eggs, symbol of Easter in the Christian world and not only.
Casatiello is typical of the whole region, so you will find it not only in Naples, but also in the surrondings, such as Sorrento, Pompeii, Amalfi Coast and even Capri. It is usually served as appetizer on Easter Lunch or dinner, but leftovers eat it also as a part of the Easter Monday pic-nic!
If you are in Naples area and a food lover, you cannot miss a Cooking Class to Learn How to Make a Pizza in the Center of Naplesor a semi-private cooking lesson in Sorrento with a professional chef.
The second course of Easter lunch is usually the roasted lamb with potatoes, “agnello al forno con patate” in Italian. The custom of the dish goes back probably in Lazio region, in Rome surroundings, but it has now become a tradition all over Italy, from north to south.
The use of the lamb is deeply connected to the country’s cultural and religious roots, since the animal represents the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. In fact, the lamb is also portraited in many Renaissance artworks, such as the “Madonna and St. Anna” by Leonardo da Vinci.
The traditional recipe sees the preparation of the meat a day before, dividing it into small chunks, flavored in a sauce of lemon, garlic, oregano, rosemary and other herbs of your choosing. Then, the meat has to be left to marinate all night long.
The day after, on the Easter day, it is ready to be cooked in the oven with potatoes and served, preferably paired with a good glass of red wine! In the rural areas of central and southern Italy, it is still common to slowly roast whole lambs outside, over an open fire or smoldering coals, or in wood-burning ovens.
If you are interested in learning more of Italian and Roman cuisine, do not miss a private food tour in Rome to discover Roman dishes or a cooking class in the center of Rome to learn how to make three kind of pasta and tiramisu.
Now we are going up North, in Liguria region, especially in Genoa, where during Easter it is mandatory to have the “Torta Pasqualina”, a savory pie stuffed with spinach, ricotta cheese and eggs.
According to the tradition, the pastry has to be made with multiple layers of ultrathin dough – legend has it 33, like the years of Christ’s life, but 4 or 5 is more realistic. The stuffing is composed by spinach, a mix of ricotta and other kinds of cheese, scented with garlic and onion.
At the top of stuffing, eggs are placed into wells, so that they do not break and they will be kept whole in the stuffing. Torta Pasqualina is typically eaten as appetizer on Easter day, but it is good for several days after the making. There is also another version of this pie, which is called Torta Cappuccina, with the same ingredients, but mixed together instead of being put separately in the stuffing.
Discover our gastronomic experiences in Liguria, such as the guided tour of Genoa with a cooking class to learn how to make pesto sauce or the private tour of Manarola and Vernazza with a cooking class.
Back in Naples and Campania region, it is not really Easter without pastiera. This is a sweet ricotta cheese, rich in many ingredients, but with a very delicate taste. The preparation takes quite long and the stuffing has to be made carefully, to avoid mistakes and that one ingredient dominates the others. (In fact, Neapolitans are very demanding when it comes to pastiera, even in the bakeries!)
There are variations on the ingredients that make pastiera different from household to household, but the main element is whole wheat berries. To make it faster, it is possible to buy pre-cooked wheat, otherwise, you can decide to cook it on your own. The important thing is that it has to be simmered in milk until creamy, then mixed with ricotta, sugar, eggs, candied citron, and a mix of spices and scents (cinnamon, vanilla, and orange blossom water). Someone adds to the stuffing also cream, to make it softer.
Another landmark of pastiera’s quality is the type of ricotta cheese: in Campania, the most used is from the buffalo milk, typical of the area, but many people make it also with sheep or cow milk.
Pastiera is the typical Easter dessert of each Neapolitan family and not only: it is very popular also in other Italian areas. In Naples, we suggest to try the pastiera in the bakery Scaturchio, located in the city center or in the Antica pasticceria Vincenzo Bellavia, located on the seaside.
Colomba or “Easter dove” is considered as the Easter counterpart of the Panettone and Pandoro, the typical Christmas desserts (see here the top 5 Christmas food specialties). It is a sweet bread, traditionally made with high-quality flour, fresh eggs, sugar, butter and natural yeast, that takes at least 30 hours to rise. There can be many additional ingredients: chocolate chips, candied fruit or dried fruit. The topping is usually decorated with almonds and glaze.
The origin of this dessert goes back to Milan, which is also home to the panettone: the idea came up from the advertiser of a famous Milanese confectionery, who thought to launch the tradition of an Easter cake, basically recycling the panettone recipe but with another shape, the dove. The dove is in fact the Christian symbol of Easter and peace, which also refers to the approaching of spring in that period of the year.
Discover the gastronomic traditions of Milan with our experiences: Food tasting tour in Milan or the guided street art and food tour of Milan.
Eggs are certainly a universal symbol of Easter celebrations: all around the world kids decorate empty eggs, they are involved in eggs hunt or receive Easter bunnies. In Italy, we have our own way to use eggs: with chocolate!
Italian Easter eggs are large hollow chocolate egg shapes with a surprise gift tucked inside: mostly conceived as a gift for children, they are actually quite popular also among adults. The tradition of chocolate eggs has probably French roots, but it became quite popular at the end of 1800, thanks to a famous chocolatery in Turin, home of the Italian chocolate industry.
Nowadays, during Easter time, the shop windows of bakeries and bars are full of eggs and many famous chocolatiers care deeply about this tradition, making actual chocolate works of arts with special surprises (there is often the chance to personalize the gift).
If you are a chocolate addicted, we highly suggest to book the Exclusive Luxury tour from Florence to Perugia to explore the chocolate world.