Saturday, April 1, 2017

Easter Celebrations in Puglia

Our Italian Food Wine & Travel group today is sharing with you traditions, foods and wines for Easter in Italy.  I’ve been to Italy many times, but never during the Easter holiday season.  So what better way to get the best perspective on how Easter is celebrated in Italy than reaching out to fellow bloggers, Orna of her blog Orna O’Reilly, and Tom of The Palladian Traveler to get each of their own perspectives.  Both recently moved from the Veneto region in northern Italy to Puglia in the south so we’ll mostly be highlighting this region today, but of course every region has their own traditions and ways of celebrating.

First off, Orna gave me her perspective on some questions I asked of her.  So let’s begin!

What is the best way you would describe how Easter is celebrated in Italy?
The emphasis here in Italy is on the combination of food and family. And the more of both, the better! Easter is traditionally a huge family occasion with all generations sitting down together around the table and feasting. 

How do you typically celebrate Pasqua in Italy and what are some of the Easter dishes enjoyed? 
Easter in Italy is a great family holiday occasion with many families travelling long distances in order to get together for a few days of feasting and celebration. Religious festivals abound and traditional foods such as lamb, including its innards, are on every table. 

Typical Easter dishes begin at breakfast time and consist of a breakfast of sweet and savory breads, hard boiled eggs and casatiello, a type of bread containing hard boiled eggs in their shells. 
Easter casatiello
breakfast for Easter in Italy
A typical Pasqua breakfast
Easter lunch usually consists of a continuation of the foodie marathon beginning with corallina salami accompanied by sweet and savory breads called pizza di pasqua.
Easter breakfast of corallina salami
Cheeses and corallina salami

Easter dishes in Puglia pizza di pasqua
Pizza di Pasqua

Next is a plate of pasticcio (lasagne) filled with fresh asparagus, followed by coratella di agnello - lamb 'pluck' (veal innards) and a dolce of crostata di frutta (fruit tart).
coratella for Pasqua
Pasquetta - Easter Monday -  consists of more feasting with the extended family sitting down together at the longest table imaginable. Usually there are many tables pushed together and many signoras happily doing the cooking together and rushing around with heaped plates of food, while babies are perched on high chairs and parked in their buggies alongside their mammas. Needless to remark, it can get quite noisy!

Typical cakes are served after the meal: colomba (cake shaped like a dove) and campana di pasqua (cake shaped like a bell).
Colomba for Easter
What are the suggested wine pairings with these foods?  
Here in Puglia I would begin with an aperitivo of rosato frizzante, for example the Leone de Castris Five Roses Metodo Classico.   

I would pair my antipasti with fiano from Villa Schinosa.  For my meat courses I would choose aglianico, also from Villa Schinosa. These are two of my favorite wines since moving to Puglia. 

For dolce I would wind up my meal with vino passito Le Recordanze from the vineyard of Cosimo Taurino. 

Pasquetta is just like Easter Sunday except it's usually MORE!! 

Orna also spoke with a local lady from the town of Ostuni about Puglia and we’re lucky to hear her thoughts on Easter in Puglia as well below.

She described Holy Week in Puglia as being dedicated to Easter religious services and a pretty busy week for all Pugliese.

On every Easter menu here you will find eggs, a symbol of fertility, and lamb, which in religious terms means 'Lamb of God'. 

Puglia has a culinary tradition which is strongly linked to what produce is yielded by their fertile red soil, depending on the season. Easter dining, therefore, comes with vegetables and fruits in season, along with the wonderful Pugliese extra virgin olive oil. 

Beginning with the appetizers/antipasti on Easter Sunday, there is what is known as the Benedict.  The Benedict is a typical Foggia dish consisting of boiled eggs blessed by the priest during Easter Mass and eaten with salami, fresh ricotta and asparagus which is typical of this season. 

There are also Easter Turnovers, which are fried and stuffed with fresh ricotta cheese. For first (primi) course, the traditional food is often tiella, a type of pie made with rice, potatoes and mussels. Lamb or kid invariably served for the second (secondo) course, cooked in many different ways. In Foggia it's all about the broth made from pieces of kid, usually served with boiled asparagus, beaten eggs and grated cheese. In Trani, lamb is served with peas and grated cheese. Typical of the Murgia plateau is delicious browned lamb with tomato slices and cardoncelli mushrooms, all served with beaten eggs and grated pecorino. 

However, the real stars of the show are the Easter desserts. Scarcelle are simple cookies of different shapes, synonymous with children's parties. These are usually in fun animal shapes, covered with different colored icings and sugar and given to ones friends at Easter.  There are also pastatelle, little cakes prepared only with local olive oil and filled with homemade jams as well as mustacciuli, typical of Taranto, which are almond biscuits with chocolate icing. 

If all that wasn’t enough to get you salivating we have Tom’s delicious suggestions.  These are dishes that Tom has enjoyed this time of year and are ideas for the perfect feast in Ostuni where he resides.

Along with the centuries-old religious traditions, la cucina povera (the poor kitchen) pulls out all of its zero-kilometer ingredients as Pugliese from all corners of Italy's heel enjoy a bounty of foods, sweet and savory, that are traditionally eaten during this time.

Aperitivo: Ursi Bianco Frizzante, a bubbly blend of Verdeca (85%) and Chardonnay (15%) from the Leone de Castris Estate in Salice Salento in the province of Lecce.

Antipasti: A true bounty of flavors opens the Easter feast featuring zucchini flowers tempura stuffed with mozzarella and anchovies, a flan of peas and ricotta topped with a warm fondu of cacio cavalo cheese, mozzarella and roasted almonds, fried breaded wild mushrooms, thin slices of the prized capo collo (cured ham from the pig's neck) from Martina Francasaut├ęd meatballs stuffed with mint, crushed wheat with white trufflesrustic wild-onion focaccia bread, homemade taralli seasoned with dry fennel, and DOP cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil for dipping.
Wine pairing: Falanghina, a robust white varietal from the Villa Schinosa Estate near Trani in the province of Bari.

First course: Tortelli made with farro wheat (spelt) flour stuffed with cream cheese and nuts and topped with black truffle shavings, and orecchiette (little ear pasta) in a lamb ragu topped with grated pecorino cheese.
Wine pairing: Parchitello, a rich, aromatic Bombino Nero rosato from the Giancarlo Ceci Estate in Andria in the province of Barletta.

Second Course: Roasted black pork ribs coated with honey, and slow-cooked leg of lamb with sides of artichokes, turnip tops, spring peas and roasted potatoes.
Wine pairing: Castel del Monte Reserva, a deep, ruby-red DOCG-rated Nero di Troia varietal from the Torrevento Estate near Corato in the province of Bari.

Dolce: Sporcamuso (a cream-filled puff pastry topped with powdered sugar), crostata (pie) filled with ricotta and pears, and a crunchy fennel and apple salad topped with a dollop of plain yogurt.
Wine pairing: Le Ricordanze, a Salento sweet passito, from the Cosimo Taurino Estate in Guagnano in the province of Lecce.

Easter crostata in Italy
I think after all that we need a trip down to Puglia for next year’s Easter.  What do you say?!

Wait!  There's more!  Here are a variety of other Easter dishes and wines to enjoy.  If you catch this in time, chat with us live this Saturday April 1st on Twitter at #ItalianFWT @ 11am EST.  

Jen from Vino Travels features Easter Celebrations in Puglia
Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla features Il Verdetto di Pasqua + Sella & Mosca Terre Rare Riserva Carignano
Susannah of Avvinare features Easter Traditions in Rome
Jill of L'Occasion features 5 Italian Easter Dishes and Wine Pairings
Gwendolyn of Art Predator features Easter Bread and other Italian Traditions Paired with Wine
Mike of Undiscovered Italy features Colomba di Pasqua
Li of The Wining Hour features A Quaint and Peaceful Pasqua in Pienza

Join us next month on May 6th as Gwendolyn from Art Predator hosts Italian Sparkling Wines.  See you then!


*All pictures copywright of Orna O'Reilly.

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