Italian Easter eggs are a world away from the usual seasonal confectionery on sale in the UK. Here there are no crème eggs or those fabulous Cadbury’s mini ones:
(grateful donation from neighbours from the UK)
Italy, however, more than makes up for it in the sheer size of some chocolate eggs.
Unlike UK Easter eggs, Italian ones have their halves melded together so one must break them apart, not only to appreciate the fine chocolate (normally fondant) they are made of but also to get at the ‘sorpresa’ or surprize contained within. Usually, this prize is a simple enough thing like a piece of tinsel jewellery or a fluffy chick but sometimes (and of course one has to pay the price) it can turn out to be an expensive ring or silver statuette.
Here is one of our Easter eggs:
And here is the ‘sorpresa’ contained within. It’s an inflatable bunny at which you can throw inflatable rings. What fun!
Our Easter lunch was a happy mixture of UK and Italy. This is what we ate:
Antipasto (or appetizer openers):
Lasagne (not your frozen rubbish but meticulously handmade with béchamel sauce by Sandra)
Involtini (lamb parcels with Easter surprise filling: sage, walnut, thyme, rosemary and bread):
Home –made Tiramisu ringed with Savoyard biscuits.
In case you want to make your own Tiramisu (the word literally means ‘pick me up’ and it sure does!) here’s our recipe
- 2-4 eggs
- ladyfingers (Savoyards or Pavesini biscuits)
- A small spoonful of sugar
- A drop of alcohol e.g. amaretto or rum)
- A sprinkle of cocoa powder on top
Separate 2-4 eggs, and place the egg whites in one bowl, and egg yolks in another.
Add 2 tablespoons of sugar to the egg white bowl:
Use a hand mixer to whip the egg whites to stiff peaks.
Put the stiff egg whites aside, and switch over to the egg yolk bowl.
Add 2 tablespoons of sugar to the egg yolks:
Whip this mixture for a couple of minutes, until the mixture goes from bright yellow to a pale yellow colour.
Add the mascarpone cheese (nothing else will do, not even cottage cheese…It’s a mild and creamy Italian cheese that typically comes in small tubs).
Mix in the mascarpone with the hand mixer until incorporated, and then gently fold in the stiff egg whites, 1/3 at a time:
Now build the tiramisu!
Make some proper espresso coffee. When the espresso has cooled to room temperature, combine it with a drop of amaretto or rum or suitable alcoholic drink.
Dip the ladyfingers into the espresso and alcohol mixture,
Place them in a square or circular bowl
Ring the bowl with further ladyfingers
Then pour over a layer of the mascarpone cream to cover, and repeat.
Put the tiramisu in the fridge for around five hours minimum so as to let the layers soak into each other and combine the flavours.
Serve the tiramisu cold, with a dusting of cocoa powder on top.
The other essential ingredient of the Italian Easter is the cake. Nationally it’s ‘La Colombina’, or little dove, a delicious cake with candied fruit and almond nuts. Here is the one we bought:
Locally, there will be regional variants. In Lucca, for example, the classic Easter cake is the ‘pasimata’. I’ve only bought this from good bakeries within the town walls and have never made it myself. La Pasimata is leavened bread, flavoured with anise seeds and orange peel. It is traditionally consumed during Lent and, blessed in the church, on Easter day.
Formerly, pasimata was prepared with the addition of saffron and fennel and was called pangiallo (yellow bread). There are actually two distinct types of pasimata: the Lucca version and the Garfagnana version.
- Lucca’s version is kneaded like bread and divided into rectangular loaves mixed with aniseed seeds.
- The Garfagnana version includes raisins and resembles a panettone (typical Milanese fruit cake, now gone nation-wide).
It would be nice to find a recipe for our area and make our own next year.
How was your Easter lunch. Any local touches we don’t have over here? Do let us know…
(Our Easter recital with audience)