Easter in Italy
There are many legends surrounding la colomba (the dove). One of them recounts that immediately after Easter, during the Battle of Legnano, the Milanese who were fighting Barbarossa saw the battle turn in their favour when three doves flew up from a church. The story goes that, since that time, the Milanese have commemorated the event by eating dove-shaped cakes. Everywhere in the world la colomba is synonymous with good news and provides a joyful end to the Easter meal.
Ingredients: flour, butter, egg yolks, sugar, orange zest, almonds and milk.
Serving: While a delight for the palate, its delicate, moist texture and golden crust also provide significant nutritional value.
It's impossible not to be tempted by Sicilian pastry. Holding pride of place is certainly "cassata," made to celebrate Easter after the privations of Lent. A Sicilian proverb holds that anyone who has no cassata at Easter is truly to be pitied.
We must also mention pecorelle cli marza pane, and cuddura with its hard-boiled egg, baked in various shapes to delight the children.
It is also the time for Martorana, or Pasta Reale, marzipan confectionary prepared in delightful shapes. Agnellini pasquali, little Easter lambs, are certainly the most representative.
Easter also means the arrival of spring. On the menu you'll find fresh peas and beans, artichokes served in frittella, and fresh tuna marking the opening of fishing season.
Each village has its special traditions. In Prizzi, in the hills south of Palermo, The Dance of the Devils takes place on every Monday of the Easter season. Wearing red and black satanic masks complete with horns and grotesque noses, a portion of the townsfolk wreak havoc, constraining passers-by to buy them drinks (a metaphor for stealing their souls). During the ensuing celebrations the devils are "forced" to get the drinks in and "cannateddi", a typical Easter cake, is distributed.
A ricotta-filled sponge cake decorated with candied fruits, the crowning glory of Sicilian pastries.
This sweet pastry is always served with a hard-boiled egg held in place by two criss-crossed strips of dough.
Every Easter Neapolitans resurrect their love for sweets with Pastiera, a pie specially made for the occasion filled with ricotta cheese and studded with candied fruits.
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