The week leading up to Easter, and Easter itself, is kind of a big deal in Italy and it’s one of my favorite times of the year in Calabria. Easter week is celebrated all over the boot with religious festivals and processions. If you are out and about on Good Friday, chances are you’ll come across a re-enactment of the Stations of the Cross, performed in the streets of towns and cities.
And, just like every holiday in Italy, food and sweets are being prepared in preparation for the big Easter Sunday lunch. Usually when you think about Easter treats, chocolate eggs immediately come to mind. That’s also true in Italy, but there is also a very special spot in the hearts, tables and stomachs of Italians for traditional sweets that are prepared year after year during this time.
Let’s take a look at some of the delicious sweets you can find in Southern Italy:
The Colomba di Pasqua is very similar to the Panetone you would eat during Christmas time but is traditionally shaped like a “colomba” (or “dove”), the symbol for peace and resurrection. Typically, the colomba is topped with icing sugar and almonds before it is baked, but you’ll also find some more modernized versions topped with chocolate and like panetone, you will find this treat everywhere.
The Cuzzupa is known by many different names in Calabria and although the recipes vary slightly from region to region or kitchen to kitchen, one thing is certain, the star ingredient of this Easter sweet bread is eggs…and lots of them! You will typically find this sweet bread in the form of a donut with a boiled egg in the center or sometimes it’s braided with a boiled egg incorporated into the braid. Some people like to get super creative and form the cuzzupa into different fun shapes like hearts and animals.
In Sicilia, the cuzzupa is known as cuddura and is prepared in the same way. Whereas in Puglia and Basilicata, Scarelle, also similar to the Calabrian cuzzupa, are kicked up a notch and topped with white icing sugar, multi-colored sprinkles and chocolate eggs for decoration. Delish!
The Pastiera, originating in Naples, is made with ricotta cheese, candied fruit, sugar, eggs and cooked grains. The recipe is relatively simple, but it calls for a lot of time and patience. The pastiera is usually cooked on the Thursday or Friday before Easter to give enough time for all the fragrances to fuse together giving the pastiera its beloved unique flavor. The smell of this cake is irresistible but when it’s time to finally have a bite, the wait is so worth it!
Buona Pasqua! Happy Easter!