A Southern Italian Easter meal is an indulgent one. Traditionally, it is the end of a period of fasting and a time to rejoice and eat!
The kids were always welcome in the kitchen. Growing up, I remember helping my mother and grandmothers make homemade goodies. It instilled in me a love of cooking and traditions. I’d like to do the same with my children. The ideal time to get kids engaged in the kitchen, is around the holidays. That’s when all of the best recipes are revealed! In our case, that means many Southern Italian specialties.
Italian food varies greatly by region. Even within the regions, each town may have its own variation on specialty dishes. What I believe everyone would agree on is that eggs, lemons, ricotta, cured meats and lamb will all make their way to the table at Easter (Pasqua).
Making Easter Basket Cookies with Kids
Kids will always pull up a step to help make sweets. Cookie cutters, sprinkles, rolling pins are cues that mom is making dessert! If you are looking for a unique cookie project with the kids, these cookie baskets called Cudduraci from the Region of Calabria, are really fun to make! (recipe translated below) Cudduraci can also become wonderful Easter gifts that the kids can give to friends and family.
Traditionally the dough is worked into the shape of a basket with a hard boiled egg or eggs placed in the center. The dough is easy to work, so get as creative as you like. Braid the dough into an Easter wreath, use cookie cutter shapes, make baskets, eggs, chicks or doves. Add sprinkles and other edible decor.
7 cups of flour
2 cups of sugar
7 oz of butter at room temperature (just under 1 cup)
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
grated lemon rind (to taste) pinch of salt optional: add shot of Amaretto, Anice or Cointreau
Prepare a clean surface. Mix dry ingredients together transfer to clean surface and make a well in the middle. Add eggs, vanilla, lemon rind, and butter (cut in pieces) to the center. Work all ingredients in together.
Make shapes desired. Cookies should be .5 to .75 inches in height. To decorate, brush dough with milk or egg whites and add colorful sprinkles. Place on baking sheet. Oven temp: 360 for 15-20 minutes until golden.
One of my favorite Easter foods is called “Pitta Chena” and also goes by “Pizza Piena” and many other names depending on where you are in Southern Italy. The ingredients that go into it also vary, but it is basically a stuffed pizza with hard boiled eggs, soppressata Calabrese (or other regional salami), basket cheese, and ricotta (and/or other cheeses). The dough can be thick or thin. Make it the way you like. You can’t really go wrong.
This is a perfect dish to get kids involved in making. Rolling out the dough and using the boiled egg slicer are good tasks that a little one can manage. Make your own pizza dough or buy dough. The rest is simple layering of ingredients - which kids love to do. Recipe for Easter Pizza here by Dave’s Cupboard. It is absolutely delicious and eaten mostly in Italy as a Pasquetta meal - a traditional Easter Monday picnic in the countryside.
As the weekend nears, pick a recipe that brings back memories, or start a new food tradition, and invite the kids into the kitchen!