Italy’s Easter Breads
March 27, 2022
Did you know that Pasqua (Easter) is a bigger holiday than Christmas in Italy? Everywhere there is a refreshing sense of new beginnings and nothing symbolizes this more than the humble egg.
Eggs have huge meaning and their significance is expressed beautifully in Italy’s sweet and savory Easter confections. Starting with ciambelle, those twisted rings flavored with anise and decorated with colored eggs, either purple (for royalty) or red (for Christ’s blood). Even the shape of the ciambelle has significance since there is no beginning or end. The rustic country style casatiello is an impressive looking Neapolitan stuffed bread studded with eggs and ham. In Sicily pupazze, “dolls” made from bread dough with an egg nestled at the top for the doll’s face are an endearing and vanishing bread tradition.
All over Italy there is the stately torta Pasqualina, the Easter pie made with layers of dough, thirty-three to be exact (the age of Christ) when he died), each one spread with cured ham, salame, cheeses and hard-boiled eggs.
One of my favorite Easter baking traditions is my nonna Galasso’s casatiello This savory filled Neapolitan Easter bread represents all the symbolism of faith. Casatiello, the word, is derived from case and means “cheese” in Neapolitan dialect because of the use of cheese in the dough and in the filling. The rising dough meant the promise of new life; the shape of the bread symbolized a crown and the eggs meant rebirth. There are many variations of this stuffed bread but it is one of those antique recipes not made at home anymore and that Neapolitans are likely to buy them at their local bakery.