Easter is a major holiday in Italy, taken so seriously that even those who don't enter a church all year long will go on Easter Sunday. The day after Pasqua is Pasquetta (Little Easter) and is the day for an outing of family and friends to the country. In Rome the thing to do is to go fuori porta - out of the gates of Rome - and wander about the countryside picking wild chicory and feasting on lamb that has been roasted on an open spit.
With this meal we suggest Brunello di Montalcino, one of Italy's best, and for some vintages most expensive, wines. It is produced near Siena in Tuscany and is strong, full-bodied, and long-lived.
For Easter it's traditional to begin the meal with a spread of different kinds of salami, along with our own homemade lonza. Lonza is made from the meat from the back of the hog's neck, shaped like a large salami, wrapped in brown paper, and lightly smoked. It is traditionally opened and served at Easter. We arrange very thinly sliced salami and lonza on a platter and pile hard-boiled eggs, peeled and decorated with sprigs of parsley, in a large bowl.
Choose the largest and freshest eggs you can find. Allow 2 per person. If they are room temperature, put them in a saucepan and cover with tepid water. If they have been refrigerated, cover them with very cold water. Bring the water to a boil and turn off the flame. Cover and leave the eggs in the water for about 15 minutes, or until the water has cooled completely; they will not be overcooked. To shell them easily, crack the shells against a hard surface and cover the eggs with very cold water. Shell the eggs just before serving, heap them in a bowl, and decorate with parsley. Arrange small bowls of coarse salt on the table, and pass a pepper mill.
Another traditional Easter dish is fresh fava beans, eaten raw. They are shelled at the table and then the skin is removed from each bean. They are eaten with small pieces of Pecorino.
ROMAN EASTER - Pasqua Romana
Italian Cooking in the Grand Tradition
Jo Bettoja and Anna Maria Cornetto
The Dial Press