In Italy, Easter Monday is known as La Pasquetta, which is literally translated as Little Easter. After the solemn and reflective Easter season (Pasqua), it’s an informal community fete, enjoyed outdoors with family and friends.
Also known as Lunedi dell ‘Angelo, or Monday of the Angels, it’s a day to remember the two Marys who, upon finding the sepulchre of Christ to be empty, were comforted by angels.
But its origins actually date back before the time of Christ to ancient Roman culture. When the spring equinox arrived, the feast of Lupercalia was held to mark the end of winter, and to rejoice in the coming season of rebirth.
Today, the two traditions have converged into a day of rest, relaxation and appreciation for the abundance of nature, with time away from the kitchen spent enjoying a prolonged luncheon al fresco – and it’s a great way to use up those Easter leftovers!
Varieties of salami and cheeses, lovely breads, pastas, calzones and the leftovers from Easter dinner and also included. And, of course, a bottle of red wine!
Blankets are laid out, folding tables are set with flowers, and games of soccer and bocce ball are played while others kick back with cards or dominoes. Sweet biscotti finishes off the meal, with both vanilla and chocolate varieties of these crunchy sweets.
So, if you have the day off, consider spending it Roman-style with a picnic to celebrate the season. Even if you have to work, you can pack up some leftovers and spend your lunch outdoors, appreciating the wonders of spring.
And to get you in the picnic mood, here are a couple favorite Easter recipes that are still enjoyed in Italy today – Buona Pasqua!
Good Friday Calzone
This recipe for a savory meatless calzone, which is basically a stuffed pizza, is traditional to the core.
Being meat free, it was served during Lent, and with the inclusion of anchovies, it became a favorite for meals on Good Friday. If there was any left over when Pasquetta arrived, it would be included in the picnic basket as well.
Heat a large skillet to medium. Add the olive oil, chopped scallions, garlic, tomatoes, olives and the wine. *The anchovies are optional and can be replaced with ½ cup Crimini or button mushrooms, chopped. If replacing the anchovies, add the chopped mushrooms with the scallions.
Add salt, ground pepper, pepper flakes and thyme to taste.
Cook over medium heat for 15 minutes.
Remove from the stove, drain excess juice and let cool.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, olive oil and the wine.
Spray the baking sheet with cooking spray and preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Cut the dough in half. With a rolling pin, roll one half into a thin round sheet of dough large enough to cover the bottom of your baking sheet. Gently lay the dough on the sheet and spread the scallion mix uniformly on the dough, keeping a ½” seam allowance from the edges free of the mixture. Spread the anchovies over the scallion mixture.
Take the other half of the dough and roll it out into a round sheet in a similar manner. Cover the filling with the second sheet of dough. Seal the two edges and cut away any excess dough.
Using your fingertips, apply a very thin film of olive oil over the entire surface of the calzone. Gently puncture the surface every 2" with a fork and bake for 60 minutes.
This is an old-fashioned, unleavened dough and won’t ‘puff’ up in baking the way North American pizza dough does.
This traditional frittata is often prepared the day before Easter Sunday and served cold – a perfect addition to the Pasquetta picnic basket, with sliced tomatoes and cucumbers drizzled with olive oil, and chunks of focaccia bread.
1bunchgreen onionswhites and 1/3 of green tops, chopped
2 1/2cupsfresh Mozzarellacut into 1/2” cubes
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Whisk the eggs together with ¼ cup heavy cream, salt and pepper to taste, and the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, then set aside
Lightly roast the asparagus. Cut off the coarse tips and drizzle with a little olive oil and salt and pepper. Bake at 400 degrees F. for about 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven and cut into 1 ½”, and set aside
Heat a large skillet to medium high and sauté the sausage in olive oil until no longer pink, breaking it up as it cooks. Drain the sausage and set aside. Add the butter coating the sides of the skillet as it melts.
Return the skillet to medium high heat, add the garlic and green onions and sauté for two minutes.
Add the parsley and basil, stirring well, then add eggs, stirring briefly. Add the asparagus, sausage and cubed cheese and stir to distribute ingredients evenly.
Continue cooking over medium high heat, watching that your eggs don’t burn. Allow the eggs to cook until the bottom and sides are set, but the middle is still runny, about 3 – 5 minutes.
Place the frittata still in the skillet, in a 400 degree F. oven and cook until completely set and the centre is firm, 10 – 12 minutes. A butter knife inserted into the center should come out clean when done.
A cast iron skillet works best for this dish as it needs to transfer from the stove into the oven. A little cooking spray will help the frittata to come out clean, and the skillet must be hot before the eggs are added to ensure they don’t stick.
After the frittata has cooled, slip out onto a plate, or place a plate over the top and invert to release it from the skillet.
The photos shown here use a personal sized cast iron pan (typically labeled as a number 5 or 6) and this is an option IF you have enough of them to serve your family and/or guests. However, the recipe is written for one large skillet as that is what most people have. If you do use the smaller cast iron frying pans, you may need to adjust your baking times.
Recently retired as a costume specialist in the TV and film industry, Lorna now enjoys blogging on contemporary lifestyle themes. A bit daft about the garden, she’s particularly obsessed with organic tomatoes and herbs, and delights in breaking bread with family and friends.