The breaking of the chocolate egg
This tradition is almost brand new and deeply old at the same time. The chocolate Easter Egg never fails to end up on Easter tables these days, because let’s be honest, they are fun and delicious at the same time. The chocolate egg itself, hiding a surprise inside is quite a recent idea but it is strongly linked to the ritualistic gifting of real eggs, which were originally decorated with various designs - an Easter tradition dating back centuries in the Naples area.
There is something inherently charming about children of friends and family gathering to enjoy these tasty creations, breaking them enthusiastically, playing with the surprises inside and basically putting down the next cornerstones of their society, growing up in time to be the ones who eventually create their very own Easter tables, with Castiello, Colomba and Pastiera.
Casatiello - The typical neapolitan dish
This traditional Neapolitan Easter Recipe has a long history and it originally dates back to ancient Greece, where the very first references of a bread seasoned with various ingredients can be found. It is a symbolic food besides being a tasty one - its circular shape is a nod to the shape of eggs, which are the symbols of Resurrection. On top, pasta crosses are present to symbolize the crown of thorn worn by Jesus while the presence of pecorino cheese (which is made out of sheep’s milk), has its roots in the milk which feeds the lambs, which were sacrificial animals in the Old Testament and are a symbol of Jesus Christ (the lamb of God).
The Casatiello is basically a mixture of water, lard, pepper, enriched with many different Italian cheeses but mostly pecorino. Cured meats are a welcome hidden surprise inside, while in Naples, whole eggs are baked into it, making it a hearty, tasty, delicious course after a period of religious fasting.
What is the secret ingredient in the Castiello? Some would say it’s mortadella, others might think it’s cicoli but the magic of this rustico bread is preparing it in the company of friends and family.
Seafood for Holy Thursday
As seafood is always accessible and is a staple in the southern Italian kitchen, it is no wonder it also makes an appearance during Easter. One such creation is the spicy mussel soup, which is a typical dish consumed during the Holy Thursday dinner in Naples.
A simple but genius dish, it is prepared with mussels and octopus but some people also add maruzzelli or sea snails into it as well. Everything is abundantly covered with a spicy oil, prepared with garlic, tomato paste and hot peppers.
Fave of Vesuvius - A tradition transcending time and space
The beans from Vesuvius are always protagonists of Easter tables throughout Naples. These are highly specific beans, which are cultivated on volcanic soil, rich in minerals and only just a few steps from the sea, giving them a very characteristic flavor.
This particular culinary delicacy has a long history, dating back to ancient Pompeii, where fast food stalls have been discovered adorned with none other than the symbol for this highly anticipated Easter dish.
Lamb - a delicious memento
Like in most parts of Italy and Europe in general, in Naples, lamb is served during Easter. Some people prefer to roast it with potatoes and peas, while others go for another technique and sauté it in a pan. It is usually served with Pecorino cheese, just like the Castiello.
Lambs are an important symbol of the Christian religion, them being a representation of Jesus sacrificing himself - Jesus being the “lamb of God”. Due to this, people eat lamb during Easter in order to never forget this sacrifice. The sacrificial lamb, mentioned in the Old Testament is part of this idea as well.
Pastiera Napoletana - A genuine ritual
Another important part of the Easter traditions is the Neapolitan pastiera, which is an integral part of every single family, a true ritual sprinkled with secrets, handed down from generation to generation.
Families usually have their own ways of creating this fantastic cake filled with ricotta. Everyone has a different method of achieving the ideal dough consistency, the flavoring of the filling with wheat cream and ricotta cheese differs ever so slightly from household to household, and people take enormous pride in baking the perfect one.
One of their secrets, which is true to all neapolitan creations: they take their time. People from Naples don’t rush their pastiera, they let it rest, they add everything in masterfully and with a true love for every single ingredient and an adoration for the final product which can and should be learned from them.