Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi" ("Christmas with your family, Easter with whomever you want"), Italians say. An invitation to Easter dinner with friends in Italy is a special treat indeed.
After forty days of fasting during Quaresima (Lent), Italians celebrate with foods that form a mouth-watering vocabulary of their own.
Throughout Italy the traditional main dish is agnellino al forno (roasted baby lamb) or capretto(baby goat). Rome’s Easter specialty is abbacchio, a suckling lamb no more than a month or so old. Because it has ingested only its mother’s milk, its meat is especially tender.
The name comes from the Latin baculum, the cudgel used to kill lambs. Until a few decades ago, shepherds would lead their flocks into Rome every Spring so people could select victims for the annual slaughter. The word abbacchiato became slang for someone beaten down, physically or mentally.
“Pasta matta” (crazy dough) encases torta Pasqualina (Easter cake), a traditional savory pie from Piedmont and Liguria. Its distinctive feature is that whole eggs are baked inside. Italy’s traditional Easter dessert is Colomba cake, a sweet, eggy, yeasted bread topped with sugared and sliced almonds. Commercial bakers shape this confection into a colomba (dove), the symbol of peace and renewal...