In Italy, Easter Monday is traditionally spent enjoying outdoor picnics with friends, to celebrate the beginning of Spring.
There’s a saying in Italy, “Natale con i tuoi. Pasqua con chi vuoi.” In English it translates as, “Christmas with your family. Easter with whoever you want.”
This phrase, and the sentiment behind it, perfectly sums up the Italian attitude to Easter Monday – it’s a day when we celebrate the end of Lent and enjoy going outside and making the most of the first tell-tale signs of Spring after the long, cold months of winter.
The period leading up to Easter – Pasqua – is quite a solemn time for Italians, with processions and religious masses taking place, but after Lent we make up for our observance with a joyous celebration of life.
Easter is the second most important date in the Italian holiday and religious calendar, second only to Christmas, and it’s a time to be enjoyed outdoors with family and friends, in parks, meadows, vineyards, beaches, country holiday homes and rural areas.
We call Easter Monday ‘Pasquetta’ (Little Easter) or Lunedì dell’Angelo (Angel’s Monday), and if the weather is good then there’s nothing we enjoy more than a picnic with friends – always remembering to pack Prosciutto di San Daniele in the picnic basket, of course! Since it is a public holiday, banks and schools are closed, and, for the first time since winter, we can feel the weather starting to slowly get warmer and sunnier – it really is a day to celebrate.
One of the best things about Easter Monday is that it heralds the beginning of picnic season. And Prosciutto di San Daniele is the perfect picnic ingredient – it’s simple but delicious and it goes with almost everything, from bread and figs to cheese and, of course, eggs, the traditional Easter symbol of fertility, new life and renewal!
As well as the religious aspect to Easter, there are more ancient pagan roots associated with the festival and the Spring equinox. The equinox, which took place in late March this year, is associated with rebirth, as plants start to grow and flowers bloom and we can say that winter is finally over.
The perfect Pasquetta picnic –
Don’t fret over the food when it comes to planning the perfect picnic, it’s more important to enjoy yourself and the company of your friends than to stress out about what to eat. Just make sure you have enough Prosciutto di San Daniele, it’s so tasty and easy to eat with your hands that it usually vanishes from the plate pretty quickly, so stock up!
If you have any Easter leftovers, these will undoubtedly find their way into the Easter Monday picnic, so be sure not to waste any cold meats or cheeses. Lamb (agnello) is traditionally served in Italy for Easter, so if there is any left over, use these cold cuts to add to your picnic.
Take advantage of the fruits of the sea as well as the land with an Insalata di Polpo (Octopus Salad) and celebrate the colours and fresh foods of the season, with hard boiled eggs featuring colourful shells (kids will love painting the shells using food dyes in preparation for the picnic) and seasonal veg, including beans, artichokes and asparagus.
Torta Pasqualina is a savoury Easter pie made from a puff pastry dough and often filled with ricotta and spinach – if there are any slices left by Easter Monday, these will make a tasty addition to any picnic too.
Any good picnic must include cheese, and a semi-soft, creamy mozzarella is a popular choice, but to be authentically Italian, it must be made from the milk of the water buffalo. A more firm Grana Padano is a great cheese from northern Italy as is Formella del Friuli, a cows’ milk cheese produced in our very own Friuli-Venezia Giulia region.
For dessert, we recommend packing a few slices of the traditional Colomba di Pasqua (Easter dove) cake, which is named because of it is shaped like a dove, along with some traditionally Italian chocolate or almond biscotti biscuits. (cantuccini)
To finish off, every good picnic requires wine, so choose a crisp Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Vert.