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How Italians celebrate Pasqua (Easter)

Pasqua, that’s how you say Easter in Italian. And Easter Monday is even easier: Pasquetta (“little Easter”). But how do Italians celebrate one of the most important festivities? Eating.

Surprised? Of course not, but as you can imagine, every celebration has its rituals food and traditions. Christian Easter is the celebration of the Resurrection of Christ, therefore it is sometimes seen as more solemn than Christmas.
Celebrations are divided between Pasqua and Pasquetta: on Pasqua day (in 2023 it is 09 April) we eat lunch with our family. On Pasquetta, lunch with friends or, in general, with a larger group of people (so even family but with extension to friends).

On Pasqua, the meal is mostly based on meat, lamb in particular: the lamb comes from the Jewish tradition according to which the Jews had to sign their door with the blood of a lamb so the Lord knew they were His people and would have spared them during the Liberation of the Jews in Egypt.

Besides the lamb, the main theme of Easter lunch is the egg. Of course, we will have chocolate eggs for the kids (although sometimes kids are used as an excuse to buy the eggs for adults) but we also boil eggs for appetizers and either eat them or simply paint them and use them as a decoration for the table.

On this day, we usually eat what we call “pizza al formaggio” (cheese bread), a sort of muffin to be served with the appetizers. What does it contain? 

  • Flour
  • Eggs
  • Yeast 
  • Milk
  • Sugar
  • Grana cheese
  • Pecorino cheese

So the table will now be covered in charcuterie, vegetables, olives, and the pizza al formaggio.

Variant for Naples: they will also have a “Casatiello”. We won’t translate it but you can see what it looks like here:

We move on and, since we are in Italy, Lasagna is not going to be an option. Along with some fettuccine “to make sure everyone eats something” (another excuse, like the eggs for kids…) it will land on our table and most of the beautiful white shirts men are wearing (of course we dress up for these meals) will no longer be as candid as they were a few moments before.

It is now the time for the lamb, it has been cooked in the oven for the past 24 hours and it MUST be accompanied by some roast potatoes and vegetables like spinach or chicory.

It is now for the eggs, you may think. Wrong. Before the eggs, we shall have a typical Easter dessert (the eggs are “gifts”, ok?): here it comes La Colomba (The Dove), named so by its shape. As the animal representing Peace, La Colomba will make you feel in Peace as you will be falling asleep after the meal.

It is now time for the chocolate eggs and some coffee to keep you up. Dinner is usually skipped as we have to be ready for the Pasquetta lunch, usually a picnic or “easy” meal with friends.