Abruzzo’s Easter breakfast

A real meal, with sweet and savory courses

Easter in Abruzzo, as in the rest of Italy, is a particularly heartfelt holiday. Religious rallies, performances and events are held throughout the region. But the most authentic traditions are found at the table. In Abruzzi families, the celebration of Easter Day begins early in the morning with breakfast, which is a real meal, with sweet and savory courses, which is then followed by a lunch that is no less. This ancient custom, which once represented the happy end to the hard days of Lenten fasting, is based on another Abruzzi tradition: the “sdijuno,” a kind of ante litteram aperitif, or the extremely hearty mid-morning meal of the peasants.

What does Abruzzo’s Easter breakfast menu offer? Indispensable are the hard-boiled eggs, a symbol of the holiday, but the queen of the table is undoubtedly the Easter pizza, a cake similar in shape to panettone with a long but indispensable preparation. The dough is made from eggs, milk, flour, brewer’s yeast, olive oil, sugar and aniseed seeds with the addition of grated lemon, candied citron, raisins and cinnamon. According to tradition, its preparations begin on Good Friday so that it can rise several times, rest two days and be baked on Saturday evening. Easter pizza is served with various cheeses and a rich platter of cured meats, strictly regional, such as L’Aquila salami, liver cicolana, and Campostosto mortadella.

In addition to this sweet leavened pastry, salty rustic pizza is also prepared, a delicious round or rectangular shaped pie made of short pastry dough that finds its identity in the filling. In fact, the recipe may vary from area to area, but in the most traditional version it is stuffed with mozzarella, fresh cheese or pecorino, ham, loin, pork sausage, eggs and parmesan, all cut into small pieces. In some areas of the region with the cheeses and cured meats they also serve scima pizza, a low, crispy flatbread customarily eaten as a bread substitute and characterized by the absence of yeast.

Another specialty of Abruzzo’s Easter breakfast is the fiadone, a baked product of very ancient origins prepared in both savory (typical of coastal areas) and sweet (more widespread in inland areas) versions, and usually in the shape of a crescent (or round). It consists of a pastry made of flour, eggs, oil and wine, and a filling of cheese and/or ricotta and eggs (to which sugar and grated lemon peel are added for the sweet variant). In some families it is also traditional to prepare mazzarelle, which are nothing more than rolls of lamb entrails wrapped in endive leaves and tied with guts.

And last but not least, a roundup of treats of all kinds. Unmissable are the pupa and the horse, the shortbread cookies that end the meal with color and cheer. Their origin dates back to the nineteenth century, when they were prepared on the occasion of official engagements: to seal the union between the two future spouses, the pupa was given to the groom’s family and the horse to the bride’s family. Today they are a joy for little ones and a delight for adults. In addition to these cookies, there is never a shortage of classic chocolate eggs and nevola of Ortona, a crumbly cone-shaped rolled wafer made with cooked must.

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