Easter time is wonderful in Abruzzo. Shops fill up with chocolate bunnies and enormous Easter eggs, orders for selected lamb pieces are being placed in local butchers’, pasta makers are rolling and cutting fresh pasta all’uovo for loyal customers and nonnas prepare gargantuan feasts for their families. Easter has always a big celebration even in poor rural households. Nowadays, many city dwelling Abruzzesi go to shops to buy baked Easter goodies but dye-hard traditionalists make everything from scratch, several days before the families gather at the table. Over the years of living in Abruzzo, I have tried many Easter dishes and have my favourites. Here is a quick round-up of the Easter recipes from Abruzzo that I love. If you want to learn secrets of Abruzzese cuisine book our Cooking with locals classes.
The recipe arrived to Abruzzo from the aristocratic kitchens of Ferrara (some historians say it might have been the Medici court’s cooks who invented it) in the 1500s. Back then, these delicious cheese puffs were made with saffron harvested in the Navelli plains. As centuries passed, the precious spice was eliminated from the recipe and adapted to more humble kitchens. Today, to my delight, fiadoni can be found in many bakeries throughout the year.
This sweet version of the traditional cheesy goodness calls for ricotta. It is light like a cloud, with a crumbly thin dough wrapped around a moist bright yellow filling. As with all traditional recipes, there are variations: il soffione can be one big cake or small muffin-likes creations called soffioni. Sometimes they are called fiadoni dolci but a savoury version also exists. Confusing, I know, but don’t try to figure out which one it is, if you see one, grab it and enjoy. As with most baked goodies in Abruzzo, the dough is made with olive oil, which makes it lighter. Check out this video below for a soffione cake recipe.
In the 1800s, families of an engaged couple gave each other the cakes shaped as a doll and horse. Nowadays, the elaborately decorated cookies are made on Holy Thursday and given to kids: pupa dolls to girls, horses to boys. The most traditional versions always have an egg attached with two strips of dough. They are more difficult to find in shops but can be ordered in some local bakeries. The famous restaurant Brancaleone, for instance, takes orders a few weeks before Easter for their stunning pupa and cavallo and delivers the cakes to their café in Pescara.
Check out this simple pupa and cavallo abruzzesi recipe and unleash your inner Abruzzese child decorating them. Watch the video below for an easy to follow recipe.