Saturday, April 07, 2007

Pizza di Pasqua

Pizza is not always what you think it is in Italy; for example, in central Italy the tradition of the pizza di Pasqua lives on. This is a wonderful high, round cheese and egg bread. It is called a pizza but it has nothing to do with the Neapolitan kind and the pies we call pizza in North America. Pizza di Pasqua is a perfect compliment for the tasty salumi that are famous throughout Umbria. It is usually served as an antipasto before the meal or I have taken it on numerous picnics that are part of the Pasquetta tradition (literally little Easter--the day after Easter where Italians go out the countryside for a picnic). Easter is a major holiday in Italy and Pasquetta is one of the busiest days on Italian autostrade, as urbanites attempt to breath a little country air and down a few more calories. Ironically, this is usually one of the rainiest days in Italy each year. When I lived in Amelia there was really no need to drive around much on Pasquetta because the countryside was at my doorstep. I could eat my pizza di Pasqua in peace.

I only attempted making this pizza once and I had a hand from my neighbour, Loretta, who taught me her family recipe. There was quite a bit of preparation involved and a good deal of nail biting as we hoped the dough would rise correctly and form a sensual dome in the oven. My first year in Amelia, I bought my pizza di Pasqua in the local forno (there are no more communal ovens, but the bakery in Amelia still places the baker's mark on each loaf of bread in that tradition). In small town bakeries these pizza are very good but supermarket facsimiles are not to be trusted--you can never be sure of the quality of the ingredients.

Pizza di Pasqua is a regional specialty that is popular in Umbria, Tuscany and Le Marche. You will not (or should not) find it in Milano or Bari. They have their own Easter traditions! I found a recipe for pizza di Pasqua that is quite similar to the one I made. Make sure you use top quality ingredients: Italian pecorino, free-range eggs and fresh extra virgin olive oil. Serve with prosciutto crudo or salsicia secche accompanied by a glass of Rosso di Montefalco or Lambrusco for something different.

Auguri e buona Pasqua!

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