Food Traditions That Win Easter in Italy

As is the case with most Italian holidays, Easter, too, is celebrated with a mix of religious and gastronomic traditions.  You won’t hear much talk of life-size bunnies, bonnets, or egg hunts – in fact, during Easter in Italy, the most important place for an egg to be is perfectly perched atop nonna’s homemade casatiello.

casatiello-napoletano

If you’ve never experienced casatiello, you must get ahold of some asap.  This is a bomba atomica of the Neopolitan tradition that will leave you busting at the seams and begging for more.  Packed with cubes of cheese and ham then topped with boiled eggs, this savory bread-bake could easily replace a day’s worth of calories.  There isn’t a table in Campania that isn’t home to the legendary casatiello at Easter – and in very rare Italian food form, it apparently transcends all routinely-followed rules by not having a fixed position on the menu.  That’s right, this bestia is badass enough to exist as a standalone food item to be eaten before, during, and after the main meal – or maybe even as a midnight snack (the audacity!).  I suppose that kind of treatment is merited for a tradition that’s been documented all the way back to the 600’s.

Then, of course, there’s La Pastiera Napoletana

pastiera-napoletana-ricetta

Although the pastiera originated in the South, its popularity has spread across Italy and can be found almost everywhere at Easter time and, in some pasticcerie, even throughout the rest of the year.  It is a type of pie, made with a sweet pastry dough that is meant to be crunchier around the edges and softer in the middle.  The filling is made from a base of sugar, eggs, wheat boiled in milk, and ricotta cheese.  The interesting thing about this seasonal delight is the way its taste can vary, depending on the types of spices and aromas used in the recipe.  The classic recipe calls for cinnamon, vanilla, orange peel, and candied fruit.  Modern versions, however, may see some custard cream or white chocolate thrown in.  Then there are the regional variations – such as in Salerno where they use rice in place of wheat, or in Caserta, where they substitute the ricotta for homemade tagliolini pasta.

The best thing about these traditional food items is the diversity in their preparation, not only from town to town, but even from family to family.  I have spent many an Easter at my in-laws’ house (who incidentally each have eight brothers and sisters) – and have been forced to try each and every version of both the casatiello and pastiera of each and every nonna and zia.  And I’ve been stared at, expecting a response to the question of whose was the best.  Awkwaaaard.

In all honesty, I can barely look at either of these anymore because I’ve eaten so much of them both.  It’s obscene.  I think I’ll be taking a respite for the next decade or so.

Nah… who am I kidding?  Easter’s around the corner, so I better start dieting now.  Buona Pasqua a tutti!

Check out the other COSI’ members’ insider takes on Easter in Italy:

Rick’s Rome: Favorite Spring Destinations in Italy

Girl in Florence: 3 Favorite Spring Destinations Outside Florence

Sicily Inside & Out: An Early Easter in Sicily

Surviving in Italy: https://survivinginitaly.com/2016/03/03/spring-break-italy-agriturismo-eco-travel-edition/

Pecora Nera: Spring is in the Air

Italy Magazine Blogger Awards 2015

The nominees are in, and I’m so proud to say that after winning the Best Individual Post post of 2014 – SL&N is on the list again this year!

Please click this link to vote for Sex, Lies, & Nutella in the “Best Living in Italy” category.

Grazie mille to all my readers for their continued support, and a big in bocca al lupo to all the wonderful bloggers who are nominated this year.  It certainly feels good to be recognized for something I love to do.

Baci,

SL&N

 

Surviving the Italian Winter

Winter in Italy

Have you ever worn a hat to bed?  I mean, you may have read stories or seen illustrations of people in days of yore, sleeping in night caps (as they were apparently called) – but have YOU ever physically slept with one on because it was that damn cold?  I have – and it wasn’t in the snow-blown, blizzard barren land I call home (Ohio), either.  Believe it or not, it was in Southern Italy, of all places.

When many think of “Sunny Italy,” thoughts of perpetual sun and sea come to mind.  This perception is greatly supported by the fact that most tourists visit the country in the summer months, so it makes sense.  What people don’t associate with Itay though, are those bone-chilling moments when you think, “Where am I?” It can actually get much more than merely freschetto (chilly) – in the winter months it’s downright freddo cane (literally, a dog’s cold – don’t ask me about the analogy).

The transition from the fall to winter months seems to be a genuinely tragic event for most Italians.  Although clearly experienced before, they tend to complain about it as if it was the first time it has ever happened.  They will whine and moan for weeks about the changing temperatures – and don’t get them started on the dreaded cambio di stagione at home.  Che palle!  That is the worst.  Since the majority of Italian homes are small apartments, the closets don’t have the space to house all four seasons’ worth of clothes at once.  Cue the cambio di stagione: the annoyingly necessary evil of switching out your spring/summer clothes with your stored fall/winter ones (often under their modernly functional beds, which lift up to reveal a mecca of storage space often crucial to existence).  What really burns about the cambio di stagione is you never think to do it until the weather’s already turned and you’ve already gotten sick from your lack of layers, which really adds to the likability factor of the whole process.

Then, there are the Italian homes themselves: structurally sound, no doubt – but built with materials one would classify as the opposite of cozy.  Constructed purely of cement and laid over concrete slabs, the builders are clearly convinced they live in the tropics rather than Western Europe.  The flooring is traditionally marble or tile (never have I seen a carpeted living area), and Italians are just not into textiles, meaning their homes can best be described as bare in respect to their American counterparts.  While I’m definitely into the modern minimalist thing and have been swayed by European style quite a bit, to me, a home still needs to be comfortable and inviting.  And being the americana I am, I was keen on adding wood flooring, multiple area rugs, hefty curtains, the oversize couch and an exorbitant amount of pillows to our apartment.  But I was well aware that my home decorating tendencies put me in a very small minority.  Style is subjective, but one thing is certain: when winter arrives in Italy, those undressed households surrounded by concrete walls become literal ice boxes, sealing in the cold, damp air and sending it straight down your spine and through your bones.

Of course, the remedy for this is one, simple gesture: turning the heat on!  Only problem is, most of the older homes don’t have central heating/air installed (like the one I wore a hat to sleep in), and their inhabitants are convinced it’s not that cold (all those years of freezing their culetti off has rendered them numb).  Alternatively, those who do have central heat don’t use it as much as they should.  I’ve walked into homes in the dead of winter that had their balcony doors open.  Don’t ask me why.  Better to stay freschi (fresh), they say.  As for me, better to shiver in silence.  Otherwise, not only am I the spoiled, exaggerating American – I’m the spoiled, exaggerating American who complains a lot.

Another important note: if you travel to Italy during the winter months, be prepared to witness the state of the country’s infrastructure literally crumbling around you.  Winter is the rainy season, and any significant rainfall is pretty much synonymous with the apocalypse.  Italy’s lack of emergency preparedness becomes painfully clear as inclement weather cripples cities and towns.  In the Northern areas, there are mudslides, lives lost, the whole shebang.  And in Rome, forget it: even a normal amount of rain wreaks total havoc on that city, flooding streets (and the Tiber river), and closing bus stops and the metro.  And god forbid it snows – in 2011 there was a freak snowstorm in Rome, and it was as close to a state of emergency as I’d ever lived through.  The day the storm hit, my usual commute of twenty minutes or so turned into four hours of treacherous driving, and when I finally arrived at our town one of the main roads was completely unpassable, leaving me no choice but to abandon my vehicle at a certain point and walk about a mile uphill to my house.  For the following three days, we were stranded at home (with my car still at the bottom of the hill), forced to walk another half mile or so hoping to find a store open with food and supplies.

Moral of the story: plan your trip to the Bel Paese in the spring/summer/early fall.  The rest of the world may have the same idea, but you’ll be better off and much happier with the experience.  Winter in Italy can be hazardous to your health, in more ways than one.

How do the rest of the COSI’ members take on winter in Italy?

Rick’s Rome: http://rickzullo.com/how-to-enjoy-winter-in-italy

Girl in Florence: http://girlinflorence.com/2015/11/16/what-to-expect-when-you-visit-florence-in-winter/

Surviving in Italy: http://survivinginitaly.com/2015/11/16/baby-its-cold-outside-and-inside-im-basically-dying-of-hypothermia-in-florence/

Unwilling Expat: https://unwillingexpat.wordpress.com/2015/11/16/winter-in-sicily/

The Florence Diaries: http://theflorencediaries.com/

Englishman in Italy: http://englishmaninitaly.org/

Married to Italy: http://marriedtoitaly.com/

The Best Blogs & Websites for Italophiles

Adriatic Italian Food

We’ve selected a list of some great blogs and websites (in English) about Italian food and culture for you to enjoy!

Got your favourites? Do let us know in the comments section below. Here are some of ours, in no particular order…

ITALY Magazine
www.italymagazine.com
This website from ITALY Magazine covers everything from where to travel (with a focus on hidden gems), to property and lifestyle trends, to food and wine, to cultural events. Compiled by “an international community of people who love Italy and Italian culture”, the articles and blogs are well researched and always seek to highlight an authentic Italy experience. Foodies will enjoy the extensive recipes as well as the weekly Delicacies Series, which uncovers the provenance and techniques behind regional ingredients and delicacies; e.g find out about salt from Sicily or Turin’s famed Giandiuotto chocolates.

Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino
www.aglioolioepeperoncino.com
Eleonora Baldwin describes her…

View original post 547 more words

Best Living in Italy Post 2014!

blogawardsfinal2014 2

Amici, SL&N won for “Best Living in Italy Single Post” (and came in third in the overall category) in the 2014 Italy Magazine Blogger Awards  – che bellissima sorpresa!  So grateful for all the Nutella love and support, and blessed to share my story. Grazie di cuore to everyone who voted!

See the full list of winners here.  Congrats to all the great blogs out there!

Last day to vote: 2014 Italy Magazine Blogger Awards

Visit our Facebook Page to Enter (3)

Show your love for SL&N with votes for:

Best Living in Italy Blog: http://www.italymagazine.com/blog-awards/2014?field_blog_category_tid=44500

Best Living in Italy Single Post: http://www.italymagazine.com/blog-awards/2014?field_blog_category_tid=44501

Whatever happens, Nutella makes us all winners.

Grazie mille, ragazzi!

9 New Year’s Resolutions for Expats in Rome

1. Never trick yourself into thinking that purchasing a Smart car will somehow increase your odds of finding parking – it will actually only encourage you to park even more illegally and absurdly than before.

2. Make life interesting and try to order something other than a Spritz at your next aperitivo. Martini Royale, anyone?

3. Realize that you will never fully make sense of the Italian political system, or the university one, for that matter (wait, you’re 28 and have how many exams to pass before you graduate?).

4. Embrace the insanity. Rome is a chaotic, frenzied place that sometimes seems out of control. Keep your cool and go with the flow when things don’t go the way you’d expect (or the way any reasonable human being would expect).

5. If you don’t already have one, find a friend with a Vespa who’ll regularly take you on a “tour di Roma” on late summer nights. There is nothing better.

6. Never ignore the call of the occasional street food schifezza (junk food). Screw calorie counting – eat that massive piece of fried baccala’ in Piazza Santa Barbara. Like, right now.

7. In fact, eat whatever you see in front of you right now. Don’t worry, you’ll walk it off.

8. Keep your amici Romani close, but the gelato closer.

9. When all else is lost and you’re feeling desperate, just remember you’re on a journey that so many yearn to experience, and one that may not last forever. Enjoy it, and don’t let the setbacks frustrate and derail you. Sorridi (smile), you live in Italia!

Check out what my COSI friends are up to for New Year’s as well:

http://marriedtoitaly.com/2015/01/01/capo-danno/
http://theflorencediaries.wordpress.com/2014/12/30/new-years-eve-in-florence-or-as-i-like-to-call-it-the-italian-hunger-games/
http://rickzullo.com/new-year-in-italy/
http://unwillingexpat.wordpress.com/2014/12/26/an-expats-resolution/

Plus more posts to come from the rest of the COSI group; check out their home pages for updates:

Surviving in Italy
Girl in Florence
Englishman in Italy

Buon 2015 a tutti!
Baci,
SL&N