There are a few traditional items we always had for Palm Sunday and Easter. On Palm Sunday we all (great-aunts and uncles, cousins, aunts and uncles, grandchildren, great grandchildren) all went over to my maternal great-grandparents apartment for Asti Spumante and cream puffs (homemade). My great grandmother would make crosses with the palms and we’d all have a little sip of Spumante, a cream puff and be off. We’d also get a dollar from our great grandfather.
Then for Easter there were traditional foods from Italy, Torta di Riso (Rice Cake, not at all resembling rice cakes of today) Leg of Lamb, vegetables, bread salad, and a cake in the shape of a lamb for dessert. Sometimes we had strawberries with Zambagione which my grandfather made. My grandmother gave me the lamb cake form and now my daughter makes it for the family.
I will give two recipes here: One from my mother’s family from northern Italy and the other from my father’s family in southern Italy.
Torta di Riso (mom’s family)
2 cups uncooked rice (not instant)
2 10oz packages frozen chopped spinach, which has been thawed and drained
almost 1 quart of milk
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg or to taste
1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese
Slightly cook rice (about 10 minutes) and drain
beat eggs and milk, add all other ingredients.
Pour into greased 9 x 12 baking pan and bake for 1 hour at 350.
If you’d like, dot with butter and brown under broiler. Cool and cut into squares.
Eat warm or cold.
Easter Cookies (dad’s family)
These are a cross between cookies and bread. My aunt made them with colored eggs in them and made beautiful shapes. I braid the dough into small circles and put an egg in the middle or I make ropes out of the dough and make into shepherd’s cane or stick. I try! I serve these for breakfast at home. They are good for dunking into coffee or milk.
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon or so vanilla
1 tablespoon lemon zest
5 to 6 cups flour (plus more for counter)
6 tablespoons baking powder
Blend wet ingredients
Combine dry ingredients
Mix together until a soft but workable dough forms, more flour may be needed.
Form into shapes as desired and bake in a 350 oven until lightly browned. Length of cooking times varies with size of cookie.