Blessed Easter Abundance

March 28, 2013 / Local Interest
Umbria
Driving through the Umbrian countryside during the week prior to Easter, you’ll note whiffs of smoke drifting up from the outdoor stone bread ovens fired up by the farmwomen. Holy Week for the Umbrian farmwomen is a busy one, an exhausting one: the baking in the stone bread ovens of the torta di Pasqua (“Easter cake”) or pizza pasquale, as it is often called, is a major task.

The farmwomen always started the torte di Pasqua preparation before first light. I was lucky enough to be at Mandina and Peppe’s farm one Holy Thursday to see the huge mushroom-shaped golden loaves come out of the outdoor stone oven. Unusual baking tins gave the torta di Pasqua its unusual shape: large sardine cans, which the farm women set aside during the year as none would have had extra money to purchase enough cake tins. As the dough rose during the baking, it came up and out over the edges of the tin.

On Holy Saturday, the farm women head to the church closest to home, dressed in their best – and carrying huge baskets holding the cheese bread. Nestled in the basket around the cheese breads are also salami (and perhaps capocollo, too), homemade red wine, one hard-boiled egg, a pinch of salt (propitious!). Nowadays, children bring their huge chocolate eggs, wrapped in colorful sparkly paper, as well. These foods are blessed – and will be shared by all the farm family at the Umbrian Easter breakfast the next morning.

The Easter baskets blessed in the mountain churches on Holy Saturday are beautifully presented: embroidered linen cloths are draped over the cheese breads, salamis and wine bottles, carefully arranged in the baskets. Most of the wine bottles are uncorked for the blessing, as tradition demands: so that the blessing can get into the bottle, my neighbors tell me (!) When I asked Padre Giuseppe about that, he just raised his eyebrows…

Recipe here

Anne Robichaud

by Anne Robichaud

An authorized Umbrian tour guide, Anne and her husband Pino worked the land for many years in the 1970’s so rural life, rural people, rural cuisine are una passione for her. See Umbria from “the inside”: join her May 2017 ten-day tour centered on discovering Umbria, Anne’s Umbria.

See www.annesitaly.com for more on her Umbria tours. Do see www.stayassisi.com for news on the Assisi apartment – and Assisi countryside guest house – she and Pino now rent out.

Anne writes frequently on Umbria and other areas of Italy. Read about her annual U.S. Feb/Mar cooking classes and lectures, as well as her numerous Italy insights on her blog.

31 Responses to “Blessed Easter Abundance”

  1. Penny Ewles-Bergeron
    Penny Ewles-Bergeron

    Thank you Anne – a text as rich and appetising as the torta di Pasqua, accompanied with fabulous photos. Buona Pasqua to you and yours.

    Reply
    • CeciliaBelenardo

      Just finished our Easter baking,it took all day but it’s tradition,and we love it.These ladies do a better job,it’s wonderful. Would love to spend a Easter there!

      Reply
  2. Thank you for your wonderful descriptions and stories! I have only ever bought the torta and never tried to actually bake one, but I will, however, try this approachable recipe. Wishing everyone a Happy Easter.

    Reply
  3. Your newsletters are always so informative and wonderful to read, Anne. I’ve never tried making one but I’d love to next Holy Thurday. Tomorrow is grain pie, or pastiera, day.

    I work for a rectory of four priests, and this Saturday is their parish’s blessing of the Easter food.

    A Buona Pasqua to all!

    Reply
  4. Thank you, Anne, for this heartwarming article. I so look forward to your postings and am never disappointed! Happy Easter to you and your family

    Reply
  5. Barbara

    Brought back so many memories of my grandmother and the blessing of the food and all the aroma’s of her cucina.

    Reply
  6. Toni DeBella
    Toni DeBella

    Anne, Every morning I enjoy getting an email with all the stories that you and the other contributors of Italian Notebook write. It inspired me to start my ownblog just to share my personal stories of my time in Umbria. Everyday I miss my friends and the life there, but reading and writing about a place, makes me feel closer to it – even when I can’t be there right now. If you have a chance, please feel free to check it out.
    http://orvietoorbust.com/

    Thanks again.
    Buona Pasqua to you and your family.

    Reply
  7. Marian Jensen

    I love each of your contributions–they warm my heart and bring back many memories. Thank you.

    Reply
  8. Vincent Piraro

    I enjoyed the story and pictures of families involved in the article today. It brings back my families gatherings with their sisters and brothers and our cousins. My sister and I couldn’t see how important the time was for family…we just hollered and had fun. But looking back at those times has some great memories..thanks again and happy holidays …

    Reply
  9. Wonderful wonderful I could almost smell the breads baking. My mother use to bake them in molds and we loved the tradition. Blessed Easter and thank you for sharing.
    Christiana from Prescott, AZ

    Reply
  10. what a lovely way to start a Blessed Easter makes me wish I was Italian

    Reply
  11. Martha King

    Thanks for the wonderful descriptions of Umbria. And thanks for the memories. Happy Easter to you and your family.

    Reply
  12. Anne Robichaud

    Thanks to all for your notes…on the way to farm friend Peppa’s tonight for dinner…and luckily she still has some torta di formaggio left!

    Reply
  13. Ginny Umiker

    Loved the article!! So sorry to have just missed experiencing a torti di Pasque when we were Umbria a few weeks ago. Next visit!!!

    Reply
  14. I wish I could be there for Easter. Happy Easter Anne, to you and the family.

    Reply
  15. Thank you Anne for this wonderful article. Is there a recipe for Easter bread somewhere. I have a greek recipe; how different is it?

    Coming to Italy this summer – maybe we can see you.

    Reply
  16. Frank and Brit

    Hi Annie,
    Didn’t you just return last night from your two month cooking tour of the US? Jeez, we don’t know where you get your energy. Thanks for the article.

    Frank and Brit

    Reply
  17. Nancy Mazza

    Hi Annie,

    Now that’s MY kind of perfect Easter basket!! Cheese bread, salami and wine. Thanks for sharing yet another Umbrian tradition.

    Buona Pasqua.

    Reply
  18. Harriet

    I love all your post I pass them along to my daughter in law who is Italian decent and I have made some of the recipes I would love to see more about Bari where her grandma lived or where I could order a book on Bari

    Reply
  19. Oh MY!!! what a cool tradition…uncorking the wine to bless it…heh!!

    Easter love to you dear friend….sending warm Caribbean hugs your ways!

    Reply
  20. and please give Peppa some warm hugs for me too!!! Still remembering taking many photographs of her outside oven!! and drinking her wine!!

    Reply
  21. John Bellanti

    Buona Pasqua, the pictures of the beautiful breads connect us to past traditions that tumble down from one generation to another. To see food prepared with care and given with love is one of the beautiful expressions of this holiday tradition. John B

    Reply
  22. Lucy Smith

    That’s it…I really want to come to Assisi for the week before Easter now! Such beautiful, appetizing breads and Chocolate!

    Reply
  23. Suzanne and Jack

    Such simple pleasures – wine, salami and bread. The chocolate eggs with their sparkling coloured paper almost seem too much of a contrast. We have wonderful memories of tasting torti di Pasque when we were in Assisi in 2011.

    We look forward to catching up with you again at the end of April.
    Until then….. warm regards and a Happy Easter to you, your family, and your Umbrian friends who contribute so selflessly to your stories on the Italian Notebook.

    Reply
  24. I loved reading the Blessed Easter Abundance story – a lovely tradition and I hope that the farm women continue baking and taking their baskets to church for the blessing.

    Enjoy all the foods that you will be eating over the next few days, and have fun with the wonderful people in your neighbourhood as they join to celebrate on Easter Sunday.

    Buona Pasqua to you and your family, and a special Buona Pasqua to Peppa. Kylie and I so much enjoyed meeting her, seeing her oven, store room of hams and meats, and drinking her wine.

    Keep your articles coming, Anne. I always enjoy hearing about Umbria,your style is very distinctive and you bring the rural life very much alive.

    I hope Assissi gets a Papal Visit – soon!!!

    Sandra – Australia – your visitor in 2011

    Reply
  25. Monica Kovach

    My grandmother used to make loaves and loaves of Easter Egg bread when I was a wee one. She’d make a huge one with 6 eggs atop for our family – one for us four kids, Mom & Dad. Now, I am the one to carry on Gramma’s tradition each year. I use her recipe to make mini loaves, then mail it across the country and throughout California so our family can “break bread together” at Easter. I still use the same bread board that Gramma used to knead her bread – the one that Grampa lovingly made for her out of a sheet of linoleum. Wouldn’t be Easter without Gramma’s Easter Egg bread.

    Reply
  26. Buona Pasqua to you and your family, Anne. I so look forward to anything you write – makes me wish I could be there!
    Much love, Marianna

    Reply
  27. Cindy Tanner

    I love all your postings – always so colorful and descriptive.
    Happy Easter to you and all your family.
    Jim and Cindy

    Reply

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