In Italy a holiday or truly any celebration without food is unimaginable. Whether the festa (party) is at home, a restaurant or in a piazza (square), it most always includes a special meal and a customary dish. Pasqua (Easter) is no exception. At the end the 40 day lenten fast, religious processions begin as does the preparation for Easter lunch. Eggs and lamb or goat, symbols of renewal, are found on most tables. Although capretto (goat) is always the main course at our Easter feast, I not so secretly pine for tortano napoletano aka casatiello – a savory filled Neapolitan Easter bread flecked with salami, cheese and black pepper – what’s not to like?
Making casatiello with mom is an annual ritual. Though I won’t be in Boston for Easter this year, I luckily share this tradition with Concetta. Sitting at the table and talking with Concetta as she whisks around the kitchen brings me home. She is a marvelous and loving cook and mom.
There are many variations of this stuffed bread. Most are crowned with eggs. Some call for lard while others substitute olive oil. Here is a recipe of our combined efforts. I’ve included measurements as a guideline. We measure by eye and fine tune the dough according to the texture. Have fun adjusting the quantities of cheese and salami to your taste and make this recipe your own.
- 620 g (5 cups) flour
- 40 g (1.4 oz ) brewer’s yeast (one sachet of instant yeast may weigh anywhere between 5 g to 15 g)
- 150 g (3/4 cup) lard
- 100 g (3.5 oz) provolone cheese cubed
- 100 g (3.5 oz) salami cubed
- 50 g (2 oz) pancetta cubed
- 50 g (2 oz) parmesan cheese cubed or grated
- 50 g (2 oz) emmental cubed (optional)
- salt & pepper to taste
Pile 4.5 cups of flour in a mound on a marble or wooden surface. Make a well in the center of the mound. Dissolve the brewer’s yeast in tepid water as instructed on the yeast packet. Pour the yeast mixture, salt and pepper into the well. Add 1/2 cup lard to the well. Knead until smooth and elastic. Place in a floured bowl. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 2 hours. While the dough is rising, cube the salami, cheese and pancetta. Brown the pancetta and put aside.
Once the dough has doubled, punch it down and turn onto a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough out in a rectangle. Scatter the cheese, salami and pancetta on the surface of the dough. Sprinkle with salt and plenty of pepper. Start to roll the dough from the longest side, making sure to tuck in the ends. Place in a greased bundt cake pan. Pinch the ends together. Place the dough in a warm place and it rise for an hour or more. Preheat oven to 200°C (400°F). Bake for approximately 40 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Casatiello is heavenly served warm or at room temperature. It tastes even better on Easter Monday. I hope you enjoy making and eating it as much as we do.