Apr 13, 2009

Pasquetta, or the power of the pic nic

Image © swide.com
Pasquetta is the Monday after Easter. It literally means little Easter and on this day of meditation and rest, city folk usually gather for a scampagnata, [skahm pah ña tah] that is a country outing (from campagna, Italian for 'country') or a gita fuori porta, [gee tah . fwoh ree . por tah] which translates to 'a tour out of the doors of the city. 'The English term outdoors must find its roots in this typically Roman expression.



Pasquetta offers release from the somber religious rituals of the preceding Lent period and the solemn Holy Week events. It is a day dedicated to leisure and recreation, slow travel and comfort food.

Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi is the Italian adage: “Christmas with family, Easter with whomever you choose,” and on Little Easter, the implied appendix for those sequestered in the bedlam of larger cities is "seize that 'whomever' and get out of town." Be the occasion a romantic escape to a secluded tavern by a lakeside, a family pic nic in the meadow or a roaring group at a trattoria on a breezy hilltop, the entire point of Pasquetta is to allow people to eat themselves into a stupor.

In some places, there is more to Pasquetta than just eating. The Ruzzolone race in Panicale, for instance, is a sporting competition that combines elements of bocce, yo-yo and curling. Yes, it’s as crazy as it sounds. The players send a 9-pound round of Pecorino cheese rolling around the perimeter of the ancient walled town. The cheese is launched with a leather strap, wrapped around the cheese and pulled by a wooden stick. Spotters run alongside the cheese to mark where it falls. The winner, the player who completes the racecourse in the fewest hits, gets to bring home the Pecorino.


Often the prizes go careening into nearby olive groves or get stuck under the one Fiat that didn't get the "No Parking Here Today" handwritten message. When the race is concluded, the winners are acclaimed by the free wine and hard-boiled eggs being served by the village Pro Loco committee and a band of villagers playing pots, pans, cowbells, horns, ladles and spoons worthy of a scene in a Fellini movie.

My Pasquetta was a quiet drive back home with a slumbering E. Our mini vacation down south is over, it's time to resume normality. As the Abruzzo reconstruction begins, we humbly go about our daily chores with a fresh start. Tomorrow it's back to school day, so I need to get dinner ready and a little homesick boy to bed early.

Tonight I'm making a simple holiday dish, made with healthy greens and very little work involved in the preparation. I want to share it with you, officially reopening our recipe dialogue.


Torta Pasqualina recipe
This is an Easter season classic, a rustic, simple and quick fix staple. Any of it left over is great for sylvan picnics on Pasquetta. Best served cold with mixed salumi, frittata and lavish amounts of cheese for a true Pasquetta binge. Ingredients for 6 sinners:
1 frozen double puff pastry shell

1kg (2 lbs) collards, kale, spinach or mild greens
600 g (3 cups) goat ricotta cheese
100 g (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
10 eggs
Extra virgin olive oil
Fresh marjoram
3 slices of white bread, crusts removed
250 ml (1 cup) whole milk
2 tbsp Parmigiano, grated
Salt and pepper to taste

Take the frozen puff pastry out of the freezer to thaw. Carefully trim and clean the greens in cold water and baking soda, rinsing repeatedly to remove all traces of dirt, pesticides and other chemicals. While you soak the white bread in the milk, boil the washed greens in 1 cup of unsalted water for 10 minutes, then wring dry. Unroll one of the crust layers in a 9” buttered pie shell, trimming any extra dough from the edges. Return it to the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.

Spread the blanched greens on a plate and sprinkle with salt, Parmigiano and a few fresh marjoram leaves. Beat 4 eggs and 3 tbsp of Parmigiano in a large mixing bowl. Wring the white bread and add it to the eggs, along with the seasoned greens and the fork-sifted ricotta. Blend lovingly with a wooden spoon as each ingredient is added. Take your time and enjoy the repetitive sensual motion as the elements coalesce.

Pour the mixture into the pastry-lined pie plate and dig 6 evenly spaced-out dimples. In each depression pour 1 tbsp of melted butter, then carefully break an egg in it.

Unroll the second disk of dough and cover. Use a fork or your fingers to pinch the edges together. Dot with tiny flakes of butter and cut 4 small slits in the top, being careful to avoid the areas occupied by the eggs. Bake 40 to 50 minutes or until the crust is lightly browned.

Hint: you can cover the pie edge with a 3-inch strip of aluminum foil to prevent too much browning. Remove foil during last 15 minutes of baking.

Buona Pasquetta!

22 comments:

  1. Yes, and more than I anticipated. Thank you Lola, for giving me back precious memories, and in turn, adding more lavish details as well. The torta looks scrumptious!

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  2. R - You're always my n°1. Ciao cara!

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  3. Buona Pasquette to you too! Thos recipe sounds delicious- I will certainly have to give it a try:)

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  4. How interesting! Buona Pasquette.
    I was not familiar with this custom and loved learning about it.
    Happy Twirls

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  5. Now that's a fun competition. I'd love to be bringing home a 9 lb. wheel of Pecorino. Cheese, bread and wine. Maybe a little fruit. Heaven on earth.

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  6. Lola,
    firstly you are gifted writer, I become completely enveloped by your words and descriptions. Your words flow along easily without any pretentiousness. Thank you for the joy of reading..

    secondly I love these vignettes of Italian life, they could not be related better than by someone immersed in the experiences as you are,

    and thirdly your recipes are revealed with detail and love and given to us as gifts.

    So 3 big thank yous today.

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  7. Lola
    P.S. It is ok to copy your recipes for our own use isn't it?
    Just wanted to make sure...
    Happy days

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  8. The Italians know how to have a great day. Thanks for sharing it with us.

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  9. thanks for the peek inside your Easter. I would love to celebrate in a scene worthy of a Fellini movie! My vegetarian daughter and I can't wait to try this recipe.

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  10. Lola, you have such a friendly style, it's such an inviting way to learn about new customs and great food. I would also like to know if it's okay to copy down recipies for my own use.

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  11. Lola I am glad you are back. That pie looks so delicious.


    I love your stories and information and history and then the recipe at the end with a picture is always two divine.

    You have such a unique blog Lola.

    As far as dreams go, just think of how they make you feel when you wake up. That can be an indicator of their meaning.

    Even the name Sorrento sounds dreamy.

    Love Renee xoxo

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  12. Dearest Lola you may have stepped out of the room but you have not been forgotten.

    It was Easter week everyone was chasing rabbits or religion of some kind.

    I missed your sweet voice and I am glad you are back.

    You are so divine Lola. Such a dream girl.

    Love Renee xoxox

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  13. Renee - I have unique friends, a blogland mountain of fabulous friends. And you are up there at the pinnacle.

    Jennifer & Delwyn - Hey, why do you think I post these recipes? They're for you! This is what I do.

    Margo - Happy you appreciate. Will post more vegetarian friendly recipes soon... I promise, said the carnivore.

    Pat - I know, I've wanted to participate ever since I first heard of Panicale's loony Pasquetta.

    Lucy & Libby - Thank you so much!

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  14. Now, that looks interesting. Tell me you don't cook like this all the time. Do you know the shame I feel? Well, not really shame, more like desire. Desire to consume all you make and thereby end up in a very large moo-moo.

    The picnic would have been wonderful today, instead of the work. Maybe later.

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  15. Ciao Lola! Wow, I would love to pull up a chair, share a glass of wine with you, and hear about your Pasqua weekend. That torta looks wonderful! After two weeks of food here, I am dying for something simple, fresh and healthy! Thanks for sharing yet another wonderful recipe. Can't wait to get home and try it! Ciao bella!

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  16. Hi Lola,

    I really feel I get to experience life where you are vicariously through your blog. You write so clearly and with all the details and PEOPLE-stuff that it draws me right in. Thank you!

    I want to have Pasqueta. But I ate myself into a stupor on the Big Easter. Today was salad and fruit for me.

    Thank you for your nice comment on my art post. As I was writing about my ancestor's life in Rome, I kept wondering how far from where you live his studio was...!

    Ciao...

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  17. Yes! what everyone else says. It feels like I am in your kitchen whenever I come here. I love your blog Lola, I learn so much and the armchair traveler that I am, I get to go to Italy whenever I want...I'll try not to overstay my welcome! I would just like a little of that pie... ;)
    ciao darling! ♥

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  18. Lola, beautiful post.

    I know more about this incredible holiday.

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  19. What a great contest! although I'm not sure I'd want the pecorino after it's been rolling all around town :-)

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  20. I'd take the pecorino! Love the tale and the torte looks scumptious and doable. On Easter Monday, my husband's back at work, my daughter's back at the local public U but my son and (he's at a Catholic college) were off. Wish I found the blog earlier! But will be back.

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  21. Yes, yes! Me too! Your blog is a delectable mixture of literary edification and the epicure. You write so beautifully that one is immediately transported - a rare gift indeed. You share so generously your love of good food and wine and love and laughter. Yes, you are singular, Lola, and I'm so thrilled you are here, on these pages, so that we can sit back and share the joy and warmth and sheer deliciosity with you!

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  22. Erin - No way, sometimes it's cereal and bananas for dinner...

    Laura - Hurry back then!

    sallymandy - the recipes are a leit motif, what I'm really after is capturing (and sharing) life stories. Thank YOU!

    Lori - I've been fantasizing about organizing a gargantuan blogfest reunion in some place beautiful for a gourmand real life chat. Venice...Bologna...Positano... Think about it.

    Arlene - I'm happy too, Pasquetta is one of my favorites too.

    Theresa - Aw, you don't eat the rind anyway. The race gives the Pecorino more flavor!

    Claudia - You're welcome here anytime, meals are served on a continuum.

    Tessa - You're making me blush. How I wish I could get this cookbook/Italy manual published, it's overflowing with all this and more. I know I can make people happy with my little stories and my recipes, I know it! I just don't have enough exposure, I'm a "foodie" (kinda hate the term) nobody and publishers fear my zero market value. If only they could read what my bloggy friends say... Thank you, my gem.

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Eleonora

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