Easter is that time of a year very special to Neapolitans. It’s an excuse to stay with the family and friends, to forget about any diet and enjoy traditional Neapolitan Easter dishes.
The mussels soup: a truly neapolitan Easter dish
The Neapolitan kitchen pride and also a traditional Easter period dish is the Mussel Soup (it. “Zuppa di Cozze”) eaten on saint Thursday. No wonder this dish has a royal taste, it’s said it was invented by the Neapolitan king himself! The legend goes like this: Ferdinand I (1751-1825) loved to eat fancy seafood and fish almost every day. The king even fished himself and also he gave the instructions to his cooks how a certain fish should be prepared. Gregorio Maria Rocco famous and very important, at that time, Dominican advised the king to think about the poor class Neapolitan people, not to fall in sin and refuse to eat fancy seafood at least at the period of the holy week. The problem was that the king had some freshly fished mussels and he didn’t want to give up on them. Instead, playing foxy he ordered his cooks at the saint Thursday to prepare these mussels in the simplest way, as a soup with tomatoes, chili peppers and some bread toast. The dish came up to be so tasty that the cooks spread the recipe throughout the city of Naples. Neapolitans liked this dish so much that it even became a traditional saint Thursday meal.
“Casatiello” is the Neapolitan salty cake eaten on Easter, made out of bread dough, stuffed with traditional cold cuts, eggs and cheese, decorated with boiled eggs. The name of this dish comes from the Neapolitan word “caso” which means – cheese, probably to describe the big quantity of cheese put in this cake. The exact origin of this dish is unknown, it’s even guessed that some versions of this cake were already baked at the pagan times. One thing is for sure that Casatiello has been made for quite a long time. The Neapolitan writer Gianbattista Basile wrote about Casatiello in his story of “The Cat Cinderella” (it.“La gatta Cenerentola”) in 1634. He described the celebration with the best Neapolitan dishes after the prince found his beloved one. Dishes like Casatiello full of best cheese and cold cuts were considered as the food of the rich, so the poor were making them only on special occasions like Christmas or Easter.
Pastiera: the easter's dessert
A great celebration is unimaginable without a good dessert. “Pastiera” – the traditional Neapolitan pastry is eaten after meal throughout the holy week. This sweet cake has a long tradition coming from pagan times. Legend says that Neapolitan siren Parthenope to celebrate the spring was singing beautifully to all the people. People in exchange for this sweet singing chose seven the most beautiful girls to bring gifts of nature to the siren: flour, ricotta, eggs, grain, orange flower water, spices and sugar. Parthenope brought these ingredients to the gods. They, united, mixed all ingredients and made the first Pastiera cake, sweet as the sirens singing.
The second day of Easter is called “Pasquetta” that means small Easter. That day usually is spent with friends outdoors. It’s a big picnic with grilled meat and drinks. A super nice way to finish all that Easter diet.
If you’re planning your visit to Naples at the Easter time you should definitely try these wonderful dishes. I can guarantee you’re going to like them.
So, happy Easter in Naples and buon appetito!