I remember my first Easter in Italy. A group of friends had planned to go to Naples to see the museums and eat at the famous pizzerias. Afterwards we would explore the islands and the Amalfi coast. Upon arriving in Naples, we went into a bakery looking for picnic fodder and on the counter sat the most adorable little bread wreathes with eggs nestled on top. We bought them mistakenly thinking they were sweet and were surprised to find them filled with salami, ham and cheese. This was my first taste of Naples and I later found out that this bread was called, “casatiello” and has been an iconic Easter treat for more than 400 years. It is the perfect dish to pack for the tradition of picnicking on Easter Monday (Pasquetta). The dough is usually made on Good Friday, left to rise overnight and baked the next morning.
Casatiello is ring-shaped and topped with eggs. The ring-shape is symbolic of the crown of thorns worn by Jesus during the crucifixion and eggs represent Jesus’s rebirth. Similarly the tòrtano is also ring-shaped and is filled with pork scratchings (then called tòrtano cu’ cicoli) or with salami napoletano, hard-boiled egg and cheese (then called tòrtano ripieno) and is available year round. The word, “tòrtano” is from the latin word, “tortanus” which means a ring-shaped bread.
There are also sweet versions topped with icing and sprinkles (hundreds and thousands). Happy Easter everyone!
Casatiello / Tòrtano ripieno (savoury Easter bread) – Campania
600 grams 00 or plain flour
300 mls water, tepid
24 grams fresh yeast (or 12 grams dry yeast)
150 grams lard, room temperature
50 grams Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino cheese or a mix of the two, finely grated
12 grams sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
50 grams lard, room temperature
350 grams provolone, provola, Gruyere or Swiss cheese, cut to 1 cm dice
350 grams salami napoletano (can substitute any salami), ham and/or pancetta, cut to 1/2 cm dice
4 eggs, rinsed and dried
- Mix together the water and the yeast in a cup. In a large bowl, add the flour, water with yeast, lard, cheese, salt and pepper. Mix until well combined. Cover with cling film and let sit for half an hour.
- Stretch one side of the dough and fold it in the middle. Stretch the opposite side of the dough and fold it into the middle. Turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat with both sides (which have not yet been stretched). Turn the dough over so the folded sides are down and use your hands and roll the ball around to stretch the surface of the dough into a ball. Add the dough back to the bowl and cover with cling film for 1 hour.
- If you are making casatiello, reserve 75 grams of dough for the crosses on the top of the eggs and wrap in cling film. Roll the remaining dough to a 1 cm thick rectangle. Spread the remaining 50 grams of lard over the dough. Evenly sprinkle over the cheese, salami, ham and/or pancetta and begin to roll up the dough into a cylinder.
- Grease a ring mould. Roll the dough into the ring mould, folding the ends under. Prick the top with a fork. Cover the dough with cling film and let sit for 3 hours or overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 160C. Place the eggs spaced evenly around the ring. Break the reserved dough into 8 pieces and roll into cylinders. Use them to make crosses over the eggs, pressing the ends into the dough.
- Brush the top with oil and bake for 1 hour until golden. The dough should be 93C (200F) in the centre when done. Allow it to cool completely before cutting.