This is the first in a week of Easter themed recipes since we’re only ten days away from the big day. I’ve already shared my recipes for pastiera napoletana and torta pasqualina on the Great Italian Chefs website, so now it’s time for some Easter recipes here.
When I first discovered the casatiello my reaction was ‘wow!’ It sounds like a huge pizza stromboli, you know the ones which are rolled up like a croissant before baking so that they positively ooze cheese and salami. How could it not be delicious? Then when I first tried one, I realised that they are even better than strombolis since the yeast and lard give it the texture of soft focaccia bread. It was divine.
The casatiello is an Easter tradition from Naples, which seems to have given Italy a lot of traditional Easter food—see for example my recipe for pastiera napoletana. Its origins can be traced to at least the 1500s. The shape of the casatiello is supposed to represent the crown of thorns placed on Jesus’ head by Roman soldiers in the lead up to his crucifixion. The five eggs represent the five wounds Christ suffered during the passion.
The eggs are for decoration really, but you can eat them as they are baked in their shells during the cooking process. Hopefully there won’t be any arguments since there’s not enough for everyone.
The classic recipe calls for Neapolitan salami and pecorino cheese, but you can really add whatever you can get hold of locally. I used a lovely Tuscan finocchiona salami for this one.
Notwithstanding the amount of time it takes to make, the casatiello is actually very easy. Most of the time is resting or baking, so don’t be put off. Here are a few photographs of the different stages of production to get you excited on your way down to the recipe.
Preparation time: 15 minutes + 4 hours resting time
Cooking time: 1 hour
Total time: 5 hours 15 minutes
1kg (a cups) 00 flour
18g (1 1/4 tablespoons) salt
100g (3 1/2 ounces) lard
50g (2 ounces) fresh yeast
375ml (1 1/2 cups) water
300g (7 ounces) salami, in small cubes
300g (7 ounces) hard cheese, in small cubes
100g (3 1/2 ounces) grated parmigiano reggiano, grated
- Mix the flour and salt together in the bowl of a stand mixer.
- Add the lard and crumble the yeast over the top of the flour.
- Turn the mixture on low and then add the water, little-by-little until the mixture forms a dough.
- Continue to mix for a further five minutes or until the dough becomes soft and smooth.
- Transfer the dough to a bowl which has been greased with olive oil. Cover with a tea towel and put in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size, about two hours.
- Put the dough onto a floured surface and knock back. Remove a small piece of dough and reserve. Then roll the rest into a rectangle about 60cm long by 30 cm (24 inch by 12 inch) wide.
- Cover the surface with the salami and cheeses and then roll the dough into a long sausage shape.
- Grease a 35 cm (14 inch) round bundt tin. Place the casatiello into the tin and squeeze the two ends together to join. Then cover with a tea towel, put it in a warm place and leave it to rise for a further two hours.
- In the mean time, roll the reserved dough into an oblong of about 20cm ( by 10 cm. (8 inch by 4 inch) Using a pizza wheel cut it into ten long strips about 1/2 cm (1/4 inch) wide.
- Heat the oven to 170°C (335°F).
- When the casatiello has risen, wash five of the eggs thoroughly, and then place them on the surface of the bread. Using the strips of dough, make a cross over each egg to attach it to the bread.
- Beat the remaining egg with a little water and then paint the top of the casatiello with it.
- Bake the casatiello for one hour.
- Allow to cool completely before removing from the tin and serving.