In Italy, even the flavours of gelato are custom to the whims of fashion. There are a couple of flavours, very common when I was a child in the 1980s, which you very rarely find nowadays, but which for me say still say Italian summer.
One of the hallmarks of Tuscan regional cooking is that a lot of it makes use of stale bread. I recently wrote an article about it outlining some of the traditional soups and salads from the region all with stale bread as their main ingredient. However, it’s not just savory dishes which use it. In many parts of Italy, not just Tuscany, stale bread is used to make cakes, such at the Venetian pinza. Like a lot of dishes which started out in poor kitchens, these bread cakes are now seen as part of the traditional cusine and something to be proud of.
Well, it’s almost Easter and time to break free of the restrictions of Lent and celebrate with all the wonderful Easter food we’ve been dreaming of. Here in the Tuscan Valtiberina, Easter is of particular importance, especially in the town of Sansepolcro, whose name means Holy Sepulchre, referring to the tomb of Christ. In fact there are two important cultural items in the town connecting it with Easter. The first is 16th century model of the tomb of Christ in the Oratorio della Compagnia del Crocifisso. The second, and better known, is the painting of the Resurrection by Piero della Francesca which is housed in the Museo Civico.
This recipe is from Tuscany.
The colomba is to Italian Easter what the panettone is to Christmas. The name, which means dove, comes from its shape, representing the Holy Spirit, who in the New Testament of the Bible appears in the form of a dove. Like the panettone, the colomba is ubiquitous in the shops in the period leading up to the festival, and it’s notoriously difficult to make. The original recipe requires making three doughs and leaving each to rise for a couple of hours before using it to make the next one.
This recipe is from Veneto.
As promised in the last post, here is a recipe for azime dolci, the Venetian jewish cookies I tried in the ghetto at the weekend. Pane azzimo, is the Italian for unleavened bread and these are called azime because they too are unleavened. And like pane azzimo, they are traditionally eaten at passover time when it’s forbidden to eat yeast.