Monday, April 21, 2014


I was so delighted to spend the Easter holiday with my friends in Cassano delle Murge, near Bari in the province of Puglia, Italy.  My friend Tina had written to me about the feasts she prepared for her extended family at Easter and Christmas, but I couldn't have imagined what it would be like to sit at her table.  I was happy to meet so many people in her family....everyone except her daughter was there.

In Italy, both Easter and the Monday after Easter are holidays.  On Easter, we had 10 at the table.  The guests were Donato's mother, his two sisters and their families.

I followed Tina through her garden in the morning as she clipped this and that, and a bit later she walked into the living room with this beautiful centerpiece for the table.

Tina is very creative and has decorated a number of plates, vases, and lamps, mostly in floral patterns.  She also paints.

We started Easter "pranzo" (lunch) with a fairly typical antipasto.

This was followed by a delicious lasagna.  After that came a dish of lamb braised in tomato sauce and fried artichokes.  Then a green salad, followed by a macedonia of fruit, and lastly an assortment of chocolates and Italian cookies.  A sweet tradition in Italy is to make a scarcellas for family members.  Tina had made them for Donato, her three children, and for her grandaughter.  It's a braided cookie with an egg in the shell baked into it (under the cross at the upper left).  It's decorated with sugar icing. candy sprinkled, and chocolate eggs.  We cut into Donato's later in the evening.

thought that was quite a feast, but it was nothing compared to the pranzo on Monday.  There were 16 people at the table--Donato's mother, one of his sisters and her husband, both their sons and their wives/significant others, the family of their daughter-in-law, who gave them their only grandchild, a beautiful little girl who was the center of attention the entire day.

There was a seemingly endless stream of food that came to the table, a dish or two at a time, and it was a potluck--everyone contributed something.  We started with some snack foods--chips, nuts, crackers and pretzels, and an appetizer I contributed made of a cream cheese mixture topped with cocktail sauce and shrimp.  

Then we had this very delicious dish called ciambella di pasta, which is a mold of tagliatelle pasta topped with ham and garnished with a pile of sauted mushrooms and ham in the center.  It was delicious.

It was served with a dish of peas and artichokes that was also delectable.  Next came a bowl of mushroom tortellini with cheese sauce.  These are typical "primi" dishes, but primi is usually one dish, not three.  Then came a huge plate of meat that was chargrilled--lamb, pork sausage, and beef sausage--which was served with a cold salad of roasted red peppers in viniagrette.  

I was pretty surprised at the next dish that came to the table.  It was lambs' heads, cleaved in half and roasted.  While a few enjoyed eating the brains and tongue, I passed on this one.

By now I'm filled to the gills, but we're not finished yet.  Another macedonia followed by a huge bowl of fava beans were next.  The fava beans were served raw in their long pods.

There were dolce galore.  There was Colombo Cake and two cakes in the shape of a lamb.  The Colombo cake is at the bottom and it was my favorite.

This "lamb cake" was made with almond paste and was really sweet.  

There were cookies and chocolates again--one was a giant hollow chocolate egg that had a toy inside for little Nicole who was the sweetest lamb at the party.  

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