Traditional Italian Easter Recipes — And the Stories They Tell

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From savory pizza rustica to sweet ricotta pies and dove breads, this collection of traditional Italian Easter recipes explores the personal and cultural connections that make these dishes so meaningful to those who make them.

Collage of traditional Italian Easter recipes, including pizza rustica, Colomba Pasquale (Easter Dove Bread), Casatiello (stuffed Easter bread), and Pastiera di Riso (Easter Rice pie)

Sometimes food is just food: it’s sustenance, a unique combination of ingredients, or something to get on the dinner table. 

But sometimes — many times — it’s so much more. It’s culture. It connects us to our heritage, our families, and our communities. 

Never is that more apparent than with traditional holiday dishes passed down through generations of family or through friends. These recipes are imbued with meaning, tradition, and story.

For me, my family’s traditional Italian Easter pie, also known as pizza rustica or pizzagaina, is one of those recipes. Sure, it tastes AMAZING and we look forward to eating it every year. But the primary reason I make it is to carry on our cultural tradition and feel connected to my family, present and past, in the U.S. and in “the old country”.

Pizza Rustica is a savory pie stuffed with ricotta, mozzarella, pepperoni, salami, and hard boiled eggs in a bread-like double crust. My family has made this Easter pie every year for as long as I can remember. It was passed down from my mother’s family, who immigrated from the Isle of Capri, off the coast of Naples. Over time, we’ve played with variations of the crust but the basic recipe has stayed the same.

Pizza Rustica, also known as pizzagaina or Italian Easter pie, on a white plate

Italian Easter Pie | Pizza Rustica or Pizzagaina

Carrying on this tradition fills me with a warm sense of cultural pride, and it’s something I love to share with friends. Since I went to college I have hosted an annual Easter party so I could have an excuse to make and share my family’s Easter pie, and let’s just say, it’s legendary among my friends.

My family may be spread out across the US, but every year before Easter we share photos of our respective Easter pies. I feel so connected to my sisters, mother, aunt, and cousins knowing we are all sharing the same meal on the same day, even though we live across several states.

While I love learning about the cultural and religious significance of recipes like these (see my post on Traditional Easter Recipes from Around the World), this post is an exploration of the personal significance of these recipes.

I’ve collected stories from fellow food bloggers about their own traditional Italian Easter dishes — savory pies like mine, sweet pies, and breads —and what these recipes mean to them. And by making one of these recipes, you can participate in their story too.

Pizza rustica on a white plate

Italian Easter Pie | The Best Pizza Rustica

Angela Allison of This Italian Kitchen

Italian Easter Pie is a recipe that has been passed down in my family for years. Originating from my grandmothers roots in Calabria, Italy, then passed though her family when they migrated to Canada in the 1950s. This savory pie varies depending on what meats and cheeses you have on hand, but the main recipe is always the same. It is a real treat and I love to make it for my family year round.

Italian Easter Bread with colored eggs in the middle

Italian Easter Bread | No Yeast Recipe

Angela Allison of This Italian Kitchen

Italian Easter Bread recipe without yeast is going to be your new favorite way to make Easter Bread. This quick and easy Italian Easter tradition takes minutes to make and is so delicious.

Pastiera Napoletana - Traditional Italian Easter Dessert

Pastiera Napoletana | The Traditional Italian Easter Dessert

Pina Bresciani of Pina Bresciani: Authentic Recipes for the Italian Food Lover

Pastiera Napoletana is a traditional sweet Italian Easter pie from Naples. It’s made with wheatberries, ricotta and citrus flavours.

My mom is from the Italian region of Lazio, so she never made this recipe while she was growing up in Italy, because it was from Campania. Italian food is so regional, that every region, even though they may be close in geography, has their own unique food/desserts, and they vary from region to region (even from town to town!) But when she moved to Canada, she had many friends from Naples, and they would make this dessert around Easter time, so she learned too! I wanted to continue this Easter tradition, so I make it every year now — it wouldn’t be Easter without pastiera napoletana for dessert!

Easter Rice Pie | Pastiera di Riso

Easter Rice Pie | Pastiera di Riso

Pina Bresciani of Pina Bresciani: Authentic Recipes for the Italian Food Lover

This Easter rice pie is basically a rice pudding in a pie! Made with rice and ricotta, they blend beautifully with the orange and cinnamon flavors to make this pie.

This rice pie is very similar to a pastiera napoletana, but uses rice instead of cooked wheatberries. Around Easter, my mom and I would always receive pieces of this pie from the Italian ladies in our neighborhood. I looked forward to this gift from the ladies every year.

Gluten-Free Colomba Pasquale | Easter Dove Bread

Gluten-Free Colomba Pasquale | Easter Dove Bread

K.C. Cornwell of Gluten Free Foodie

K.C. Cornwell of Gluten Free Foodie

Colomba Pasquale is a traditional Easter Dove Bread that is native to Lombardy in Northern Italy, but is available throughout the country (and in Italian bakeries throughout the U.S.) around Easter. It’s covered with pearl sugar and filled with citrus.

Once I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease and began to live gluten-free, Colomba Pasquale was off my holiday menu, along with so many other favorites. We created a gluten-free version so I could enjoy it along with everyone else — and it’s so delicious, everyone just shares my loaf. So we make three at a time! I like it with coffee or as part of a cheese board, but many people enjoy it with dinner.

Casatiello | Traditional Stuffed Easter Bread

Casatiello | Traditional Stuffed Easter Bread

Maricruz Ava of M.A. Kitchen

Maricruz Ava of M.A. Kitchen

Casatiello is a traditional stuffed bread with cheese, salami and eggs. It is from from the neapolitan cuisine. The name Casatiello comes from the Neapolitan dialect “case” which means cheese, referring to one of its main ingredients.

Every year my family and friends gather at my house to celebrate Easter. We have family and friends from north to south Italy so everyone shares their favorite recipe. From ‘torte salate’ (savoury pies) to sweet treats, antipasti, desserts, pasta, etc. There’s so much food at our table that we always end with leftovers, but actually is a nice thing because we can take them next day to our pasquetta picnic.

Casatiello is one of our favorite recipes. My friend Antonella always brings two to enjoy during Easter breakfast and lunch and one more for pasquetta but we always end by eating all three the same day! Slice by slice, Casatiello rarely make it to our picnic.

Crescia di Pasqua | Italian Easter Cheese Bread

Crescia di Pasqua | Italian Easter Cheese Bread

Maricruz Ava of M.A. Kitchen

This is the recipe we make every year for Pasqua and pasquetta. My mother in law taught me how to do it.

More Traditional Italian Easter Recipes

For more Easter recipes, check out my collections of Traditional Easter Recipes from Around the World and  recipes you can bring to an Easter potluck!

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    Karen
    April 1, 2021 at 5:03 pm

    Thanks so much for including my breads! Will be sharing.

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