Easter Dinner Traditions

Easter Dinner Traditions

There are plenty of options on the table at Easter time. You’ll find vegetables, meats, cheeses and traditional Easter pies, but the star of the table is the frittata! Frittata is a traditional Italian dish similar to an omelet or a quiche without the crust.  It’s a great dish to make in a pinch because as long as you have eggs, you can put just about anything in it from cheese to potatoes and anything in between. It’s especially great for leftover vegetables or meat. You can even put pasta in it.

Easter frittata is a little different than the everyday version and it is a big deal in our house. It’s only made once a year and the ingredients are very specific. Unlike regular-season frittata, we do not put just anything into the Easter version. This is definitely NOT a “what’s in the fridge” meal. It’s a little more involved, but it is totally worth it.

My aunts and uncles used to make this recipe using 50 eggs and a really large skillet. My late uncle Bernard was the master of this and he used to talk my mom through each step via phone until she got the hang of it. The goal was to make a large, tall, round frittata that was as impressive looking as it was tasty. A decade and several frying pans later, we make it using 23 eggs and they barely fit in the 10 inch skillet we use. In lieu of a larger pan, we just make two!

Don’t be discouraged by the description so far.  This is one of the most easily modified dishes you can make and you certainly do not need to use 50 eggs. It can be made much smaller and far more easily than what we make at Easter time. I can’t make it vegan, but it can easily convert to vegetarian and even pescetarian if you’re so inclined. For Easter we’re total carnivores.  To mark the end of Lent, we serve many different kinds of meat. Easter frittata calls for prosciutto, ham and pepperoni. We also add asparagus and fresh cheese.

The key to using so many eggs is to cook them slowly over low heat, stirring constantly so that they cook evenly and solidify taking on the form of the pan, which should be high sided (at least 3 inches). Once the frittata is partially cooked, many people transfer it from the stove top to the oven and bake it until done. We cook it entirely on the stove top. The word frittata means fried so that’s how we do it. This means that the frittata must be flipped at least once to cook through. That’s the most fun part of the whole process. That’s the part, many years ago, where my uncle Bernard would instruct my mom to put the phone down as he listened to her and remained on standby to guide her through the process. He’s no longer with us, but we still have conversations with him to this day as we make frittata.

If you’d like to see exactly what goes into this Easter creation and the steps to make it, you can find the recipe here. I’ve done my  best to give you step by step instruction.

Just as important as the recipes and the relatives that precede them are the ingredients we use. Where we shop for the ingredients is as much a tradition as what we buy.  My mom and dad spent over 50 years together going to Dattilo’s , the treasure trove of Philadelphia delis. This is where they went each week to buy the Italian specialty items we grew up eating.  During the holidays this place is indispensable.  It’s exactly the sort of shop you want to have in your neighborhood, where they know you by name and ask about your kids. It doesn’t hurt that they know your order better than you do and they have everything you’re looking for to create a proper Italian feast. For Easter, things like fresh farmer’s cheese and the giant chocolate eggs covered in bright fancy foil are imperatives and the trip to Dattilo’s to get them is part of the fun!

On Easter Sunday, along with frittata there will be a few other family favorites on the table like pepper salad, leg of lamb and a combination caserole/bread called pizza rustica. Oddly enough this is the one holiday that does not include pasta and I’ve never missed it. That seems crazy to me, but I guess the dishes we make and the traditions we maintain are delicious enough to take the place of pasta. That’s saying a lot in my family. We’ll add more Easter dishes to the recipe index soon, but for now we hope you enjoy the frittata and the desserts from yesterday’s post, Easter Sweets. Buon appetito and buona Pasqua!

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