Easter from North to South Italy

“Easter with whoever you want”, says the proverb. This year we will be a little more constrained than usual in choosing the company and the place to spend the spring holiday. At least as far as food and wine are concerned, however, for once let’s not put any limitations on it. Indeed, we take advantage of the Easter celebrations to travel with the mind (and with the palate) bringing to the table recipes and flavors that belong to the different Italian regional traditions – not necessarily the best known ones – with a pleasantly “contaminated” menu.

And what about the pairings in the glass? Also in this case, the suggestion is to go beyond the territorial logic to freely range from Trentino to Sicily, letting ourselves be guided by taste and the desire to drink well.

Let’s start with the appetizers. You cannot miss a taste of the tasty “pizza” with traditional Umbrian cheese, a soft leavened product flavored by the abundant cheese presence (pecorino and others) to be accompanied perhaps with a slice of salami or capocollo. For a great start, with an auspicious toast, we recommend pouring  Ca’ del Bosco‘s Annamaria Clementi (brut or rosè): an enveloping and elegant bubble that recalls white fruit and menthol notes on the nose and reveals itself full and rich in the mouth, with a fine perlage but present. Its nine years of aging on the lees can be felt in the game between freshness and depth that invites a new taste, pleasantly contrasting the opulence of pizza and cold cuts.

The recipe for the Pasqualina salad that traditionally opens the Sunday of Resurrection lunch comes from Veneto: unexpectedly rich, it combines the delicacy of lettuce, asparagus and shrimp with the more decisive sauce presence based on yolks, green olives, vinegar, wine, herbs herbs and extra virgin olive oil. Without going too far geographically, we can open Alois Lageder‘s Chardonnay Löwengang (magnum o doppio magnum): a beautiful golden yellow color, the nose is expressed with notes of peach and yellow flowers with a black tea hint. In the mouth it is lean, with hints of flowers and vanilla and some smoky notes in the savory finish.

As a first course, between a married soup of Campania origin and a timbale of Abruzzo-style rice, we would prefer the green lasagna of the Emilian tradition, which with the color of the pastry (due to the addition of spinach, or nettles) transmit joy and a spring sense just looking at them. Stuffed with meat sauce and bechamel, when tasted they reveal their fat and structured character and require an adequate “shoulder”: for example, the mighty Gewürztraminer Konrad Oberhofer Vigna Pirchschrait by Hofstätter. A true oenological jewel of South Tyrol, it ages for 10 years on its own yeasts in 500-liter barrels. Extraordinarily broad, the nose reveals notes of orange blossom, bread crust and ripe fruit. The sip is important, with freshness and minerality that travel together for a long finish.

From nearby Trentino comes an idea for a second course that interprets sheep meat in a different way than usual, a great classic – together with kid – of Easter tables. In the region of Northern Italy, tasty lamb meatballs are prepared: scented by the addition of herbs and baked in the oven, they have a delicious but not intrusive flavor. So let’s look for a “mountain” red, intense but with good freshness, and instead of looking at the Dolomites we glide on the slopes of Etna – Sicilian “A Muntagna” par excellence – where, from Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio, Alicante and Francisi grapes, Federico Graziani‘s Profumo di Vulcano is born. The name tells the essence of this wine: the nose reveals red fruits and aromatic herbs. In the mouth it is soft, with a hint of alcohol and the tannin present but perfectly integrated. On the finish the red fruit returns with a nice mineral background.

The Abruzzo recipe of Neretese sheep, cooked in stew with tomatoes, cloves and fried peppers, plays on a decidedly more robust and structured character. Enough to call into question one of the “kings” of Tuscan enology, Brunello. For example, Tenuta Nuova by Casanova di Neri (standard or magnum): with an intense nose of red fruits enriched with balsamic notes; in the mouth it is full-bodied, with an important tannin that can already be appreciated. With a fruity profile with a nice sapid progression, it closes on light notes of spices.

The Brunello Campo del Drago by Castiglion del Bosco (standard o magnum) is also an excellent choice; with a graceful nose, very floral and with notes of fruit that seems almost fresh, with some smoky hints, in the mouth it is tasty, with present but soft tannins, while the fruit returns, whose freshness accompanies it throughout the sip.

Once we have arrived at the dessert, we might consider replacing the inevitable leavened colomba – which is delicious even if eaten before or after Easter – with sweets with a more homemade imprint. In Tuscany, for example, the schiacciata (or ciaccia) from Livorno is prepared, another soft leavened cake scented with the addition of aniseed. The latter could make the pairing with a sweet wine difficult, yet if the choice falls on Gravner ‘s 8’9’10 the problem does not arise: based on pure yellow Ribolla, it is a wine that shines in the glass of its own light. Approaching the nose it seems to enter the pastry shop, among notes of candied fruit, dried fruit of all kinds, saffron and resin. In the mouth it is as persuasive as an elixir: sweetness, fruit, spices and a beautiful salty note accompany the sip towards a very long and unforgettable finish.

Finally, the recipe for nepitelle (or pitte co niepita) comes from Calabria: crumbly crescents of shortcrust pastry stuffed with grape jam, cocoa, dried fruit and a local herb reminiscent of mint. Try accompanying them with Avignonesi‘s Vin Santo Occhio di Pernice: among the most important sweet wines in Italy, the name already gives the idea of ​​something precious. There are immediately notes of dried fruit, leather and cocoa and many other spices, as if smelling an excellent gingerbread. In the mouth its imposing sweetness is mitigated by extraordinary freshness and flavor, all intertwined in a very fine tannic texture that invites you to drink again. Ideal for spending an afternoon in complete serenity after a large meal.

– Luciana Squadrilli 26.03.2021

Luciana Squadrilli is a professional journalist specialized in food and wine, she collaborates with Italian and foreign guides and newspapers telling the best side of Italy (and not only). Editor of Food&Wine Italia and food editor of Lonely Planet Magazine Italia, she deals with pizza and oil with particular attention, loves Champagne and is the author of several titles including La Buona Pizza (Giunti) and Pizza and Bolle (Edizioni Estemporanee).

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