When you get right down to it, each holiday in our home revolves around food, and the foods on the table at Easter are some of the most celebratory of the year, coming as Easter does on the heels of Lent and all its spareness. Things begin with a first course that features a plate called La Fellata, an antipasto of sorts. It is a platter layered with slices of salami and prosciutto, wedges of sharp provolone, rounds of pepperoni and soppresata, and topped with orange slices. The oranges are cut in a special way: sliced so they are full round circles, and then a cut is made from the center of the orange out to the peel at just one point, so that the orange can be pulled apart at that cut so the orange sections open into a toothy grin, much like a jack o’lantern might have.
The fellata is always accompanied by fresh mozzarella and, perhaps most important, homemade taralli, which you might think of as an Italian pretzel flavored with wine and fennel seeds and black pepper.
Eggs! Of course there are eggs: hard boiled and dyed, and they are there to be eaten with this first course, but you don’t just crack and peel them. No, first and foremost they are used in egg fights, in which folks at the table are pitted against each other to see whose eggs are strongest when one person’s egg is used to tap the other’s. The eggs that break first are the first to be eaten.
The fellata is delicious and more fun than you’d expect a holiday meal should be. And here’s what happens after the fellata every single year: someone says, “Let’s skip the ravioli and move on to the basket course.” Which, of course, means the Easter basket, chock full of malted eggs and solid chocolate bunnies and jellybeans. But to skip the ravioli would be sacrilege. And already the water is boiling on the stove, and the ravioli that were made by hand the day before are ready to be tossed into the pot and served up with a light tomato sauce. A formality just to get to that anticipated basket course? Perhaps. It is the same story year after year, wonderful and delicious. Buona Pasqua a tutti! Happy Easter to all!
Image: The makings of a perfect fellata plate, complete with taralli.