It's true that my Easter dinner menu is not long on Italian food. For that, there's Christmas, which will forever mean lasagna, as long as there is breath in my body. With a meat sauce that would make Baby Jesus cry. But since we eat Italian food just about every day, we can allow for a little break from the ordinary on holidays. Then it becomes a tradition, and traditions are beautiful, strong, and terrifying things, to be departed from only at great risk to your mental health.
One Thanksgiving, when I was pregnant with my first (Nikki), we went to my husband Anthony's Aunt Geraldine's house for dinner. Now, under normal circumstances, roast turkey is my favorite food. Being pregnant, I had worked myself into an absolute food-craving FRENZY during the weeks leading up to the holiday. But when we got to Aunt Geraldine's...antipasto and manicotti. "I thought we'd do something a little different," she said, completely unaware of the terrible thing she had done to me. I was devastated. I locked myself in the bathroom and cried. The next day, Anthony went to the butcher and begged him for a turkey (we were new at this "with child" thing; I assure you that was the last time he ever did anything like that). And I ate the whole goddam bird. I never trusted Thanksgiving to anyone else again
Speaking of Aunt Geraldine, there is an Italian food that's traditional at Easter: pizza rustica. This is her recipe. It's my husband's favorite food. Were it up to Anthony, it is the only thing we would eat to celebrate The Resurrection. However, Nikki doesn't like it, and she has become very attached to our white-bread Easter. So I make a pizza rustica for St. Anthony's Day, June 13th, which is my husband's birthday.
Aunt Geraldine called this pizza italiana. Anthony calls it calzone. Whatever. It's worth the effort.
1/2 cup of olive oil
1 cup of milk
5 cups of flour
1 tsp of salt
3 tsp of baking powder
Beat the eggs, add the oil, and stir. Then add the milk. In a separate bowl, stir the dry ingredients together, then add them - a little at a time - to the eggs. When it's all mixed (and you may need to use your hands at the end), knead the dough for a minute or so, and divide the ball into two. On a floured surface, roll out the two balls into the shape of your baking pan. Aunt Geri used a big pie plate, but I prefer a rectangular pan, 9" X 13". Grease the pan, and line the bottom and sides with one of the rolled-out doughs.
2 1/2 lbs. of loose Italian sausage, the hot stuff
2 1/2 lbs. of ricotta
1/2 cup of grated Romano cheese
Fresh Italian parsley, chopped fine
Salt and pepper, to taste
Bake or fry the sausage, breaking it up with a fork. Let cool. Beat the ricotta with 4 of the eggs and all the rest of the ingredients. Mix the sausage with the ricotta. Spread mixture on the bottom layer of dough, and top with the other one. If you like, you can "flute" the crusts by pinching them together every inch or so. Prick the top crust a few times with a fork and then brush it with the beaten yolk of the last egg. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes to an hour, or until golden brown.
If, by the smallest chance imaginable, your marinara sauce doesn't result in a marriage proposal from your heart's desire, try a pizza rustica.
And if that doesn't work, he's an idiot. Move on.