6 Easter Meals to Feed the Body and the Soul
“Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine, there’s always laughter and good red wine. At least I’ve always found it so. Benedicamus Domino!” —Hilaire Belloc
Catholics always speak drearily of the Lenten sacrifice and for good reason — if you’re taking Lent seriously, it should be a hard slog. Suffering is redemptive but for it to have its fullest meaning, it must stand in stark contrast with the jubilation that God also asks of us when our fast is finished. One doesn’t fast for the sake of fasting. The point to fasting is to ultimately end it. There is a time for everything, sayeth the Preacher. God sets the time for sorrow and the time for joy, the time for mourning and the time for dancing (Ecclesiastes 3:4). And now that we made it through Lent, let’s get on with the rejoicing. And what better way to rejoice than by feasting on food that was erstwhile forbidden us during Lent? After all, forbidden fruits still taste the sweetest …
I’ve collected some of the most decadent, redolent and dissolute recipes that Catholics in the States and Europe have historically used to express the incomparable joy we feel at Easter.
The Lord has risen! Truly He has risen! Buon appetito! Buon Pasquale!
Mock Turtle Soup
“Then the Queen left off, quite out of breath, and said to Alice, ‘Have you seen the Mock Turtle yet?’ ‘No,’ said Alice. ‘I don’t even know what a Mock Turtle is.’ ‘It’s the thing Mock Turtle Soup is made from,’ said the Queen.” —Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Louisianans will prepare this soup with turtle meat but you need to make your own decisions as to how native you are willing to go. Mock Turtle Soup is made with beef or chicken stock.
- 1/4 cup hot sauce (optional … but, c’mon …)
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/2 cup lemon juice
- 1/2 cup sherry/brandy
- 1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
- 1 cup Italian parsley, chopped
- 1 hard-boiled egg per person, chopped the whites, reserve the yolks
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 lemon, sliced, reserve the zest
- 1 quart of water
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional … but, c’mon …)
- 1 teaspoon paprika (optional … but, c’mon …)
- 2 pounds ground steak
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 cups tomato sauce
- 2 large carrots, grated
- 3 teaspoons thyme
- 32-ounce beef/chicken broth
- 4 celery stalks, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- In a deep skillet, melt butter
- Add the flour. Stir until browned.
- Add garlic, celery, and onions
- Cook for 5 minutes or until tender.
- Add meat and cook until done, about 10 minutes.
- Add the broth, tomato sauce, Worcestershire, spices, hot sauce and bay leaves.
- Transfer mixture to a crockpot for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
- Add lemon juice, sherry/brandy and parsley.
- When serving, add lemon slices and a few hardboiled egg yolks to each dish.
If kids are present, serve the sherry/brandy in small separate glasses so that the adults may add as much as they wish to their own bowls.
Agnello (Roast Lamb)
It’s hard to decide which is the most delicious meat, but certainly pork and lamb are in the top two slots.
Lamb goes hand-in-hand with Easter, both as a magnificent meal and an important symbol. Christ is the Good Shepherd and we are his sheep. He would even seek out a single lost lamb just so that he might bring it close to him. Truly we have a loving God!
Traditionally, Italians prefer agnello da latte (one-month-old suckling lamb) for the Easter feast as the meat is particularly tender. But contemporary, health-conscious Italians have been buying yearling sheep as the meat is very tender and lean but with a rich, full taste.
- 10 lbs. lamb
- 2 tablespoon basil
- 2 tablespoon oregano
- 2 tablespoon rosemary
- 2 tablespoon thyme
- 3 pounds potatoes
- 6 garlic cloves, cut in thirds lengthwise
- the juice and zest from 2 large lemons
- Have your butcher dress a large leg of lamb by removing the bone. He’ll then roll it up and tie it to resemble a roast beef.
- Preheat oven to 350°
- Using a knife, pierce the surface of the roast and push a garlic sliver as far as you can into the flesh. Do the same with the remainder of the slivers.
- Rub the roast with olive oil and sprinkle it with the spices listed above.
- Place the roast in the center of a deep roasting pan.
- Rough cut the potatoes and arrange them around the lamb.
- Sprinkle the lemon juice and zest over the meat.
- Salt and pepper the roast and potatoes.
- Lamb should be cooked for 20 minutes per pound so adjust accordingly.
- Once done, move the lamb to a cutting board
- For 15 minutes to allow the juices to settle.
- Pour the drippings from the roasting pan into a separate bowl. Drizzle over the slices of lamb.
Cotechino (Sausages and Beans)
This is one of my favorite meat dishes. It reminds me of Easter at my mother’s dinner table. Cotechino is a delicious sausage made with beef and pork that has a slight sweet taste.
- 1/2 cup of Parmesano or Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
- 1/2 cup of tomato sauce
- 1 large onion, minced
- 1 package of dry Navy or cannellini beans
- 2 lbs. cotechino sausage
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- Wash the beans the night before you plan to serve this dish. Place them in a bowl with sufficient water to cover them allowing them to soak overnight.
- When you’re ready to start cooking, drain and rinse the beans.
- Place the beans in a large saucepan and add 8 cups of water, t minced onion and the tomato sauce.
- Add the sausage whole. Poke it with a fork to pierce its skin. This will prevent it from exploding in the pot.
- Cook on medium heat until the beans are tender.
- Add a splash of olive oil and the minced garlic to the beans.
- Slice the sausage and serve on individual dishes with a generous ladle of beans.
- Serve with grated cheese.
Zabaglione (Coddled Egg Custard)
Zabaglione always reminds me of my childhood. It’s a magnificent, creamy dessert made of egg yolks, sugar and Marsala wine. My mother would often use raw eggs and eschew cooking it but those were the good ol’ days before raw eggs were put on the verboten list. Apparently, older generations were made of sterner stuff than modern people. I dispense with the need for a double boiler in this recipe. If my grandmother didn’t need one, neither do we.
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 pint of heavy cream
- 3/4 cup Marsala wine (you can also use sweet Vermouth or a light liqueur instead)
- 1 cup whipped heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- 6 egg yolks
- In a large stainless steel bowl, combine the yolks, sugar, lemon zest, cinnamon and vanilla extract
- Add the Marsala.
- Bring a small pot of water to a boil and then reduce it to simmer.
- Set the steel bowl with the batter on top of the boiling water and whisk the ingredients. The more you whisk it, the creamier and fluffier the zabaglione will be.
- You should whisk continuously for about 10 minutes. By this time, the zabaglione should greatly increase in volume and become frothy.
- Remove the zabaglione from the simmering water but continue whisking for about 3 additional minutes until it’s the texture of a mousse and set aside.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the heavy cream until it is slightly firm.
- Fold the whipped cream into the custard until it’s thoroughly blended.
- Serve, enjoy and take a bow.
Pane di Aglio (Garlic Bread)
My family usually served garlic bread for big get-togethers but I get a hankering for it from time to time. It’s great to serve it with pasta.
Garlic bread is simplicity itself and there’s a great return on the small investment of time and ingredients one puts into it. It’s hard to know the origin of garlic bread but some food historians have suggested that it might be a version of bruschetta. Either way, it’s delicious and my grandmother made it for practically every meal. Her original recipe involved making the bread from scratch and then slitting it lengthwise and spreading a dollop of lard across the exposed interior surface. She would then sprinkling it with minced garlic and finely chopped basil. The following recipe has been adjusted for a meat- (and lard)-free Lent.
- 1 loaf of Italian bread
- 1 tablespoon basil
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- 1 tablespoon parsley
- 1 tablespoon rosemary
- 3 tablespoons garlic powder
- 3 tablespoons sweet butter (i.e., not salted)
- Preheat oven to 350°.
- Melt the butter in a small saucepan.
- Carefully slice the loaf lengthwise (this is a mommy/daddy job if your family is preparing the meal together)
- Spread the butter and drizzle olive oil across the open face of the bread.
- Sprinkle the garlic powder and dried spices across the open face of the bread.
- Close the loaf, wrap it in aluminum foil and place in the oven.
- Bake for 15 minutes and serve. I don’t mind cold garlic bread but I think I’m the odd man out there!
Bananas foster is a classic American dessert. It’s bananas sautéed in butter, brandy or rum served over vanilla ice cream.
- 1/4 cup dark rum/brandy
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/2 stick butter
- 1 banana per person, split down the middle
- 1 tbsp cinnamon
- 2 scoops of vanilla ice cream per person
- 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 walnuts, traditional but not mandatory
- Melt the butter in a skillet on low heat. I recommend copper-bottomed or cast iron skillet.
- Stir in the sugar, vanilla cinnamon and rum
- Add the bananas and walnuts
- Cook until the bananas are soft.
- Serve warm-to-hot over ice cream.