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X X List of Traditional Foods from Molise
Cuicina Molisana -- Easter -- Holy Week Meals -- Personal Recollections
Originated from: Molise
Occasion: Easter week
Contributed by: Mrs. Elivira Perfetto, Mrs. Carmella Romano and Mrs. Rosina Melfi; image, The Library of Congress #01820

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Home-made egg pasta (generally spaghetti)

Foods that contained meat, eggs and sugar could Not be served.
Dishes included:
Spaghetti made with egg-free dough or baccala, dried cod.

Foods that contained meat were allowed, but eggs were avoided. Sweets were prohibited.
Dishes included:
Spaghetti made with egg-free dough were served. And/or lamb baked with potatoes.

Foods that contained meat, eggs and sugar could Not be served.
Dishes included:
o "Maccheroni con la mollica," "maccheroni with breadcrumbs" -- were often served. This dish is generally associated with the Feast Day of St. Joseph, but many households also prepared it for Good Friday [For recipe see "Italian Pasta Dishes"]
o Baccala (Salt cod was often rolled in flour and fried)
o Dried sweet red peppers, fried

HOLY SATURDAY MEALS [Afternoon, 3:00 P.M.]*
Meals included:
o Soup
o Frittata with mint
o Salad
o Roasted peppers (preserved in oil)
o Spezzatini
o Lamb chops stewed in tomato sauce OR Baked lamp chops with thinly sliced potatoes
o Desserts:
- Tarallini (bite-sized taralli)
- Pan di Spagne
- Pizza di Riso
o Home-made wine and liqueurs
* After 3:00 P.M. on Holy Saturday the celebrations began and both meat and sweets were offered to guests.

o Home-made egg pasta (often, spaghetti)
o Baked lamb with potatoes, Or, Lamb stewed in tomato sauce

o Picnic food (made from leftovers from the festive Easter Sunday meal) to be enjoyed in the countryside for the traditional "scampagnata" outing

* For Easter desserts from Molise see separate list



Mrs. Elivira Perfetto who was born in Cantalupo noted that in the 1930s most households in Molise served spaghetti on Palm Sunday. While spaghetti is now considered an everyday meal, back then spaghetti was considered a festive dish. As home cooks did not have pasta machines, the making of spaghetti required a great deal of time and effort, so it was only made on very special occasions. Also, the pasta dough for Palm Sunday was made with eggs, increasing the cost of the dish, but also making it more special. Back then eggs would not be used in pasta dough unless a household was expecting guests.......... Mrs. Carmella Romano who also grew up in Cantalupo noted that Easter festivities began at the ringing of the church bells on Holy Saturday at 3:00 P.M. Major meals were then prepared and the traditional Easter sweets were served at the end of the meal. On Wednesday, Holy Thursday, Holy Friday and the morning of Holy Saturday sweets were prohibited, or rather, they were seen as being in poor taste and therefore shouldn't be eaten.... According to Mrs. Rosina Melfi, what North Americans of Italian origin assume to be the traditional main Italian Easter Sunday meal (grilled lamb chops) does not have its origins in Southern Italy. Prior to World War II Southern Italians did not have access to the proper equipment with which to grill their meat, so of course, no one did (Not even the rich!). Mrs. Rosina Melfi noted that most households did own thin triangular grills on which bread was toasted but the grills were not well-liked as they quickly burnt whatever was placed on them. Slices of bread were toasted on the triangular grills but one had to keep a close eye on them as the bread would blacken very quickly. Also, thinly sliced fresh pork belly pieces were grilled on these triangular grills but the meat could only stay on them one or two minutes before it was burnt, so most people avoided their use altogether. However, most households did have frying pans and special cookware called "fornicelli" that came with over-sized "cop'" (lids) that used hot embers as a heat source [To cook food in hot embers one first had to make the embers "ready" and to do this one had to keep a fire going for over 2 hours]. As firewood was hard to come by, cooking in hot embers was only done for very special occasions like Easter. Generally, the hot embers produced very good meals which Italians prized. So those Italians who could afford lamb for Easter Sunday cooked it in hot embers, but most people simply stewed it in tomato sauce as this required a lot less work. Unfortunately, many households in the 1930s could not afford lamb. The poor often settled for "triccine" (lamb giblets wrapped in sheep intestines). The poorest of the poor made do with home-made pasta and beans. The rich, if they served pasta along with the baked lamb chops, often served store-bought pasta. It seems that prior to World War II store-bought pastas had more prestige than home-made ones, so those who could afford them bought their penne or spaghetti at the local shops.... When Italians immigrated to North America the number of dishes served on Easter Sunday increased. They included antipasti, soup, pasta etc. In the 1950s the lamb served on Easter Sunday was still stewed in tomato sauce (as it had been in Italy). It wasn't until the late 1960s that Italians in North America decided that "stewed meat" wasn't good enough for Easter Sunday. They may have continued to serve it after the traditional pasta dish, but they also added grilled meats to the menu. Nowadays, the variety of meats and styles in which they are prepared increase year by year, as do the desserts. Surprisingly (or not surprisingly?) many of the so-called poor people's foods like "triccine" are making a comeback. Nostalgia plays a big part in the Italian kitchen.

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