ll Cibo é L'essenza Della Vita....

"The rooms that you use on a daily basis are the rooms people will always want to sit in, because they have soul." --Bunny Williams


"If you want to live forever and ever, drink wine and eat maccheroni." ~~~Sicilian Proverb

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Foodie Friday and another Easter tradition

It's Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum and Michael graciously opens her doors to the  all the creative cooks and food- obsessed readers in Blogland. This is our favorite weekly party and we normally try to put some thought into what we're going to bring you. 

Sorry, but this is a "take what you can get" week. It's been an insanely crazy week here at Casa Bramasole and preparations for Easter have consumed any spare minute I've managed to find. With my penchant for posting about the realities of life, I'm sure you'll all understand if we show you one of our traditional Easter desserts.

Nope, that's not it, but my youngest wanted me to post the cookies we made today! :)

        Easter morning will begin with an early egg hunt for the kids, church, then a big family breakfast. I'll be serving Pizza Rustica, a savory Italian pie made with meats, cheeses and hard-boiled eggs. It will be baked with a small piece of the blessed palms from last Sunday baked into one of the vents on top.

Speaking of palms, the "new" palms that are being distributed are very different from those of my childhood. Our parish priest explained that these much softer fronds are easier to pick- thus less injury to the pickers which may also include children. Unfortunately, these can't be woven into the elaborate crucifixes that all Italian grandfathers made for the children after Palm Sunday dinner

the "new" palm..

          Every year on the Palm Sunday morning, my grandmother would remind us all to be sure to get enough palms. That meant at least one for each person and extra for crosses and the pizza rustica. That night each of us would have a blessed palm placed under our mattress to replace the one from the previous year
We'll have braided breads with colored eggs baked in, bacon, sausage, eggs, and a large Torta Pasqualina- the Italian Easter Torte. This is a delicious, savory "cheesecake" of ricotta, spinach and artichokes with  eggs baked in a crust which traditionally was made of 33 layers, one for each year of Jesus' life. Years ago, young Italian maidens were told they couldn't be married until they were able to roll out those 33 layers- quite an accomplishment!
Over time, many families went to using 12 layers- 1 for each apostle. I've always done 12 layers until this year. As some of you may know, I suffered a heart attack a few months ago and my arm strength is still not quite up to par- a fact which was hammered home when I attempted my Torta this week! After a bit of frustration and more than a little self-pity, I decided to go with the flow and try it with phyllo dough. I did use 33 layers and I'm sure my family won't boycott it :)

Pattie's Torta Pasqualina

Later in the day we'll have a big dinner, which will start with pasta and end with a variety of desserts. One dessert in particular will bring back many happy memories. Every holiday of my childhood was celebrated with Mrs. R's ricotta cheesecake. Mrs.R. was my grandma Josie's best friend "Vinnie". She lived across the street and was an incredible Italian cook. But the best part is that she always shared- whatever she made for her own family, she brought over for ours. Her ricotta cheesecake was a favorite of my Dad's and I asked her several times for the recipe. One day when I was visiting my grandma, she came by for espresso and jotted it down for me. I still have that little piece of paper. there were no amounts-just the ingredients. There was no oven temperature or time- just "cook till it's done". Over the years, I've come to where I can say I'm pretty darn close to her cheesecake. (I'm still working on the stuffed olives, Mrs. R.- you never wrote those down!)

This year, for the first time, I made one little change. Mrs. R. always made her cheesecake in a rectangular baking pan. Since I've already allocated my best decorative pans for the dinner, I decided to try making the cake in a spring form pan with removable sides. Fingers crossed that this doesn't collapse before Sunday!

Mrs. Rainone's Ricotta Cheesecake ala Pattie

3 cups flour
about 10 Tblsp. shortening
1 egg
ice water

Combine flour, shortening, and egg in food processor. While pulsing, drizzle in enough ice water that the dough starts to come together into a ball. Cut off about 3/4 of the dough and roll out. You need to line the bottom and up the sides of whatever pan you use- either a 9 inch springform or an 8 x 11 rectangular baking pan. 

3 lbs. whole milk ricotta
6 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tblsp. vanilla
1 cup heavy cream
pinch of salt

Combine ricotta, eggs, sugar, vanilla, cream, and salt. Beat till smooth and pour into crust.  Roll out remaining dough and cut strips- I use a fluted pizza or ravioli cutter. Lay the strips over the filling in a criss-cross pattern and flute the edges to seal. Bake for about an hour till the center is set (will still jiggle a bit, but should not be liquidy) If you use a springform, it may take a bit longer as the cake will be thicker. Cool on rack and refrigerate overnight
**NOTE- this isn't quite your typical, flaky pastry crust- this is a substantial crust for a substantial cake. It has an almost (but not quite) chewy quality.

We wish you all a blessed happy holiday, whether you're celebrating Easter or passover this week. My own little angel grand-babies are eating matzoh with PB & J this week and will be hunting eggs from the Easter bunny on Sunday!

As Always,

Buon Alimenti, Buon Amici

Buona Pasqua!

Pattie and Allie


  1. Happy Easter to you and yours! It has been a very busy week here also, preparing all of the traditional Italian goodies....Pizza Rustica, Ricotta grain pie,Easter egg breads and Colomba di Pasqua. Thank goodness Easter comes but once a year!
    Thanks for all the great posts and making time for you fans!

  2. Wow! As much as I love Italian food, with all that to have to cook, it's good I'm not Italian because I could never live up to my heritage. How in the world do you do all that and work too? It sure does look and sound delicious though! So sorry you had a heart attack. I had no idea! Enjoy your Easter! I bet Chapel Hill is gorgeous this time of year!

  3. p.s. Those bunny cookies are too cute!

  4. I want a bunny cookie!!! I'll be thinking of y'all this Easter Sunday.........enjoy your family time!!

  5. the cookies are so darned cute, what wonderful bunnies, they look familiar, I would love to know the recipe for the cookie frosting, I tried to do some bunny cakes, lost detail to frosting to thick or transparent, could not get it right, whats the seceret...

  6. Happy Easter -- what cute cookies!

  7. Happy Easter to you and your family! The food sounds marvelous. I know you all will enjoy the family feast. Many blessings to you!

  8. Allie and Patti, Happy Easter. Your bunny is the cousin to mine and he looks quite handsome with the silver goblets. Your Easter menu sounds so festive and delicious. I'm curious about the bread that's baked with the colored eggs. The cookies are the perfect touch!

  9. ADORABLE cookies -- do we have Allie to thank for those? they are so charming!
    And Pizza Rustica? I'd forgotten about that -- I used to make it years ago. It's fabulous for parties!

    But I do part ways on your cheesecake; as a native New York City girl, my cheesecake is cream cheese, and weighs a TON -- if it can't take down a rampaging elephant, it ain't cheesecake. :-)

    Happy and blessed Easter to you both, Pattie and Allie, and to your family!

    Now I need to go take a rest after reading about all your cooking!

  10. The bunny cookies are cute and the ricotta Cheesecake looks yummy!

  11. Hello friends!

    Your ricotta pie for easter just looks marvellous!!

    MMMMM,..I also love your easter decorations!!

  12. Have a joyous Easter with your family. I really enjoyed reading about your traditions ladies.

  13. I love the table and the wonderful desserts... those cakes are amazing!

  14. I love hearing about your holiday traditions and memories. Beautiful food, beautiful table. Happy Easter!!

  15. What a wonderful story of your traditions and that ricotta cake sounds heavenly! Thank you for sharing the recipe!

    Cute little bunny cookies too!

    Happy Easter, to your and your family!

  16. Let your youngest know that we adore his cookies! They look so cute and we are sure they will be delicious!
    Have a wonderful Easter!
    Wendy & Tony

  17. I am a sugar cookie fanatic. Yours look absolutely professional! Good luck on the cheesecake. I think it will turn out just fine!

  18. Hi Girls!

    The cookies look great and I LOVE that silver wine glass set!

    Okay, so is it okay to show up in our PJ's for the Easter egg hunt?

    I hope you and your family have a wonderful and blessed Easter!

  19. Hi Pattie and Allie
    Your Easter traditions were lovely to read. It is so nice that you had the photos displayed for those whose heirloom recipes you were reminded of!

    Sorry I ahven't been around lately to visit you --I was fighting a flu most of the week with body aches and slight fever but happily I managed to get some baking done today.

    Buona Pasqua to you and your family!

    ♥ Pat

  20. Pattie, it is amazing what you can accomplish with your day and still blog. Also, what a fantastic way to keep your memories down for your great grand children to read one day. I love all of the detail and family history you are sharing. Very cool!

  21. Hi Pattie and Allie, I just returned from Savannah- like finding the Mothership!!! Now I have all my kids home and my sister and her family. This weekend we will have close to 40 people in and out.

    I love cheesecake made with Ricotta cheese!!!!! I didn't have a good recipe, now I do! When Easter is over I'm making this! I know it will be a keeper!

    I won't be posting till next Tuesday- my son who is in Seminary is home until then- and I love being with him. He is the most precious young man (sorry for gushing- I really miss him!) But I couldn't let this blessed holy day go without wishing you a blessed Easter. You have both become so special to me- you are dear friends and I treasure each comment you send my way and I love visiting you for each new post.

    Give my best to your wonderful family. May God bless you and keep you as only He can! He is risen!
    With love,

  22. Those bunny cookies are too cute! It was fun to read about your Easter traditions.

  23. It looks like you are close to ready for the holiday, Pattie. I love the pizza rustica and ricotta cheese cake you've made for your family. They have always reminded me of a wonderful woman who befriended me as a child. I hope you have a wonderful holiday. Blessings...Mary

  24. those bunny cookies are adorable! It was nice to read about your family's traditions. It looks like you have a lovely home!


We LOVE comments and it's a great way to lead us to your home! Thanks for visiting!