Saturday, April 11, 2009

Italian Easter Bread

I am sitting here all alone, in a house that was so filled with noise and laughter yesterday, but today it's filled with solitude and peace. Everyone who was here for Passover has gone, and I am awaiting the Easter arrivals, including the Easter Bunny.

I was reflecting on Easters past, and the hubbub of baking that was done in my house when I was growing up. My grandmother was famous for the Pizza Grana (Grain Pie) Pizza Di Riso (Rice Pie) Pizza Rustica or Pizza Cheina ( a delicious meat pie) Ricotta Dolce, Migliaccio, Easter Bread with Eggs, my Aunt Fifi's

Breads called Conga both salty and sweet versions that were much like a Challah, my Aunt Julia's Easter bread (she was a fabulous baker) and my Aunt Edith's Easter Ham.

Easter Saturday was my mother's thing.

She made was was called a Minestra Maritata, which was a greens dish that was always eaten on Holy Saturday. The thing about this dish was that it was made with dandelion leaves. So for days before the Easter holiday, we would get brown paper bags and head out on Long Island (where my Uncle Frank and Aunt Edith had a house)

and walk for miles picking dandelion weeds for this famous dish. Now, mind you, it wasn't all weeds, lol.

You combined the dandelions with other greens like escarole, savoy cabbage, and tons of pork products, prosciutto, pepperoni, sausage, spare ribs and more. This was cooked in enormous pots on the stove. It simmered and the house smelled wonderful. Of course, as a young kid, I thought it was disgusting because it was green, now, I wish my mother was still here to make it, and that I could go back to that much simpler time in life.

As you saw from my blog yesterday, we celebrated Passover. I have been lucky in that I am able to partake in the best of all the holidays, as my husband and I have come from two loving and supportive families. His family came to my mother's for the Catholic holidays, and my family went to his house for the Jewish holidays. Many of those relatives are unfortunately no longer with us, and some of the holidays have changed a little. I still strive for all the traditions of both halves of my children's heritage.

Some people may find it objectionable that we don't keep strickly Kosher, or that we eat pork, but as I told my husband when I married him, I can give up my religion for you (because to me, God is God), but not pork. We always joke that the Italians are the lost tribe of Israel. I think we have done a great job in preserving the heritage passed down to us. Our holidays may be a little eclectic, and maybe not mainstream enough for everyone's taste, but it works for our family, and our friends.

One thing there is never any shortage of, or arguments over, is the amount of love and harmony served up in our house!!!!

I wish you all a very Happy Easter and leave you with a copy of my mother's hand written recipe for the Minestra Maritata from her mother...

Clementina Mainella

20 pounds dandelion greens (this amount is not a mistake!)
5 pounds escarole
3-5 pounds Savoy cabbage
1 proscuitto bone (scrape off most of the pepper and rinse the bone)
2-3 slices of proscuitto skin
½ pound dried sweet sausage
½ pound dried hot sausage
1 pork hock
3 pounds spare ribs
2 sweet pepperoni sticks
2 hot pepperoni sticks
1 Hormel® salami
Grated Cheese

Place all the bones and meat (except the spareribs) (don't worry if you can't find proscuitto bone and skins, there are enough other meats to flavor the stock) into an 8-quart stockpot and fill with water. Leave the pepperonis, etc whole, don't slice them. Bring to a boil and then lower to a high simmer and cook for about 4 to 5 hours, so that meats are tender and stock is thick. You may need to add water from time to time because you will need 4 quarts of stock later on. Add the spareribs and cook another 1½ to 2 hours. Remove the meat and strain the stock. Clean and wash greens separately. Boil the greens in lightly salted water, drain, cool and set aside. After you have strained the stock, add the cooked greens to the stock. Slice all salami's and meat and add to the greens. Heat the greens thoroughly before serving. Top with a generous amount of grated cheese.

Minestra Maritata - Easter Greens on Foodista
and my Aunt Julia's recipe for Easter Bread

given to me by my cousin Phyllis Jendzo, her granddaughter...

Phyllis Jendzo

1 cup scalded milk (just to boil)
½ pound sweet butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup warm water
3 packages of yeast
1 tablespoons sugar to put in with the yeast
10 cups of flour
2 teaspoons salt
6 eggs
1 teaspoon of each vanilla, lemon, and orange, extract
1 orange rind
1 lemon rind

1st bowl (Small pot)
Scald (heat the milk on medium to low heat until it foams but do not bring to a boil) 1 cup of milk, add ½ pound of butter, let melt, add 1 cup sugar stir to dissolve

2nd bowl (Medium size)
Dissolve 1 cup of warm water, 3 packages of yeast and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Let this bowl stand for about 15 minutes and bubble up. Place it in a warm spot.

3rd bowl (Large size)
Sift together 8 cups of flour and 2 teaspoons salt

4th bowl (Medium size)
Beat together 6 eggs with all the extracts, add the lemon rind and the orange rind. Mix well

Combine all bowls and pots into one very large bowl. Gradually, knead in 2 more cups of flour on a floured wooden board. Work with the dough (15 to 20 minutes or so) until it does not stick to your fingers. If you need to add more flour, do so. Place this dough into a large greased pot. Cover with a towel and place in a warm place. (On top of a warm oven is good) Let this rise for one hour. Punch it down to get all the air out. Cover it again and let it rise for ½ hour more or until it doubles in size. Divide this dough into 4 balls and form braids with each of these balls. Place in greased loaf pans or round cake pans. Let them rise again covered and in a warm place until at least doubled in size. Brush with beaten eggs and garnish with multi colored sprinkles. You can tuck into the braid one or two previously colored, hard boiled eggs if desired. Bake at 350° for 30 to 40 minutes or until golden brown. Slice and enjoy!

Bookmark and Share

Italian Easter Bread on Foodista


  1. Thanks so much for sharing these recipes! I have a TON of dandelion and escarole in my garden and had no idea what to with them... maybe I will try this recipe. My husband loves pork (he's Jewish, but he eats pork and shellfish).

    Love your blog!

    Ann Marie (Cheeseslave)

  2. My husband too, lol Remember, that recipe makes a ton, so you may want to cut it down a little, although the greens do cook down alot. You could probably freeze some of it. In my house they used to add lots of red pepper too.