Rocking the Roman Easter

I like to glom onto religious holidays that have interesting regional food traditions and make them my own.

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I’ve often been inspired by Saveur magazine, my favorite food rag. Such was the case all those years ago when I got issue #11, March/April 1996 (yes, I’m proud to say I was a charter subscriber to the publication in its first year), and there was an article on a traditional Roman Easter feast.

I like to set aside the philosophical and theological questions about whether Jesus actually rose from the dead, and celebrate the tradition surrounding Easter. I enjoy dressing up and going to church (I’ve got great hats). One year my mother and little sister dragged me to an Easter service at an AME church in South Central L.A. Once I got over my fear of dying at being the only white people in a congregation of many hundreds, I was met by the warmest welcome and the best church music ever. And all those years ago, when that Saveur #11 came out, I began my own new tradition of Sean’s Southern California Roman Easter Feast.

Carciofi all Giudia — artichokes in the "Jewish" style

Carciofi all Giudia — artichokes in the “Jewish” style

I used to gather with a few friends in my Santa Monica apartment each year and eat garlic-roasted lamb and fried artichokes; savory Pascal egg bread stuffed with olives, mortadella and cheese; fettucine with fava beans, pancetta and escarole; eggy, cheesy stracciatella soup in a rich chicken stock — all chased with copious quantities of red wine. Then I got married, began spending Easters with my devoutly Christian in-laws, and my own tradition quietly died.

Until this year! With the in-laws gathering on Saturday instead of Sunday, I was able to resurrect (OH! yes I did!) my Roman Easter feast. We and some friends and the aforementioned parents-in-law gathered on a warm Easter Sunday afternoon, the kids swung from ropes in the oak trees, we opened a few bottles of Wine Guerrilla, and got down to some feasting.

Fettuccine with fava beans, savory Pascal bread, garlic & rosemary leg of lamb

Fettuccine with fava beans, savory Pascal bread, garlic & rosemary leg of lamb

Easter is, obviously, now over. But these are essentially wonderful spring Roman dishes — so you’ve still got time if you’d like to make this fettuccine. I recommend heading the your farmer’s market, seeing if you can track down some escarole and fava beans, and getting to work. If you’ve got fresh eggs and good chicken stock, serve it with stracciatella for a true Roman meal.

Perhaps next year I’ll try issue # 17, March 1997 — a Greek Easter. Enjoy!

*    *    *

Fettuccine con le fave
serves 4 – 6

1 lb. fettuccine
1.5 lbs fava beans, blanched and removed from shells
1/4 lb. pancetta or guanciale, thinly sliced and roughly chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 large head escarole, roughly chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup grated pecorino romano
flaky sea salt & freshly grated pepper

Boil a large part of salted water for fettuccine.

While water is boiling, place 1/4 cup olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add pancetta and cooking until translucent and beginning to brown, about 3 minutes. Add onion, continue cooking for 2 or 3 minutes, stirring, until onions are golden.

Begin cooking fettuccine to al dente. While fettuccine is cooking, add fava beans and escarole to skillet, stir and reduce heat to medium low.

Once pasta is cooked, lift noodles from pot of water to skilled with tongs. Scoop 1/2 cup of the pasta water into the skillet as well. Turn skillet heat on to high and cook, tossing, for 2-3 minutes, or until incorporated and silky. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Remove from heat, lift onto plates with tongs, and top with freshly grated pecorino romano.

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22 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Michelle
    Apr 22, 2014 @ 03:40:28

    You’ve provided me with the first reason I’ve ever agreed with to celebrate Easter. Those artichokes (which I’ve always read about but never tried) look fabulous. If you’re having the same menu next year, I’m booking my plane reservations now. 🙂

    Reply

  2. Greggie
    Apr 22, 2014 @ 05:34:58

    I was at Easter brunch at my friend who had a few delights lke cocoa beans enjoyed by the spoonful from her excursion to Epicure. When asked where she heard about it she mentioned SG&M so you may get a few new readers.

    Reply

  3. pal-O
    Apr 22, 2014 @ 14:58:37

    For those (like myself) who have no religious blood nor beliefs I think Feaster would be a great new spring holiday. Just plucked the last of the Favas from my sister-in-law’s organic garden (it produced basketfuls this year) in Eustis, FLA along with so much other Spring time bounty–carrots, kale, sugar peas, onions, leeks and swiss chard. I’ll use them in the above recipe. Thanks for it all brother! Anywho, Happy Feaster to you and clan Colgin . . .

    Reply

    • scolgin
      Apr 22, 2014 @ 16:09:01

      My favas haven’t even begun producing yet! Tons of flowers though.

      Reply

      • pal-O
        Apr 22, 2014 @ 16:45:52

        Hope yours produce big delicious pods. It gets too hot too quickly for Favas in FLA, but they are abundant in the late Winter months of mid Feb through March. Our thornless Blackberries are out of site this year and so many berries still in that green baby state. Going to be a lovely harvest!

      • scolgin
        Apr 22, 2014 @ 17:39:20

        “Thornless” blackberries! Now that’s something that DEFINITELY doesn’t grow in Cali.

      • pal-O
        Apr 24, 2014 @ 16:46:48

        Yup “thornless”! Wish I could say the same for the raspberries in the front yard. I’ll send you some photos of the blackberries. They are just going cah-razy! This is about their third year which seems to be the magic number for plants to feel at home and get going. Also I found the perfect t-shirt for you–of course it has a pig/pork theme: http://www.headlineshirts.net/eat-your-veggies-t-shirt.html#.U1k_Zsa76TM
        Guavas, mangoes and Haas avocados are knocking it out of the park this year too. Very fortunate fellow, I am!

      • scolgin
        Apr 24, 2014 @ 16:53:27

        Yes, I like that shirt. Kale is my favorite part of the pig. You know, of course, I had to be patient for a full decade with my yuzu tree, which I am now reaping the benefits of. Have I ever shown you my favorite make-fun-of-the-vegetarian t-shirt?

        https://www.threadless.com/product/2733/Who_Invited_the_Herbivore/style,design

  4. Jessamine in PDX
    Apr 22, 2014 @ 18:27:43

    I want that pasta in my mouth NOW! That’s like everything that’s good in the world. Also those artichokes! I’ve never been big on artichokes (growing up in AK I had only had seen the baby artichokes in cans) but the first time I had a whole fried artichoke like that at an Italian restaurant in PDX it blew me away. I wanted to hoard the whole plate.

    Reply

  5. pal-O
    Apr 24, 2014 @ 17:23:40

    That’s a great shirt. I may buy that one for myself! Thanks my friend!

    Reply

  6. emiliamueller
    Apr 30, 2014 @ 15:25:05

    It is awesome that you like trying new things. I am Romanian and my husband is american so we celebrated this Easter in Romanian style. I am orthodox religion but I think that traditions and types of foods are different from country to country, so if you ever need more ideas I will gladly help although you do a very good job! 🙂
    http://blog.emiliasworld.com/home/2014/04/18/american-easter-vs-romanian-easter/

    Reply

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