Easter Culinary Traditions in Southern Europe

Easter Foods in Southern Europe – Restaurants ALL Accor

Easter is one of the most important festivals in Southern Europe. But do Spain, Italy and France celebrate it the same way?

Originally a pagan festival signifying the end of winter and the advent of spring, Easter is today one of the most important dates on the Southern European religious calendar. It's observed throughout Spain, Italy and France with the coming together of family and friends to reconnect and enjoy elaborate dinners that easily rival Christmas feasts.

Although the Easter Bunny (a tradition born in Germany) and the giving of chocolate eggs is becoming more popular across these countries, their time-honoured Easter culinary traditions are still intact. But are Easter feasts the same across Southern Europe? Read on to find out.

Spanish Easter food

Easter traditions in Spain include a series of symbolic, solemn street parades and church services during Semana Santa (Holy Week), culminating in two days of feasting after the privations of Lent.

With some regional variations, a typical Spanish Easter banquet may begin with filling sopa de ajo, a garlic, pepper and chicken broth topped with a boiled egg. Main courses often include hornazo puff-pastry pie filled with pork and chorizo, or roasted bacalao (cod) dishes. Fried dough balls called buñuelos can be served savoury and stuffed with cod, or sweet and rolled in sugar and cinnamon.

There are other sweet treats on the menu for Easter in Spain too, including torrijas – stale bread dipped in a mixture of milk (or sometimes red wine), eggs and sugar. And to the delight of all children, the traditional Mona de Pascua cake – originally a giant doughnut served with boiled eggs on top – is now more usually a sponge cake filled with jam and decorated with chocolate eggs.

Italian Easter dishes

Easter in Italy is a time of deeply moving church services and elaborate processions with ancient roots. The end of Lent and Settimana Santa (Holy Week) is commemorated with family and friends gathering together for joyous celebrations.

A savoury filo-pastry pie made with ricotta cheese, eggs and spinach, torta pasqualina is one of the most traditional of Italian Easter starters. Veal-filled agnolotti del plin ravioli, baked pasta dishes and artichoke risotto are popular Italian Easter recipes, while the star of the show is often the main course: roast leg of lamb simply served with roast potatoes and rosemary.

Along with chocolate eggs for the children – often filled with tiny toys – much-loved Italian Easter desserts include colomba di Pasqua, studded with candied fruits and raisins. Similar to the panettone served at Christmas, it's shaped like a dove to represent peace. Another popular option is pastiera napoletana, a sweet pie filled with grano cotto (pre-cooked wheat grains), ricotta cheese, fruit peel and orange flower water.

Easter food in France

In France, Easter is widely celebrated, with many people attending church services across the country. However, few French holidays pass without the chance for everyone to meet up over a delicious and leisurely feast, and Easter Sunday is no exception.

While there are no hard-and-fast rules for Easter starters, in some parts of France it’s customary to make an omelette de Pâques (Easter omelette). Pâté de Pâques berrichon (meat terrine baked with hard-boiled eggs and wrapped in puff pastry) also features on many French menus. Similar to Italy, main courses at Pâques (Easter) traditionally showcase a leg of lamb roasted with Provençal herbs, garlic and olive oil, or alternatively a rich navarin d’agneau lamb ragoût. Both are accompanied by a choice of fresh spring vegetables.

Many French households still get together to make the customary Nid de Pâques (Easter Nest). This almond-flavoured cake is decorated with ribbons of icing to resemble a bird’s nest, which is then filled with chocolate goodies for the kids.

(*) Average meal price calculated on the basis of starter and main course or main course and dessert, excluding drinks, menu and promotional offers. The average price is an estimate only, calculated according to the prices provided by the restaurant. Depending on the country, the average price may or may not include all taxes.