There are two things that are synonymous with Easter in Napoli – Pastiera – the ricotta and wheat based pie that is like a cheesecake on steroids and its equally indulgent antithesis – the rustic and savoury Casatiello Napoletano. Think of them as the yin and the yang or the Adam and Eve of the Neapolitan Easter table.
A type of rustico, or a rustic bread, Casatiello is hardy, filling, and oh so satisfying. Something I would think of more as a comfort food for the cold, wet days of winter, here it is nevertheless a symbol of spring. Made only for the Easter holiday, its brother Tòrtano however is made year round.
Two breads cut from the same dough, the only difference between them – hard-boiled eggs. Perhaps symbolic of creation, I can only guess the addition of eggs to Casatiello render it suitable only for the Easter holiday. Made in a round pan similar to an American bundt pan, the shape is said to symbolize the crown of thorns.
The recipe dates to at least the 1600s and they say, the Napoletani that is, that it is not Casatiello without sugna (or strutto in Italian) – pork fat/lard. Served as part of the antipasti on Easter day, it tastes even better the next day, Pasquetta – Easter Monday.
The first step in any good Casatiello? The ingredients.
Flour, lievito - fresh yeast sold in little cubes, water, salt, pepper, and most importantly, sugna for the dough. Hard boiled eggs and an assortment of salumi and cheese inside.
And for these ingredients, it’s one stop shopping around the corner at Enzo’s – Salumeria Nuovo Fiore di Greco Vincenzo.
The thing I love about shopping local is that there is always a bit of back and forth between the shopper and the shop owner, be it the butcher, the fish monger, or in this case the salumiere, Enzo. Questions like “what are you making and how much” so he can advise you on the right ingredients, the right quantities and more often than not he will give you his own personal recipe. In between all of this is usually a bit of conversation and just generally a good time.
To make Casatiello with 1 kg flour Enzo recommended “un mezzo chilo di misto,” – a 1/2 kg of assorted salumi and cheese. For our Casatiello Enzo chopped up some ciccioli, capicollo, salame napoletano, and pancetta coppata. Pecorino cheese is typically used but this time we are using a Caciotta di Avellino.
For the dough
1 kg flour plus extra for rolling the dough
1 cake (.6 oz) fresh yeast or one package or 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
Salt and pepper
About 4 tbsp of lard for the dough plus more for coating the dough
For the filling
1/2 kg assorted salumi and cheese
6 hard-boiled eggs
Pour flour onto a work surface
Mix in salt and a very generous amount of pepper
Add yeast (if you are using active dry yeast you will need to dissolve it in about 1/2 cup warm water first)
Add water a little bit at a time, working it in until a soft dough begins to form
Add the lard and work it completely into the dough
Continue working the dough, adding water as needed until the dough is just slightly damp and very elastic
Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise 1 hr
Meanwhile chop the salumi and cheese
Boil and chop the eggs and add them to the salumi mixture
After the dough has risen one hour, flour the work surface and roll it out into a large rectangular form.
Spread the salumi mixture across the length of the dough starting near the bottom of the dough.
Roll the dough up like a cigar, pinch the edges and coat them with lard.
Bring the ends together to form a circular shape.
Grease the Casatiello pan with lard, work the dough into the pan and generously coat the top of the dough with lard.
Cover and let rise an hour.
Bake at 160º C for approximately 1 1/2 to 2 hours.