This week Patch is asking families how they celebrate spring and what traditions their family has for the upcoming holidays of Easter and Passover. Cindy Arancio of our local Family Forum Council shared with us some of her traditions. What are some of yours?
Our family celebrates Easter with some favorite recipes passed down from my grandmother, whose family was from Naples and Genoa in Italy. I remember our extended family gathering on Easter morning in Flushing to sample her sugar pizza hot out of the pan. The aunts, uncles and cousins would then rush off to mass and return to our house midday for the family meal.
Besides the antipasto, the Pizzagaina, was a highlight. Piaazgaina (Italian Easter pie) is a meat, cheese and egg filled pastry that is so rich it is served in thin slices. For many years, us younger folks tried in vain to recreate Grandma Jennie's wonderful dishes, but she was one of those cooks who did not write things down. I discovered a recipe for Pizza Rustica, which is similar to Pizzagaina, but if you know anything about Italian cooking, you know that each region of Italy has its own way with cuisine. It was close, but not quite as I remembered it.
We did not have the same luck with trying to make Sugar Pizza. One year, I made "Resurrection Bread" which was wonderful and lemony, but too cake like and dense.
Last year I tried to sweeten dough and bake it, but it was dry and bland. Recently I decided to give it one more try before writing this piece for the Family Forum. I learned (thanks to Google) that Pizzagaina is a phonetic representation for Pizza Chena, which means full pizza - aha! I was onto something. A few more mouse clicks and there were many versions for me to experiment with.
I felt lucky, and called my friend Tony who speaks Italian fluently. He told me that zucchero is the Italian word for sugar and faster than you can say buona Pasqua, (happy Easter in Italian) before me was the recipe for Pizza di Zucchero. It turns out that it is very much like a large pan fritter, fried in olive oil and sprinkled with sugar and sometimes a bit of cinnamon. How simple and wonderful. I can't wait to tell the cousins!