platter of friend lamb and artichokes, traditional Italian Easter foods


Eating special foods is just one of many important Italian Easter traditions. Different regions and areas of Italy have different traditional Easter foods: there are so many it would be impossible to write about all of them! In this article you’ll learn about some essential traditional Italian Easter foods, and what Italian Easter lunches have in common throughout the country. There are also sample regional Easter menus and dishes.


Il pranzo di Pasqua, or Easter lunch, is a key tradition all over Italy: it is a large meal on Easter Sunday with many courses that follows the Italian meal structure (read more below). Furthermore, it marks the end of the 40-day lent period, or quaresima, when observant Catholics traditionally do not eat meat or elaborate dishes. 

While the foods served at Italian Easter lunch depend on the area, lamb is a very popular traditional Easter food, because to Christians it symbolizes sacrifice and purity. Italian lunch usually also focuses on spring vegetables like artichokes and asparagus. Eggs are also an important element: read on for more about them.

Learn more about Italian Easter traditions.


Display of Italian Easter cakes at the grocery store.
The colomba is often served for dessert

Whether at home or in a restaurant, Easter lunch in Italy follows the classic Italian meal structure. Abundance is key, and the menu has a specific order.

First there may be an aperitivo, or aperitif: a drink before the meal.
The antipasto, or appetizer, follows.
The primo, or first course, is next. This can be fresh pasta, stuffed pasta, or soup, for example. 
The secondo, or second course, follows. This is almost always a meat dish, like agnello (lamb).
The contorno is a side dish of vegetables, served at the same time as the secondo. There may be several.
The dolce is dessert, like colomba or pastiera.
A digestivo or digestif is an alcoholic drink after the meal to help you digest, like limoncello, grappa, or homemade liqueur. 
After Easter lunch, a caffé, or coffee comes in handy!


Here is a sample Italian Easter lunch menu from my friend in Piacenza, Lombardy (northern Italy):  

Antipasto (appetizer):
Salumi (Cured meats: prosciutto, coppa, pancetta and salame)
Uova ripiene (stuffed eggs)
Insalata Russa (Russian-style potato salad)

Primo (first course):
Anolini in brodo (broth with stuffed pasta)
Tortelli con ricotta e spinaci al burro (ricotta and spinach-filled pasta with butter)

Secondo (second course):
Coppa arrosto (Roast pork)

Dolce (dessert): 
Colomba (dove-shaped leavened cake) 
Uovo di cioccolato (chocolate egg)

Here is a sample Italian Easter lunch menu from my sister-in-law’s family in the Chianti area of Tuscany:

Antipasto (appetizer):
Uova sode benedette (blessed hard boiled eggs)

Primo (first course):
Tagliatelle al ragu (tagliatelle pasta with meat sauce)

Secondo (second course): 
Agnello fritto (fried lamb)
Agnello ripieno (stuffed lamb roulade)

Contorno (side dish)
Carciofi fritti (fried artichokes)

Dolce (dessert): 
Colomba (dove-shaped leavened cake) 
Uovo di cioccolato (chocolate egg)
Pan di ramerino (sweet Easter buns with raisins and rosemary)


There is an important Italian saying: Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi, which means (celebrate) Christmas with your family, and Easter with whom you wish. Therefore, Italians may spend Easter with family or friends, either at home, or at a restaurant. 

In Tuscany, where I live, many Italians who would never dream of eating Christmas lunch out have Easter lunch at a restaurant (maybe they’re still exhausted from the work involved in Italian Christmas lunch?). Restaurants usually serve a fixed price Easter lunch menu (not à la carte). Definitely reserve ahead of time! Easter is a public holiday in Italy so not all restaurants are open (and almost everything else is closed).

The day after Easter, called Pasquetta (Easter Monday), is also a public holiday. Many Italians take an excursion out to the countryside or to the beach, with a picnic lunch or lunch at a country restaurant. 


close up of eggs sitting in straw
Fresh raw chicken eggs in nest, closeup

Eggs, a symbol of life and renewal, are an important Italian Easter tradition. L’uovo di Pasqua means the Easter egg in Italian. Religious Catholic Italians bring a chicken egg to church on Easter Sunday to be blessed. Then they eat these uova benedette (blessed eggs) at Easter lunch. 

However, the Easter eggs that Italian children love the most are chocolate! While Italians do eat small, foil covered chocolate eggs, there is no Easter bunny and there are no Easter baskets filled with chocolates and jelly beans. Instead, for children the star of Easter is a special large chocolate uovo di Pasqua (Easter egg). You’ll find out more about this uovo di cioccoloto (chocolate egg) under Easter Desserts. 

Many Italians bring their chocolate Easter eggs to be blessed at church, instead of chicken eggs. My husband’s nonna (grandmother) turned her nose up at this new custom, shaking her head that chocolate eggs aren’t real Easter eggs.

Eggs are an important part of many traditional Italian Easter dishes. Casatiello and pastiera from Naples (more below), and sguta from Calabria, are just a few examples. Savory pies and quiches, called torta salata and torta rustica in Italian, grace Easter tables throughout Italy. 

For example, Montaquila, a town in the Molise region, is famous for its huge traditional frittata di Pasqua, or Easter frittata, which in this case is more like a crustless quiche. It is made with at least 100 eggs, and small pieces of pancetta, sausage, prosciutto crudo, and cheese. According to Gambero Rosso magazine, it is a local must at pasquetta, but has a long shelf life and can also be made on Good Friday to be enjoyed for many days after. 


Casatiello is a traditional Neapolitan Easter bread. The savory dough contains lard, pieces of cheese and cured meats. It is shaped like a donut, and artfully decorated with whole eggs on top. In Naples, this torta rustica (savory pie) is a symbol of Easter.  



Chocolate Easter eggs on display in Italian grocery store.

The Italian Easter egg is a large, hollow uovo di cioccolato (chocolate egg) beloved by Italian children and adults alike. You break apart the chocolate to get a small surprise inside, like a toy or gadget. These industrially-produced Easter eggs from companies like Kinder and Lindt are wrapped in foil to look much bigger than they actually are. Themes like Disney princesses and Spiderman on the outside give you a hint of what the toy will be inside: this year my older son chose a Nerf egg and my younger son chose Pokemon. 


Colomba means dove in Italian, and is not only a symbol of peace, but the name of a dove-shaped Italian Easter cake that has become a tradition throughout Italy. 

While there are many legends about its origins, the colomba di pasqua (Easter dove) Italians enjoy today was invented in Milan in the 1930s, according to La Cucina Italiana magazine. It has since become an Italian Easter tradition. Industrially made and bought at the supermarket, colomba is a long-rise yellow sweet cake similar to Christmas panettone, topped with almonds and sugar pellets.


closeup of pastiera, a traditional Easter dessert in Naples, Italy

Pastiera is a famous traditional Easter dessert from Naples. It is a kind of shortcrust pastry tart made with wheat berries, eggs, ricotta, candied citrus and orange flower water, and topped with a lattice crust. Making it is a ritual, and the longer after baking it can sit the better as the flavors develop: we’re talking days, not hours!


In addition to the uovo di pasqua, or big chocolate Easter egg with the surprise inside, there are also small chocolate eggs. While it is not a widespread Italian tradition, some Italians have adopted the egg hunt, or caccia all’uovo in Italian. At the supermarket you can also find chocolate bunnies for Easter. 

Don’t forget to wish everyone a Happy Easter in Italian!