As a little girl, Holy Week was a time to prepare for Easter Sunday and with an Italian mom there was much to do. Many preparations were made for la festa. We usually went to my Auntie Josie’s house in Revere, MA to celebrate Easter. It was a time thick with tradition. The women worked hard on the Easter meal during Holy Week, ravioli was purchased from a bakery or homemade, meatballs and gravy made along with lasagna and any other dish that could be made in advance. I used to love sitting there in the kitchen watching Ma make the pizzelles. The anise smell consumed the house. She always had to double or triple the batch as we ate them up as soon as they came off the machine still hot and pliable. Once cooled the cookies were crispy and melted away in our mouths.
The biggest event at Josie’s was always the Easter Egg Hunt on Easter morning. Me, my cousin Joseph, and my brother Robbie were the youngest of the group so my older cousins Ronnie and Cliffie hid all the eggs for us. The eggs were the ones we just dyed the day before (remember we never refrigerated them and they could be on the table for up to a week before they were turned into egg salad?) plus some plastic eggs filled with candy or pennies. Then we would hunt and do the “hot-cold” thing. There was one year that the older boys made it really hard for us. They kept telling us that we were “hot” but there was no egg in sight. They had put it up the hollow table leg. Then my cousin Joe saw a bump behind the wall calendar in the kitchen and said that maybe an egg was taped behind there. So instead of picking up the calendar he smacked the calendar and sent goo dripping down the wall, Ronnie and Cliffie had hid a raw egg. Auntie went wild! And I think Uncle Cliff had to repaint the wall. Once we were older the big boys weren’t around to hide the eggs, so Auntie would open a bag of mini chocolate eggs and start flinging. They went everywhere and we would find some years later. She is alot like Vincenza that way- la pazza!
After the hunt, we were adorned by the Auntie and Ma with our Easter outfits. Leisure suits for the boys and a frilly dress, bow, hose, shoes, gloves and purse for me. The night before mom would tie up my hair in rags for big banana curls on Easter. Pure torture, but the fuss from all the family made it worth it. Our cheeks were pinched and kissed as we made our way down the street to Auntie Mary’s house for more treats and pizzagaina. Mmm. On the way we stopped by a funny square house on the corner that looked as though it had sunk because the door was very short to the cellar kitchen, us kids even ducked as we went in. Most houses there have two kitchens, a nice one upstairs covered in plastic, ahem, and one in the cellar to actually cook in. But in this home lived the two Champa sisters who made the best meatballs ever (until my brother’s happened on the scene). Mine aren’t bad either, another blog. After being treated to a Champa meatball which were as good as the chocolate bunnies, we went to Auntie Mary’s for more pinching and kissing.
On to la festa! We all squeezed around the dining room table, us kids draped in dish towels to protect our Easter outfits and we ate. And ate. And ate. The meal always started with a huge anti pasta salad loaded with every veggie, condiment, cold cut and cheese. Those were gorgeous. Then came the meat and red gravy, pigs feet, Italian sausage, meatballs and bracciolla. The ravioli or lasagna too. Oh and the bread. Then my Ma and Auntie would clear the table and out came the American food, turkey, stuffing, brown gravy, veggies, mashed padayduz (potatoes), sometimes ham too with all the ham stuff like sweet padayduz, creamed corn, and squash. It was unbelievable (insane). After that, the table was cleared, the coffee put on and the pastries and pies served. A few hours later we started all over again with turkey or meatball sandwiches or just the whole shebang on our plates.
This year we are going to Ma’s (Nonni’s) house. She made the lasagna, meats, antipasta, and Ricotta Pie. I made the Pizzelles and my house smells wonderful. I use anise extract or anise oil when I can get it. Give me the anise pizzelle any day over chocolate or vanilla and don’t dump powdered sugar on mine either. I’m a traditional anise pizzelle gal. These pizzelles cook up crispy and delicate. You will need a pizzelle machine to make these or a generous Italian neighbor.
Preheat pizzelle maker. In large bowl beat eggs at med speed. Put speed on low and add sugar. Blend well. Mix in butter and extracts. Beat until well mixed. Add flour and baking soda, mix well. Drop by rounded spoonfuls slightly off center on to the maker. Place it in the center but a little closer to the back of the machine. Gently lower lid and cook for about 30-45 seconds. Remove with fork to a wire rack. You may also shape into cones using a metal cone mold. Makes about 30 cookies so you make wish to double.
Note- If you are like me you will make the first two, too big. The next two, over done. But after that you will get the hang of it and by the end they will be perfect. Tutte Mangia!