Casatiello (Neapolitan Easter Bread)

Casatiello (Neapolitan Easter Bread)

In antipasti, Campania, Spring by Frank Fariello40 Comments

One of my fondest taste memories from my childhood was a bread we used to call “Anzogna bread” (the name, I am told, is a dialect word for lard). My grandparents would buy it at a local bakery in the Italian neighborhood they lived in. These days, sadly, you can’t buy it any more. Italian bakeries prefer to sell “prosciutto bread”, which I guess they feel it fancier and more marketable. Too bad it is nowhere near as delicious. Later in life I realized that it was a relation, perhaps not so distant, of a Neapolitan bread made with lard and pork cracklings called tortano con i cicoli, and belonged to a family of lard-enriched donut-shaped breads common to Neapolitan cuisine.

Perhaps the most famous is casatiello, a Neapolitan Easter bread, which is distinguished from its ‘sisters’ by the eggs embedded on top and topped with crosses made from dough. Casatiello is stuffed with an assortment of cured pork and cheeses (the particular mix varies from recipe to recipe) and baked until golden brown in the oven. Served as an antipasto for Easter dinner, the leftovers taste ever better eaten the next day, as part of the traditional Easter Monday picnic.

Ingredients

Makes one large casatiello

For the dough:
500g (1 lb.) flour
100g (4 oz.) lard
1 tsp yeast
Salt and pepper
Water, q.b.
100g grated parmesan cheese (optional)

For the filling:
250-500g (1/2-1 lb.) mixed cured meats (salumi) and cheeses (see Notes)

For the topping:
5 whole eggs

Directions

In a mixer, mix together the dough ingredients with the paddle. Then drizzle in enough water to make a wet dough, usually about 1/2 as much as the flour by volume.  Switch from paddle to dough hook and knead the dough on the lowest speed for about 5 minutes. (If not using a standing mixer, see Notes.)

Scoop the wet dough out of the mixing bowl onto a well-floured surface. Using well-floured hands, form the dough into a smooth ball and place it into a greased bowl.

Cover the bowl with a towel and let the dough rise for at least two hours, until it doubles in size. (You can let it go longer if you like.)

While the dough is rising, cut up your meats and cheeses into small cubes and mix everything up in a bowl. Set aside until needed.

After the dough has risen, punch it down and scoop it out onto a well floured surface again. Take a handful and set aside for later use. Use your hands to flatten out the rest of the dough into a rectangular shape about 1 cm (1/4 inch) thick. (You can use a rolling pin if you like, but the dough is quite soft enough to just use your hands.)

Now take the filling and spread it out evenly all over the top of the dough.

Gently roll the rectangle up, as tightly as you can manage, into a long torpedo-like shape, curling it around like so:

Now take the dough and place it gently into a large ring mold, bring the ends around and pinching them together. Cover the mold with a towel and let the dough rise again for another two hours or so, until it has doubled again.

Now nestle the eggs into the top of the dough ring at even intervals. Take the dough you have set aside and form it into ten thin strips. Use these strips to make crosses on top of the eggs.

Preheat the oven to 180C/375F. When the oven is hot, place the mold into the oven and bake for about an hour, perhaps a bit more, until the top is nice and golden brown. (You can raise the temperature a bit, to 200C/400F, towards the end if you find it is not browning enough.

Take the mold out of the oven, unmold your casatiello and let it cool on a baking rack. Serve it lukewarm or at room temperature.

Notes

As mentioned, the filling mixture for this Easter bread varies from recipe to recipe and it is said that every family has its own favorite mix of salumi and cheeses, but Neapolitan salami features in every recipe I’ve seen, as does either provola or caciocavallo, very typical Neapolitan cheeses. The doyenne of Neapolitan cooking, Jeanne Caròla Francesconi, calls for ‘svizzero’ (Swiss cheese), provolone, smoke provola, salami and soft cheese wedges (!) You can use the cheeses you like most, but they should be semi-hard variety. Grated hard cheeses like pecorino can also be used. And besides salami, pancetta is a common component in the mix. Some folks like to add chopped hard-boiled egg, sometimes omitting the egg topping—in which case you have a tortano rather than a casatiello. For this Easter’s casatiello, I used Emmenthal, provolone, salami and pancetta.

Casatiello (Neapolitan Easter Bread)

As indicated in the recipe, the ratio of dough to filling also varies wildly from recipe to recipe, from about 2:1 to 1:1, measuring the weigh of the flour to the total weigh of the filling ingredients. (Don’t go further than 1:1, however, or the casatiello will fall apart.) I like to load my casatiello with lots of filling. (The amount of lard used to enrich the dough can also vary widely, from about 50g to the 100g given here.)

If you don’t have a standing mixer, you can make the dough the old-fashioned way: make a fountain with the flour on a clean surface (ie, a mound of flour with a well in the middle, looking a bit like a volcano or a fountain). Add the dry ingredients in the middle, then water bit by bit, stirring with a fork or your hands to incorporate the flour from the sides of the well until you have a nice ball of dough. Then knead the ball with well-floured hands for about 10 minutes.

Casatiello (Neapolitan Easter Bread)

Rating: 51

Prep Time: 2 hours

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 3 hours

Yield: One large casatiello

Casatiello (Neapolitan Easter Bread)

Ingredients

  • For the dough:
  • 500g (1 lb.) flour
  • 100g (4 oz.) lard
  • 1 tsp yeast
  • Salt and pepper
  • Water, q.b.
  • 100g grated parmesan cheese (optional)
  • For the filling:
  • 250-500g (1/2-1 lb.) mixed cured meats (salumi) and cheeses (see Notes)
  • For the topping:
  • 5 whole eggs

Directions

  1. In a mixer, mix together the dough ingredients with the paddle. Then drizzle in enough water to make a wet dough, usually about 1/2 as much as the flour by volume. Switch from paddle to dough hook and knead the dough on the lowest speed for about 5 minutes. (If not using a standing mixer, see Notes.)
  2. Scoop the wet dough out of the mixing bowl onto a well-floured surface. Using well-floured hands, form the dough into a smooth ball and place it into a greased bowl.
  3. Cover the bowl with a towel and let the dough rise for at least two hours, until it doubles in size. (You can let it go longer if you like.)
  4. While the dough is rising, cut up your meats and cheeses into small cubes and mix everything up in a bowl. Set aside until needed.
  5. After the dough has risen, punch it down and scoop it out onto a well floured surface again. Take a handful and set aside for later use. Use your hands to flatten out the rest of the dough into a rectangular shape about 1 cm (1/4 inch) thick. (You can use a rolling pin if you like, but the dough is quite soft enough to just use your hands.)
  6. Now take the filling and spread it out evenly all over the top of the dough.
  7. Gently roll the rectangle up, as tightly as you can manage, into a long torpedo-like shape, curling it around. Now take the dough and place it gently into a large ring mold, bring the ends around and pinching them together. Cover the mold with a towel and let the dough rise again for another two hours or so, until it has doubled again.
  8. Now nestle the eggs into the top of the dough ring at even intervals. Take the dough you have set aside and form it into ten thin strips. Use these strips to make crosses on top of the eggs.
  9. Preheat the oven to 180C/375F. When the oven is hot, place the mold into the oven and bake for about an hour, perhaps a bit more, until the top is nice and golden brown. (You can raise the temperature a bit, to 200C/400F, towards the end if you find it is not browning enough.
  10. Take the mold out of the oven, unmold your casatiello and let it cool on a baking rack. Serve it lukewarm or at room temperature.
http://memoriediangelina.com/2012/04/08/casatiello-neapolitan-easter-bread/
Frank FarielloCasatiello (Neapolitan Easter Bread)

Comments

  1. Pingback: Il ragù della domenica (Sunday Sauce)

  2. janine b

    It is all done cooking and it looks just like your picture,, it smells amazing,, as soon as it cools I’m digging in,, if it tastes half as good as it smells and looks it will be incredible !! Thank you for sharing this recipe,, we ate this all the time when I was little,

  3. Corinna Beamish

    Hi Frank
    Are the eggs in their shells on top hard boiled or raw? What is the significance of them being on top, especially still in their shells.

    1. Author
      Frank

      The eggs are placed raw but after an hour in the oven, they’ll be fully cooked. They are there for decoration, as eggs are, as you know, a symbol of re-birth.

  4. Emily

    I lived in the Campania region for several years and always ate this bread on Easter. I live in the States again and would like to make this recipe this week. In Italy we always used fresh yeast (lievito di birra) but I cannot find any to buy at grocery stores here. Is the amount of yeast you call for in your recipe dried active yeast or fresh yeast? Thanks!

    1. Author
      Frank

      The measurement is for dried yeast. As you say, fresh yeast is basically impossible to find Stateside! Happy Easter, Emily!

  5. Sue Germain

    Frank, check the first paragraph of the instructions for the dough. You forgot to say to add the yeast along with the flour, lard, salt/pepper, water. I almost screwed up because I follow your instructions to a T. Preparing this bread now for a family dinner on Sunday before the New Year. Have great holiday and thanks again for the great recipes.

  6. Leonardo Ciampa

    By the way, I wanted to comment on “anzogna.” I don’t know that word, but “‘a sugna” means pork fat, and in Avellino (and perhaps also nearby Apice?), it can refer also to the rendered lard itself. (Lard in Italian is “strutto,” NOT “lardo.”) Can’t wait to make this recipe!

  7. Tami

    I’ve bought Casatiello the past 3 Easters at an Italian store near me. I have never been sure if one can eat the egg on top, though. Do you know if it is safe? Or any good?

  8. deana@lostpastremembered

    I’ve seen these cakes many times. If someone had told me I wouldn’t cringe at a recipe with lard in it just 2 years ago I would have not believed them. Now, thanks to great lard and ancient recipes, I’m a believer. It makes a great crust! I’ve even used suet for crusts and loved the result (grain fed good stuff — not what you put out for the birds). Lovely recipe and memories.

    1. Frank Fariello

      Thanks so much, Deana! Couldn’t agree more, nothing makes a flaky crust like lard. And now they say it’s not nearly as bad for you as you might think…

  9. Angela

    Da Napoletana che sono I can tell you that this is a beautiful Casatiello ! Excellent job!

  10. Leonardo Ciampa

    Frank, you really DO have the greatest English-language blog in the world. (At least to me, and that’s all that matters!) My sincerest compliments. And Buona Pasqua!

    1. Frank Fariello

      Semi-hard, dry cheeses are the norm, but you could try—just drain the cheese very well or you may wind up with some soggy bread on your hands! If you give it go, do let us know how it came out.

  11. Simona

    Looks beautiful, Frank. I really like the eggs on the top. Hope you had a nice Easter. My father loves ciccioli. To be honest, I don't. My aunt made pizza coi ciccioli (and a bit of lard in the dough) and for my dad it was a feast. I actually use a bit of lard (which I made) in certain situations: it gives a special quality to the dough.

  12. tasteofbeirut

    I am thrilled to discover this bread; my dad is half Italian and anything Italian would make him happy; this bread would also make my mom (who is not Italian) happy! thanks!!

  13. Ciao Chow Linda

    Frank – I usually make pizza rustica, but a friend of mine from Salerno makes casatiello and I've always wanted to try it. Your version looks perfect. I'll check in again with you for the recipe next Easter.

  14. Frank

    And I'll have to try crackling cornbread! Isn't it fascinating how many culinary ideas are common to cuisines that, on the surface, seem so different?

  15. drick perry

    such a wonderful Easter bread, very stunning Frank. the photo got my attention but crackling bread, oh my goodness, how I do love crackling cornbread. I have just this year learned of the Italian bread made with cracklings and would love to get my hands on it, you know I am not a bread (yeast) maker so I would entrust some one else to to the baking….

  16. Claudia

    This is different than those we make. I want to save it (I also have an interest in trying something with lard as my grandmother did). It's so rich – begging to share the bounty of the new season.

  17. s stockwell

    This is remarkable! Love the look of it alone. Will try this for a brunch soon. You have the most astounding site anywhere. It just keeps growing and expanding into an artform. Best from Jefferson's Table.

  18. Vicki Bensinger

    This is beautiful and you prepared it prefectly. Funny how we all reminis of how things were when we were children during the holidays. I hope you had a Happy Easter!

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