Tag Archives: Pecorelle pasquali

EASTER SICILIAN SPECIALTIES …. Cuddura cù ll’ova, Pecorelle Pasquali

Cuddura cù ll’ova

These are typical traditional Sicilian Easter pastries – variations of these are made all over Sicily.  They are called cestini (Italian for baskets) or if you are Sicilian you are likely to call them cuddura cù ll’ova (there are some slight variations in what they are called in other regions of Sicily).

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These baskets carry hard boiled eggs – eggs being the symbol of fertility and birth, new beginnings –It was an important part of ancient festivals to celebrate Spring and it continued to be the symbol of new beginnings when it was embraced by Christians and associated with Easter; the belief – Jesus was resurrected from death into life, he died for our sins and we were given the opportunity to to be saved… death – life.

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Notice the colomba (dove) on the basket made of pastry, the symbol of peace. One cestino is sweet, the other is savory. Pleasing everybody!

The good thing is that these cestini (in the photos) are available from Dolcetti Pasticceria- Pastry shop in Melbourne).  Isn’t this wonderful?

If you key in the word Dolcetti in the search box on my blog you will find many posts praising the sweets from Dolcetti.

I have fond memories of my brother and I dyeing our hard boiled eggs and my mother would plait pastry around them. I continued the egg dyeing with my children and it all seems such a long time ago.

Apart from cestini (baskets) there are different shapes that hold the hard boiled eggs.

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Pecorelle Pasquali

Another particular specialty at Easter time in Sicily are the pecorelle pasquali (marzipan lambs). In Sicilian they are called agneddi (lambs)or pecuredde (small sheep) di pasta riali (marzipan).  Marianna from Dolcetti tells me that she is hoping to have some marzipan Easter lambs and Marzipan eggs available at Dolcetti. And she went ahead with this.


Those of you who do not live in Melbourne and not able to visit Dolcetti may find this video very amusing.

The video, Un dolce pasquale tipico siciliano.

Persevere with the young women in the supermarket, they then go on to cook Cuddura cù ll’ova. Then watch (or enjoy if you speak Sicilian) the elderly woman and the child ….. this is the introduction of making Cuddura cù ll’ova. In brief, the elderly woman has not heard of the Simpsons that her nipote (her grandchild) is telling her about and proceeds to tell her how after fasting in Lent, Catholics look forward to eating eggs, hence Cuddura cù ll’ova!

It will give you an idea of what is possible.

No English translation is needed… the video says it all (this time it is spoken in Italian).

Farina= flour, zucchero= sugar, burro= butter,1 glass of latte (milk), orange peel, 1½ bustina di lievito = lievito is baking powder, 1 bustina packet/ envelope= 7gm).

*8 eggs, but 4 are hard boiled so that they can be wrapped in pastry.

Love it!

Do not forget Cassata -the queens and princesses of Sicilian desserts (assuming that Cannoli being masculine, are the kings and princes).

One of the many posts about Sicilian Cassata and Marzipan at Easter:

Sicilian Cassata and Marzipan at Easter

PASTA DI MANDORLA (How to make Marzipan recipe)

This photo of marzipan fruit (also called Frutta di Martorama) was taken in a pastry shop in Catania. This pasticceria has shaped the marzipan into a variety of shapes: apples, apricots, oranges, prickly pears, different varieties of plums, cherries, green figs, pomegranates, pears , chestnuts and almonds.

I make marzipan when I make cassata di ricotta which I cover with a thin coat of pale green marzipan (I use a drop of green food colouring. In earlier days my mother used to use a little puree made with wilted spinach leaves). Sometimes I also add a proportion of ground pistachio nuts to the almond meal.

In one of my previous posts I have included a non traditional, simple recipe for making marzipan and for shaping marzipan fruit. I like this version because  it is less sweet.

almonds ground, 500 g – blanched and ground finely
icing sugar, 300 g, icing sugar
vanilla bean paste, to taste
egg white, 1
salt, a pinch

In a bowl whisk the egg white with the salt until frothy. Whisk in the vanilla. Gradually stir in the almonds and the sugar, kneading as you go to form a smooth, pliable dough. Add  more almond meal and/ or icing sugar if it is too soft.

The most authentic recipe that I have found is in the book called Bitter Almonds, Recollections and Recipes from a Sicilian girlhood. The book was researched and written by Mary Taylor Simeti and it contains recollections and recipes of Maria Grammatico, famous for making almond pastries. She has a wonderful pastry shop in Erice and I visited this recently (in September 2009).

This is the recipe as written in the book.

• 2 CUPS (3oo gr) whole blanched almonds
• 2 CUPS (4oo gr) granulated sugar
• 1/3 cup (0.,75 dl) water
• 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 teaspoon almond extract (optional)

In a meat grinder or a food processor, grind the almonds with about 2 tablespoons of the sugar until very fine, almost powdery.
In a food processor or in an electric mixer, combine the nuts, the rest of the sugar, the water, vanilla, and the almond extract, if using. Process or mix until the paste is very smooth. Remove to a marble slab or other cold work surface dusted with confectioners’ sugar and knead briefly by hand.
Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use. Marzipan will keep almost indefinitely in the refrigerator. This makes 800gr of marzipan.

A particular specialty at Easter time in Sicily are the pecorelle pasquali (marzipan lambs). These lambs are from Pasticceria Spinello in Modica Sicily (it is near Ragusa where my relatives live). In Sicilian they are called agneddi (lambs)or pecuredde (small sheep) di pasta riali. . They are often filled with citron jam or paste made from pistachio nuts.

I once bought one for my mother and she still has it, 20 years later. She said that it was too pretty to be eaten. It was never kept in the fridge – it is a little bit dusty!