Castatiello is a divine Italian Easter bread from the Naples region of Italy. This donut shaped leavened bread is usually prepared during the Easter period and has a delicious mix of salami, ham and cheeses. On top are whole eggs that have dough crosses over them so that they resemble Jesus's cross. This bread is delicious and with an interesting tradition and significance to it.
Casatiello is a savory Italian Easter bread that originated in the region of Campania, Naples but is now eaten throughout Italy. It is typically made with a mixture of flour, water, lard and yeast and is usually filled with ham, salami and cheese. The cheese usually used is smoked scarmoza or pecorino. Parmesan is sometimes used or provolone. The name is said to come from the Neapolitan word caso which means cheese.
Casatiello is very symbolic. As I mentioned the crosses on top of the eggs are said to represent Jesus's cross but also the ring shape is also said to represent the crown of thorns. Bakers usually start the Casatiello on Good Friday and then leave it to rise overnight and then baked the following day and then eat it at room temperature although I like it heated up. Often on Easter Monday slices of casatiello are packed up to take on drives or picnics and serves as a portable, travel-friendly lunch or snack (although as I mentioned I think this is best warmed up).
After this time the Casatiello becomes too hard to eat and it gets given the name "ammazzaruto". If you've never had one before it reminds me of a British pork pie or a bacon and egg pie ie. fortifying and delicious but not light fare. A sweet version of Casatiello also exists which is also made with lard but instead of filling it with meat and cheese it is topped with meringue and diavulilli multi-coloured sprinkles.
Tips for Making Casatiello
1 - This dough is lovely to work with and if you're new to bread doughs, is a great one to use because the lard or butter helps with easier handling. I'd also recommend doing an overnight fridge rise so that the dough is chilled and easier to work with.
2 - Having said that I don't recommend kneading this dough by hand. It takes around 18 minutes using the dough hook and electric mixer so it would take 25 minutes by hand which is a looong time when kneading.
3 - This cake is usually baked in a chiffon style tin. Usually you don't need to line these, just oil them but I find that not lining it still causes it to stick too much. I spray the centre tube, base and sides with oil and then wrap the centre tube with parchment and line the sides with parchment.
4 - You want your salami, ham and cheese to be cubed so you may have to go to a deli to get thicker slabs of each. You can also use prosciutto, mortadella and other cheeses (I added some mozzarella as I had some left over from making pizza).
5 - Some people boil the eggs before adding them on top of the bread some add them raw but still in the shell. I used them raw but washed them well because they were eggs straight from Valentina's chickens.
6 - I use a pizza cutter for slicing up the thin strips on top of the eggs.
I made a few casatiellos trying to get to the perfect recipe for it that balanced the bread and filling just nicely. I gave one to our lovely neighbours Paolo and Rita. Paolo is Italian so I thought he might like it as he seemed to like my focaccia bread a lot. When Mr NQN was sick with COVID they were so lovely about it. I mentioned before that we went to their house for dinner the day after Mr NQN thinks he contracted COVID but wasn't symptomatic (and when people are most infectious).
I worried about everyone else catching it as they are a bit older than us but it turned out that nobody else got sick that night. We have all spoken since and we think it was because the doors were open as it was a hot night. Also Mr NQN only spoke maybe half a dozen sentences that night. Who knew that his natural introversion would prove such an asset with a pandemic!
While Mr NQN was sick the doorbell rang and there was Paolo. "I was just out shopping and I bought you this," he said gruffly holding out the cactus with the hand written message written on the box. It was a beautiful cactus - Paolo and Rita's garden is filled with all sorts of amazing succulents. I asked Mr NQN to send him a thank you message because I don't have Paolo's number but of course Mr NQN didn't because he isn't good at that sort of thing. It got to the point where it was too late to send it so I thought that I'd say thank you by way of Casatiello!
So tell me Dear Reader, are you prompt at thanking people or do you not worry about those sorts of things? Do you like pork pies and bacon and egg pies? Have you ever tried a casatiello?