Facts About Italian Food

Part 2


1.   On the first day of the new year, Italians traditionally eat lentils as they are considered to bring good fortune during the next twelve months.  Lentils are called le lenticchie in Italian.

They are associated with prosperity and wealth because they look like small coins.

fritelle 3.JPG

2.   The period before Lent is called il Carnevale and throughout Italy it is a time of merry-making, parades, fancy dress and masks.  Venice (Venezia) is the most famous place for Carnevale activities. 

A traditional Italian food in Italy during Carnevale is le frittelle.  These are pan-fried fritters and they can be prepared in a spiral shape.  

Read more about Carnevale

  3.   On Good Friday (il Venerdì Santo) it is the Italian tradition to eat fish and NOT to eat any meat.  On Easter Day (la Domenica di Pasqua) it is the Italian tradition to eat lamb - l'agnello.  

  There is an Easter sponge cake called la colomba, meaning 'the dove.'  It is shaped like an open-winged dove and is decorated with almonds and sugar strands.  The dove is a symbol of peace.


On Easter Day, chocolate eggs are also eaten.  They are very beautifully wrapped with coloured foil and a bow at the top.  Inside there is always a surprise gift known as una sorpresa.  In this giant Easter egg the sorpresa was a plastic hair comb!  Molto deludente!   (Very disappointing!)


un uovo di Pasqua = an Easter egg.

More about Easter in Italy

easter egg.jpg

4.   At Christmas there is a special cake called il panettone.  It contains dried fruit and candied peel.  Another cake called il pandoro is also eaten.  Its name means 'golden bread'.  It does not contain dried fruit or candied peel but it can be plain or filled with custard cream - la crema pasticcera. 
Il pandoro is traditionally dusted with icing sugar - lo zucchero a velo.



Above:  il panettone  and il pandoro

Late on Christmas Eve it is the tradition to eat a dinner called il cenone della Vigilia di Natale.   Another late night dinner is eaten at New Year - this can be called either il cenone di San Silvestro  or  il cenone di Capodanno.

More about Christmas in Italy

5.   At special occasions such as a wedding (un matrimonio),  a christening (un battesimo), First Communion (una prima comunione) and Confirmation (una cresima), it is the tradition to give a keepsake to the guests.  This is called una bomboniera.

Usually la bomboniera consists of five sugared almonds called confetti wrapped in a decorative pouch or box and accompanied with a trinket.  The five sugared almonds represent:
health (la salute), wealth (la ricchezza), happiness (la felicità), fertility (la fertilità) and long life (la longevità).

sugared almonds.jpg

There is a little label attached (un biglietto) to la bomboniera with the details of the special occasion: names, date, etc. 

Torta Bomboniera.JPG

 Nowadays, there are all kinds of individual designs and ideas that are used for una bomboniera.   They can even be laid out in the form of a cake called una torta bomboniera.

6.    La ricotta is a dairy product.  Its name literally means 'recooked'.  It is the creamy result of heating whey that is left over from producing cheese.  The whey is heated to near-boiling point and  produces a curd which is la ricotta.  The whey can come from the milk of sheep, goat, cow or buffalo.

La ricotta is used in many Italian recipes.  It can be eaten simply fresh with bread or in pasta dishes - la pasta alla ricotta. 

It is often found mixed with spinach - gli spinaci - in the filling of ravioli.  This is called i ravioli di ricotta e spinaci.  In Sardinia, there are sweet pastries called le formaggelle that are filled with a ricotta mixture.


The photos are of la ricotta and
le formaggelle