In Naples, Savory Pies Bring Tidings of Spring | Culinary Backstreets
Sign up with email

or

Already a member? Log in.

Trouble logging in?

Not a member? Sign up!

In past centuries, ones of economic hardship, Neapolitans’ ancestors feasted only during religious holidays. It was easier then to distinguish the piatti delle feste, feasting foods, by their richness and variety.

In these more prosperous times, and with the availability of raw materials throughout the year, these lavish dishes can be prepared virtually any time, which makes it seem difficult to talk about “festive meals.”

However, with the approach of Easter (and Christmas), many Neapolitans, beyond their religious beliefs, are seized by an irresistible desire to return to family traditions and to eat the dishes prepared by their forebears.

And thus begins the debate on what, exactly, our real Easter dishes are. On some rules, there’s consensus: fish and lean eating during Holy Week, mussel soup on Holy Thursday, vegetables and meat at the requisite big Easter lunch.

Some foods are compulsory, eaten out of devotion, as if they were written in the genetic heritage of Neapolitans. For instance, In Naples, it’s not Easter without fellata (the blessed dish), oven-roasted kid goat, artichokes or pastiera. But above all, it’s not Easter without tortano and casatiello.

These two savory pies are the real queens of the Easter season, the stars of each appetizer, meal and after meals. The tortano is even essential to the compulsory open-air outing that all Neapolitans do the Monday after Easter.

Casatiello is a typical rustic preparation whose name comes from the Latin caseum (cheese), and true to its name, it’s stuffed with various types of cheese. Four eggs, uncooked and in the shell, are inserted into the dough on the top before the pie is baked. The eggs are fixed to the crust with two strips of dough in the shape of a cross.

The tortano is made with the same dough, but the filling is much more complex and rich: various cheeses, pork cracklings, salami, mortadella. The eggs are present, of course, but are boiled first, cut into wedges and placed inside.

But the most essential ingredient of the Neapolitan tortano is lard, a component that can never be replaced by oil or butter; some housewives, more attentive to the false line taboo than to the rules of healthy traditional Neapolitan cuisine, do not use lard in their tortano. And we believe their punishment should be expulsion from the Neapolitan food community!

In Naples, of course, there’s a saying (in Naples, there’s always a saying): “You are a tortano without lard.” It means you’re a boring person – heavy, unbearable, not digestible, as a tortano would be without its key ingredient.

So let’s forget about diets and devour a lovely slice of tortano. If we must sin, let’s make it a good one.

Editor’s note: It’s Spring Week at Culinary Backstreets, and we’re celebrating with dispatches about warm-weather favorites from a few of the cities we cover. 

Gastronomia Ambrosino
Address: Via M. Kerbaker 54
Telephone: +39 081 556 4722
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 8am-8pm; Sun. 8am-1pm
 

Panificio Coppola
Address: Via Pignasecca 35
Telephone: +39 081 552 0299
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 8am-8pm; Sun. 8am-1pm
 

Forno Rescigno
Address: Via Domenico Cirillo 74
Telephone: +39 081 457 033
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 8am-8pm; Sun. 8am-1pm

Forno Marigliano Giovanni
Address: Via Ferrara 38
Telephone: +39 081 201 856
Hours: 8am-8pm

  • Día de los MuertosOctober 26, 2017 Día de los Muertos (0)
    Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), or at least some variation of it, has been an […] Posted in Mexico City
  • From Snout to TailDecember 16, 2021 From Snout to Tail (0)
    Important holidays have long been associated with large feasts and for centuries have […] Posted in Athens
  • Osechi RyoriJanuary 1, 2021 Osechi Ryori (0)
    ‘Tis the season of the Japanese New Year’s trinity: osechi, oseibo and nengajo. Like […] Posted in Tokyo

Related stories

October 26, 2017

Día de los Muertos: Grateful for the Dead

Mexico City | By Ben Herrera
By Ben Herrera
Mexico CityDía de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), or at least some variation of it, has been an annual celebration in Mexico for over 3,000 years. During the Aztec period, it took the form of a festival in August dedicated to Mictecacihuatl, otherwise known as the Lady of the Dead, who was the ruler of…
December 16, 2021

From Snout to Tail: Greek Regional Christmas Traditions

Athens | By Carolina Doriti
By Carolina Doriti
AthensImportant holidays have long been associated with large feasts and for centuries have functioned as an excuse to treat family and guests to something special. Christmas in Greece is no exception: there are many culinary traditions associated with the Christmas season, known as Dodekaimero (twelve days), which officially begins on December 24 and ends on…
January 1, 2021

Osechi Ryori: Edible New Year

Tokyo | By Fran Kuzui
By Fran Kuzui
Tokyo‘Tis the season of the Japanese New Year’s trinity: osechi, oseibo and nengajo. Like newsy Christmas cards, the nengajo is a recap of family or personal news mailed in postcards during the weeks preceding the end of the year and efficiently delivered all over Japan promptly on January 1. The winter gift-giving season is in…
Select your currency
USD United States (US) dollar
EUR Euro