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Easter is a major holiday for Italians – Easter and Christmas Eve are the two most important and each one requires much preparation. For Easter, we get started the week before making various delectables in preparation for the big day. By the time the holiday arrives, there is a bounty on the table to celebrate this day. The table looks something like this:

Many extra chairs will be brought in because, most likely, there are some friends invited along with family; we set the table with a white table cloth and the best china and crystal, which usually sits in the china cabinet only to be used for special occasions like this. Then the meal – starting with an antipasto that always has prosciutto, salami, provolone cheese and olives, as well as roasted red pepper – these are all staples of an Italian antipasto. Next we have a pasta dish, followed by an “intermezzo” which is when we serve a lemon sorbet to cleanse the palette for the main dish. Lamb and a vegetable are served next – lamb is very important to this holiday. All that, followed by a salad because in Italy the salad is always at the end of the meal, since we believe it helps with digestion. Next is the fruit bowl with peaches, strawberries and anything else in season followed by … finally … the espresso coffee and Italian Easter cake.

The holiday teaches us to remember – remember the significance and to celebrate at the same time with our family and friends – my favorite activity.  This month, we are going to bake an Italian Easter cake with ricotta cheese a very special Italian liqueur called Strega which in Italian is the word for Witch. This liqueur is used in everything in our household because it is made in the Benevento part of the Campania Region – our hometown in Italy, which is also where my little house resides. You can easily enjoy Strega neat and you will love it in this cake recipe! The ricotta cheese you can find in any supermarket, and the liqueur can be found at Total Wine & More. This liqueur will be worth finding as it will give the cake a unique flavor from its Saffron base – your guests will surely ask you for a second piece!

Ingredients:

  • One stick of butter (8 tablespoons)
  • 1 cup of Sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ½ cups of cake flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons of baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon of salt
  • ¼  milk
  • ¼ cup of Strega Liqueur

Directions: 

Preheat the oven at 350˚ degrees. In a large bowl begin by cutting the butter one tablespoon at a time into the bowl. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter on a low setting. Next add the sugar a little at a time until well blended. Now add the eggs one at a time using the electric mixer on a low setting until well blended. In another small bowl or a large measuring cup, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt, then mix together with a fork – once it is well blended add the flour mixture to the batter a little a time incorporating the flour with the mixer before adding more. Now add the ¼ cup of milk – blend well – then add the ¼ cup of Strega liqueur. Pour the batter into a 9 x 13 non-stick pan.  If you don’t have a non-stick pan use parchment paper as a liner to any 9 x 13 pan.

Bake for 22-24 minutes – the cake is done when you insert a toothpick and the toothpick comes out clean. It will be important to allow this cake to cool for approximately 30 minutes before cutting into it – this will allow the ricotta cheese to bind a bit.

*Tip – if you don’t have time to find Strega there are many other Italian liqueurs you can use in its place such as Galliano, Anisette, Frangelico or Amaretto. These are easier to find in any liquor store and you will still give the cake a special Italian flavor.

Click here to go to the Total Wine & More website and order your Strega!

Rosemaria Altieri grew up in the kitchen with her Italian family cooking and baking delicious treats. Her love for gourmet food and quality ingredients is evident in her recipes.  For more information visit Instagram @the_cutting_board_ 

LA Weekly