Ash Wednesday and Lent: what to eat – Italian Cuisine


After small talk and pancakes, after the excesses of Carnival, with Ash Wednesday begins Lent, a time of frugality lasts until Easter. Tradition has it that Ash Wednesday does fasts altogether, but softer and more modern interpretations predict that meat should not be eaten and excesses avoided.

In this period, dishes based on vegetables, fish and cereals are rediscovered. Sober but appetizing. The idea would be to limit the sins of gluttony a little, but the Italian tradition also in Lent has many recipes that inspire something else.

181829Sovereign vegetables

Seasonal vegetables are the great protagonists of Lent. So yes to pies, omelettes and savory pies where asparagus, spring onions, spinach dominate and when spring is late, beans and peas are added. The classics are also typical of the period lean ravioli.

Breads and buns

Even to those who in ancient times observed the strict fast on the most severe days of Lent, bread was granted. Hence the tradition of preparing stuffed trousers of vegetables, stuffed breads and spiced buns.

Fish dishes

During Lent the meat is avoided and the fish. So go ahead for fish soups, stuffed squid, sea bream, anchovies and so on.

181841A traditional dish to try is certainly the Ligurian buridda, which literally means "mixture of fish". The recipe uses shrimp, cuttlefish and squid, combined with mushrooms, dried fruit and salted anchovies.

Time for eggs

Even before Easter, eggs are present throughout Lent. In the rural tradition there was never a shortage at home: they were kept in a basket, ready for the ritual blessing, or to offer them during the Lenten quests. Certainly they are the protagonists of many recipes and, as a symbol of rebirth and wish for prosperity, they prepare for spring.

by Barbara Roncarolo
February 2020

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