Easter Eatables!

Today, I'm bringing you Iaciofano tried and true Easter recipes. Most of these are desserts, because unlike every other holiday, on Easter the Iaciofano's branch out. We don't bake the traditional ham. And we try to mix up the side dishes. However, we DO have some desserts (and one appetizer) that have been statistically proven to be reliable year after year. Here is our collection:

Fruit and Nut Trifle (pictured above)


What You Need:

1 c of almonds chopped

2 t water

4 t sugar

2 t cinnamon

1 c dried apricots and cranberries chopped

2 t butter

2 pears cored and diced

mandarin orange segments – small can

1 Tbsp rum

4 cups of heavy cream

1/2 cup confection sugar

1 cup orange juice

raspberries for decoration

sponge cake – see below for recipe

What To Do:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a bowl toss the nuts with cinnamon then water and sugar and then spread on a sheet pan and bake for 5 minutes and toast for about 7 minutes.

Chop dried fruit and cover with hot water and a little rum and let set for 10 minutes.  Drain the fruit and add to the nuts. Toss.

In a sauté pan heat the butter and add a little sugar. Add the diced pears and sauté and then add the fruits and nuts.

In a bowl mix the heavy cream with the confectioners sugar vanilla and rum.  Mix until cream is whipped to soft peaks.

Brush the cake with the orange juice to make it a little moist.

In a trifle bowl first add some whipped cream and then place the sponge cake on top to cover the cream.  Layer with the fruit/nut mixture and then add a little cream.  Follow with the cake and continue to build the trifle.  Finish with the whipped cream.  For a festive look top with fresh raspberries. Refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight.

Sponge Cake

What You Need:

8 eggs

1 cup flour

1 1/4 cup sugar

1 Tablespoon lemon zest

orange juice for brushing (optional)

What To Do:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a large square pan (13″x18″) and line with parchment paper.

Put the eggs into a mixer (Kitchenaid or hand-held). Slowly add the sugar to the eggs, beating until they are twice the volume from when they started and a pale lemon color.

Slowly add the flour to the above ingredients and also the lemon zest.

Pour the mixture into the pan and bake for 15 minutes.

After it’s done, you can brush the cake with some orange juice, using a pastry brush. This makes it nice and juicy, and adds a complementing flavor for the fruit and nuts in the trifle.

Try not to eat it all. Or eat it all. Whichever.

Ricotta Fritters

Nothing says "Easter" in an Italian-American household like ricotta cheese.

Why? I really don't know. BUT, I think it has something to do with the versatility of ricotta. You can make it savory or sweet, appetizer, entree or dessert. Or all three. Or five. But who's counting?

You are. And you should be. Just don't count the calories in these Ricotta Fritters. It's pointless. Between the ricotta cheese (full fat, please) and peanut oil you probably have enough to induce cardiac arrest in the newly risen Lord. 

Is that blasphemous? Not at all. Just the facts, here. 

So while there are many seasonal Italian desserts that would be appropriate for Easter (ex:Ricotta cheesecakestrufoli), the FACT of the matter is that these fritters will induce multiple Hallelujah's from your Easter crowd. They're even small enough to hide in those plastic Easter eggs if you like.

What You Need:

8 oz Fresh Ricotta cheese

2 eggs

6 tablespoons flour

20 grams or 3/4 oz butter, softened to room temperature

Grated zest from 1 lemon


For frying: 

3 cups of peanut oil

An "ugly" pot

(An ugly pot is a cheap, deep pot reserved for unsightly tasks like frying. You really don't want to wreck one of your nicey-nice All-Clad variates with spitting hot peanut oil. Trust me.)

Thermometer (the oil should read 350 degrees)

Optional Toppings:

Honey with limoncello

Confectioners sugar

What To Do:

Put the ricotta in a bowl with the two eggs and mix until well combined.

Add the flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, working it into the ricotta with a whisk.

Add in the butter, lemon zest and a pinch of salt, mixing well. If the mixture is too runny, you can add another tablespoon of flour.

Set the batter aside and let it rest for 2 hours. We didn't do this. We have no patience.

Heat the peanut oil in your ugly pot to 350 degrees.

Test the heat by dropping a tiny ball of the batter into the oil. If it floats immediately to the surface and starts to turn golden brown, you are ready to rock and roll!

Drop the batter into the oil a tablespoon at a time, pushing the batter off of the spoon with a spatula.

Don't crowd your ugly pot! Fritters need room to breath and fry! Give 'em some space.

When the fritters are an even golden brown, fish them out of the oil with a slotted spoon.

Set them on some parchment paper to cool.

At this point, you can either dust them with confectioners sugar, or gently heat up some honey with a splash of limoncello in it. After your liquored-up honey is warm and runny, drizzle the fritters with it.

Eat these little babies immediately. I can't think of a reason not to...

Chocolate Hazelnut Cake

We originally made this for John's birthday which fell on Easter Sunday last year. This recipe is from Naples at Table by Arthur Schwartz.

What You Need:

Serves 12

12 oz of almonds finely ground

6 eggs, separated

6 tablespoons sugar

8 oz of bittersweet chocolate

2 sticks of butter

10 tablespoons sugar

¼ cup sugar

What To Do: 

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and butter and flour a 10 inch springform pan.  Line the bottom with wax paper or parchment paper.  Butter and flour the lining.

In a food processor grind the almonds in 3 batches pulsing each with 2 T sugar for a total of 6 T of sugar.  Set aside.

In a double boiler melt the chocolate and butter together.

In a mixing bowl beat the egg yolks until lemon colored and then gradually beat in the 10 T sugar.

Add the melted chocolate and butter to the egg yolks.  Stir to mix and fold in the ground almonds and stir will.

In a clean bowl beat the egg whites with the ¼ c of sugar until they are stiff.  The fold the egg whites into the chocolate batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake on a cookie sheet for 90 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cool for 15 minutes and remove the sides  from the springform pan.

When the cake has cooked turn it upside down onto a serving plate and dust with confectioners sugar.

Italian Lemon Knot Cookies

What You Need:


5 cups of flour

6 eggs - well beaten

1/2 lb of butter at room temperature

4 oz cream cheese

1 cup sugar

2 teaspoons of vanilla

5 teaspoons of baking powder


1/2 cup Confectioners sugar - more if needed

1 teaspoon of Limoncello

water if needed

Garnish: multicolored, round sprinkles

What To Do:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Slightly grease a cookie sheet, or line it with parchment.

Beat together butter, cream cheese and sugar in a standing or hand-held mixer until light and creamy.

Add in the eggs and the vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour and baking powder and mix to combine.

Slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet. You may have to add more flour if it's an especially humid day.

The dough should come together easily and not be too sticky. You need to be able to roll the dough and tie it into knots.

Start grabbing pinches of the dough right out of the bowl. Roll them on a board that is VERY lightly floured. Try not to add too much flour at this point. Roll them until the strands are about 1/2 inch thick and about 4 inches long.

Tie the the dough strands into simple knots and place on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake in the oven for 6-8 minutes, until they are light golden in color and the bottoms are beginning to turn golden brown.

Remove from the oven and let cool.

For the icing:

Measure the Confectioners sugar into a small bowl. Pour the Limoncello over the sugar and whisk together until combined. You don't want this mixture to be too runny - it will zoom right off your cookie! If you need to thicken it, just add more Confectioners sugar. If you need to go a little thinner, add a touch of water (you don't want to overwhelm your cookie eaters with Limoncello at this point).

Drizzle the icing over the tops of the cookies and decorate with the multicolored sprinkles. The icing will dry so that you can store them all together in a happy little tin. Or take them to work with you in a plastic bag. Just don't accidentally sit on them like I did. Sat-on cookies don't have the same appeal. My co-workers still ate all of them, though....

Makes about 80 cookies (so you might want to share).

Chicken Liver Pate

Crust - What You Need:

8 ounces of cream cheese

8 ounces of unsalted butter

¼ c sour cream or heavy cream

1 ¼ t salt

2 ½ cups of flour.

Crust - What To Do:

Combine cream cheese and butter and add sour cream and salt and pulse then add the flour.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate 30 minutes.

Pate - What You Need:

¾ pound of chicken livers cut into chunks

1/3 c madiera wine

5 T butter

2 slices of bacon drained and chopped

3 cloves of garlic crushed

2 large shallots minced

2 T cognac

¾ pound smoked ham ground

¾ pound ground pork

2 t. thyme

1 t dried basil

1 cup fresh parsley minced

2 large eggs beaten

2 T heavy cream

salt and pepper

1 egg beaten with 1T milk for glaze

Pate - What To Do:

Soak chicken liver pieces in madiera wine for 30 minutes.  Drain.  Melt butter in fry pan and add liver pieces, bacon, garlic and shallots and cook until livers are cooked but still pink. Warm the cognac and add to livers.

Add ground ham, pork, thyme and basil.  Mix and cook over medium heat stirring frequently.  About 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add parsley, eggs and cream.  Add salt and pepper to taste and set aside to cool.

Roll out 1/3 of the dough into a rectangle about 1/8 in thick.  Trim edges so they are even.  Spread one third of the pate on one half of the pastry leaving 1” border.  Fold over and press edges with a fork and brush with egg/milk glaze. Repeat.

Bake in preheated 400 degree oven on a lightly buttered baking sheet for 25 minutes.

Note: You can freeze these for up to 3 weeks.  Do not defrost before baking but add 10 minutes to the baking time.