Buona Pasqua – My Nunnie’s Italian Easter Bread

Buona Pasqua is Italian for Happy Easter!

My Nunnie, Josephine Vallelonga Spatafore, lives in her kitchen. It’s where the stories, the food, the kisses, the cheek pinching, the laughter, the tears and of course, the wafting aromas of garlic all reside.

She loves to feed her friends and her family. I’m amazed how there’s always a fresh batch of Italian cookies on her counter and homemade spaghetti sauce simmering on the stove. My (non-Italian) friends used to be scared if they weren’t hungry, because they knew my Nunnie (or mother) would encourage them to eat over and over, they finally would oblige.

One of the many Italian traditions I remember is Easter with my extended Italian-Catholic family and devouring my Nunnie’s toasted, warm Easter Bread, with hints of toasted anise covered in melted butter. My Nunnie and her sisters, Mary-Jane and Angie bake hundreds of loaves of Easter Bread every season.

Enjoy this Easter Bread recipe, adapted from my Southern Italian (Calabrese) Great Grandmother, Nunnie Vallelonga.

Ingredients:

  • 5 lbs of flour
  • 4 cups of water
  • 3 packets of rapid rise dry yeast
  • 2 cups regular milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 sticks of butter
  • 2 tablespoons of vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 1-1 1/2 tablespoons of anise seeds
  • 2 cups of sugar

Note: All ingredients must be warm at room temperature.

Method:

Dissolve the yeast in the 4 cups of warm water. Scald the milk (to boiling point) remove from heat, the butter doesn’t have to melt. Set the scalded milk aside, to let it warm (don’t let it cool).

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water with a small pinch of sugar. Let sit 10 minutes.

Whisk the eggs and sugar in a separate bowl. Then add the yeast, followed by the butter, milk, sugar and anise.

Next, add the flour into the mixing bowl. Mix well with a wooden spoon and work and knead until smooth and elastic (not rough or dry).

Lightly oil the pan and dough. Cover and let rise in a warm area, for 30 minutes until it doubles in size. After the first 30 minutes, punch it down a couple times and let it rise covered again, until it has doubled in size (another 30 minutes).

Lightly oil the bread pans in preparation for baking.

Next, shape it into a regular loaf or into a braided loaf (as pictured). To make a braided loaf, cut three strips, each weighing 6 ounces that are about 9 inches long and braid them.

Let it rise again for a third time for at least an hour, once it’s in the greased bread pans.

Bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 45-60 minutes. About 10 minutes before taking the bread out of the oven when it’s golden brown, brush an egg wash (1 egg with 1 tablespoon water) over the top of the bread and bake for another 10 minutes.

Makes 7-8 one pound loaves.

Varying types of loaves from my Nunnie and Great Aunts, from the Vallelonga family.


Note: You can see other varieties and styles of Italian Easter Bread here on Foodily.

Varying types of loaves from my Nunnie and Great Aunts, from the Vallelonga family.