What is the difference between tortano and casatiello?

Tortano and casatiello: two typical Neapolitan recipes which are often confused with each other or even considered equivalent. In reality, even if few, there are differences between the two preparations and they are above all in the egg. Discovering the difference between tortano and casatiello means embarking on a journey into a centuries-old culinary tradition steeped in religious symbolism.

Tortano and casatiello: the difference lies in the eggs

Tortano and casatiello are two typical dishes of the Easter period, although the former is also prepared at other times of the year. Taking a quick look at the ingredients, it’s really hard to spot the differences: flour, lard, eggs, pork cracklings, pecorino cheese and pepper they dominate. But it is precisely in the eggs that the greatest difference lies.

In the tortano are added firm in the dough while in the casatiello they arrange themselves raw on the surfacefirmly fixed by dough crosses.

For the rest, the preparation is very similar: the day before Easter or Holy Saturday, flour, water, salt and a pinch of yeast are mixed and left to rise overnight covered with a woolen cloth. The following morning it is rolled out and the other ingredients are added: lard, pork cracklings, salami, bacon, pecorino cheese and pepper.

Although less marked, a further difference between tortano and casatiello lies in the form. The first is formed by more braided cordsto recall the crown of thorns of Jesus, while the second is more similar to one donut. Before cooking, raw eggs are placed on the casatiello, held firmly to the dough by two strips of dough arranged in a cross. Once again, therefore, the symbolic value of the dish emerges, where the crosses represent precisely the one on which Jesus died. Finally, cooking takes place in both cases in the ruotthe typical donut mold.

A bit of history

Many writers, even of a certain importance, spoke of tortano and casatiello in their works, praising their sumptuousness and richness of ingredients. The first written trace of these preparations dates back to 1600 when Giambattista Basile wrote about it The story of the storiesa collection of popular fairy tales written in the Neapolitan language.

In more recent times, but not much, Raffaele d’Ambra talks about it in his Napolitano-Italian vocabulary. It was 1873 and for the first time not only the recipe as we know it today was described in detail, but also a possible origin of the name. In fact, it is easy for the term casatiello to derive from chance, i.e. cheese, present in the recipe in abundant quantities.

It is in the eggs that the main difference between tortano and casatiello is. Eggs which are also the symbol of this holiday, representing the primordial birth of the world as well as the Christian resurrection.

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