When you think of 'Mardis Gras', the first thing that probably comes to mind is New Orleans, beads, floats, and king cake. However, this celebration looks a little different in Italy and it dates all the way back to Roman times!
The Early Days
Way back when, Romans celebrated the winter solstice with the feast of Saturnalia. This feast honored Saturn, the god of seed and sowing, as well as Opalia, the goddess of plenty. They also celebrated the feast of Lupercalia, a feast of fertility in February. These feasts were all celebrated with a lot of food, dancing, and overall fun. As the Christian religion grew and grew in Italy, these feasts transitioned into the pre-Easter celebrations that we now know as Mardis Gras, or Carnevale in Italy.
Today in Italy, Carnevale is known as the celebration leading up to Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of the Christian, 40 day lent, a period of fasting and preparation for Easter. Celebrations for Carnevale are held all over Italy, with some of the biggest festivities taking place in Venice and Milan. Carnevale in Italy is celebrated with live music, street performances, food, dancing, and elaborate costumes and masks. While some of the biggest celebrations happen in the few days before Ash Wednesday, this celebration is enjoyed in the 4-5 weeks leading up to Ash Wednesday. Many people from around the world now travel to Italian cities during Carnevale to experience this extravagant, lively celebration.
Carnevale is a time to indulge. Sticking with this theme, the food is known for being sweet, rich, and hearty. Dishes that often will not be enjoyed during lent, are enjoyed during Carnevale. A few traditional Carnevale dishes include lasagna, gnocchi, sweet ravioli filled with ricotta, Sicilian pignolata, and Venetian galani.
Celebrate Carnevale DITALIA-Style
While we can't fly to Italy every year for this celebration, there are a few ways to bring a little Carnevale to our Mardis Gras celebrations. The best way to do this, through food of course! So throw on a fun mask, enjoy some Carnevale-Inspired food and enjoy!
These light, gluten-free lasagna sheets are made of only corn and rice flour have a simple, balanced flavor. The perfect thickness to create northern Italy’s classic dish -- lasagna. They par-cook beautifully, and are forgiving and easy to layer. Try using gluten free lasagna sheets to make pasta rolls with your favorite ingredients.
Bio Alimenta's gluten free gnocchi simply substitutes rice flour for wheat flour. The difference is subtle - these rice gnocchi are light and delicate, but have a "potato-like" flavor. These delicious gnocchi cook in just two minutes. Toss in pesto or your favorite red sauce!
We went back to our Sicilian roots to discover these cannoli shells. Handmade in San Giuseppe, Sicily, these famous Sicilian cannoli shells are produced in small batches, with rich cocoa mixed into the dough. All enrobed in a semi-sweet chocolate. Simply the best. For those non-chocolate lovers, these shells also available without chocolate. Mix fresh ricotta, powdered sugar, vanilla, and orange zest for a simple and easy filling. Fill ricotta shells, add an amarena cherry at each side, and experience a little taste of heaven!
Do you celebrate Carnevale? Share your traditions in the comments below!