Lamb, ham, thank you ma’am! There are so many wonderful flavors at the traditional Easter dinner we couldn’t help but rise to the occasion and pair them with wine for your feasting pleasure. Easter food and wine pairing is our favorite part of the holiday. If you’re reading this, it’s probably yours too!
Check out our round-up of dishes inspired by Easter ‘round the world, plus our suggested wine pairings, and why they work.
Refresh your food and wine pairing skills with our quick guide.
Lamb and Ham
Eating lamb at Easter likely dates back to the Jewish symbolism of the ritual sacrifice. In the Passover story, lamb’s blood was painted on doorways to ward off the angel of death. The lamb of God reference has roots in sacrifice, hence the attribution to Jesus, and its prominent position on Easter menus all over the world.
French style Le Gigot D’Agneau Pascal, Easter leg of lamb, is speared with garlic and rosemary and slow roasted to gamey, succulent perfection.
A Syrah-based blend with a lot of fruit matches the wildness of the dish with a sweep of red berry notes for balance. Try a Côtes du Rhône or a Rhône-style blend from South Africa or California.
Lamb Ragù (Italy)
A popular pasta sauce for Easter lunch, this rich, meaty sauce is made like a Bolognese with or without tomatoes and a lot of rosemary, and topped with pecorino or parmigiano cheese. It’s often made with wide tagliatelle or sauce-capturing rigatoni-like tubes.
The more complex the flavors, the more complex the wine. Lamb is fatty, and the bracing tannins of Sagrantino work magic on the palate while elevating flavors of lamb, rosemary, the deep, soulful berries in the wine.
Learn food and wine pairing in episode 21 of our series, 21 Days to Wine, a free introduction to wine tasting.
Ham is a modern addition to the Easter canon, and likely for practical reasons. It was often cured in autumn and through the winter, and the first are ready by late spring. Pork is also a hugely popular ingredient throughout Western Europe and certainly infused traditional menus over the course of centuries. It shows up in Neapolitan stuffed pizza chiana, in the form of salumi and capocollo, as well as in Polish biała kiełbasa smoked sausage and Lithuanian Kugelis potato pudding, and the American classic, honey-baked ham in its sugary glaze.
Ham comes in multitude of forms. For honey-glazed ham, a big and juicy Merlot or even a smokey California Cabernet makes for a nice local (American) pairing. Smokier hams deserve a fruity wine with a lush palate and a peppery finish, like Shiraz, a Pinotage, or a Cabernet Franc, on its own or in a blend.
Shoots and Spring Greens
Easter is a celebration of rebirth and it’s no coincidence it happens in springtime. Seasonal vegetables like spring onions, asparagus, fava beans, peas, and pea shoots, beets, carrots, and artichokes appear on Easter table and across the globe.
A staple of Russian Orthodox Easter tables, this dish exudes the earthy crunch that signals the beginning of a sunnier season. While the name would imply otherwise, this is no vinaigrette. It’s actually made of tender cubes of carrots, beets, and potatoes laced with pickles and cabbage for a piquant snap. Download the recipe card.
Suggested Wine Pairing: When best executed, this dish can actually stand alone, as it contains a balance in and of itself with earthy, vegetal notes brightened up with acidity and onion, and a blast of herbaceous dill. Do as the Russians do, and pair it with a shot of vodka.
Truth be told, a smooth Vodka is probably the most traditional pairing for this salad. Try a smooth, Polish style like Belvedere Single Estate Rye Smogory Forest, or a silky Japanese Suntory Haku vodka made from rice.
If you must have wine, look for a while wine with a glossier texture and a more neutral flavor profile like a Pinot Bianco or Manzoni Bianco, or a top-shelf Albariño. That bit of weight on the wine should blanket your palate just enough to soothe the slice of lingering acidity so that l that earthy green flavors will pop, like a vegetable garden in your mouth.
Eggs and Almonds
Fertility and new life are the name of the game when it comes to these ovular-shaped foods. Eggs are an obvious indicator, but almonds have an ancient origin story as a symbol of fertility, femininity, and an aura of glowing godliness.
The almond tree originated in the Middle East and features prominently throughout Judeo-Christian imagery as a symbol of fertility and holiness. It appears in Aramaic-based languages and Sumerian scriptures as closely linked to the word for light, which is inherently life-giving and powerful.
Colorful, candy-coated almonds, a Mediterranean wedding tradition known as ‘jordan almonds’ Stateside, stem from the same concept, as a nod to soon-to-be sons and daughters. Italy’s Colomba cake is a fluffy, brioche-like confection, shaped like a dove, laced with, and coated in almonds.
Deviled eggs are a pain to make, but well worth it. With so many variations, from the classic recipe to the fully loaded, they’re an instant crowd pleaser. A simple twist on the old standby is to top each little devil with a sliver of pancetta or prosciutto pan-fried to a crisp.
Download our recipe for crab deviled eggs.
Wine pairing with eggs is notoriously contentious. Eggs are creamy and unctuous, but with a delicate flavor profile. Look for fresh, dry white wines without too much boldness on the nose, but a long, mineral finish, like a Pinot Blanc, a Vermentino, or a Greco di Tufo. Be mindful of your fillings. Tangy pickles and vinegar can cause a clash on the palate if your wine has too much acidity.
The jury is out on why Potatoes feature so prominently on Easter menus. The most likely explanation that they’re inexpensive and substantial. Potatoes are a comforting side dish throughout the world, from Lithuanian Kugelis Potato Pudding with its layers of bacon, eggs and onions to Au Gratin, thinly sliced potatoes in a garlicky, creamy, Gruyere bath.
When pairing potatoes, look at the key ingredients as well as the preparation. Fried buttery potatoes may require effervescence to help clean your palate, whereas creamier preparations, like Au Gratin, only need balanced acidity and enough fruit and flavor so as not to drown.
A velvety Pinot Noir, with a little age on it will reveal its cherry heart and herbaceous undertones when sipped alongside Au Gratin. Alpine-y reds like Schiava or a Valtellina Nebbiolo (Chiavennasca) also work.
Leavened Breads and Cakes
Unlike the flat, unleavened bread, matzo, which is consumed during the adjacent Jewish holiday of Passover, Easter is all about rising. That explains a lot of sweet, savory, but most of all puffed-up breads that feature on the feast all around the world.
The Poles bake babka, which is not to be confused with the Jewish one. The tall, puffy, yeast cake is traditionally cooked in a bundt pan and drizzled in rum or sweet icing. Named after the word for ‘grandmother’ and shaped like her pleated skirt. A cousin to babka is Italy’s baba Napoletano’, which is soaked to its spongy, mushroom-shaped core and sweetened with rum.
Torta di Pasqua
Also know as pizza di Pasqua, this tall and rotund savory bread reassembles a panettone but packs a more substantial consistency, closer to a loaf of bread than a brioche. It originated in central Italy and is traditionally made with eggs, flour, pecorino, and parmigiano cheese.
Enjoy this alone as a snack, or with a place of cured meats and a fruity, fizzy Lambrusco.
Hot Cross Buns
Sweetened or fruit-stuffed breads with their namesake cross on top are a beloved treat throughout the British Isles. While popularly considered a Christian invention, the markings on top are likely the remnants of Pagan symbolism. Moon segments or a seasonal sun reference were absorbed and reinterpreted as Christian culture swept Europe.
Download our recipe for Beet and Honey Hot Cross Buns. This version offsets the sweetness of honey with earthy beet and piquant spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.
A dry white wine with extended skin contact, also known as ‘orange wine.’ This brings sweet fruit, honey, and earthy aromas with a clean finish, but won’t steal the spotlight.