Sicilians prepare a traditional Easter celebration with the help of a little lamb. Known as agnelli pasquali or pecorelle di pasqua, this candy figurine is molded from marzipan and filled with pistachio paste. But the sweet sheep comes with more than a sugar high and a nut allergy warning. Lambs represent purity, sacrifice, and symbolize Jesus Christ, who is referred to as the “Lamb of God” in the New Testament. As such, the Easter sweet often comes with a flag bearing the sign of the cross, a symbol of victory over death.
In Southern Italy, the Paschal Lamb remains a prominent image among Catholics. Sicilians, particularly those in the south-central town of Favara, are known for their pistachio-filled marzipan Easter lambs. Culinary lore tells of a now-defunct convent in Favara, where nuns first molded treats in the 19th century.
Today, confectioners around the region create the iconic Easter lambs. Some still blanch, peel, and grind locally-grown almonds (for the marzipan) and pistachios to form a paste from scratch. They may also scent the mixture with vanilla or lemon zest. Once the marzipan has been molded, candy-makers meticulously paint the creatures by hand, finishing each colorful figurine with unique details, silver dragées, and candied nuts. The final product is enough to make any undevout believer utter, “Sweet Jesus!”
Where to Try It
Pasticceria Maria GrammaticoVia Vittorio Emanuele 14, Erice, 91016, Italy
This Sicilian bakery is filled with pastries, cakes, and marzipan treats (including lambs around Easter). Open 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Villabate Alba7001 18th Ave, Brooklyn, New York, 11204, United States
This Italian bakery in South Brooklyn prepares traditional Sicilian marzipan lambs around Easter.