Not Your Grandmother’s Easter Dinner

Break the Easter Rules
Easter Dinner has rules. Thou shalt serve either ham or lamb. No other dishes may be substituted. Well, I’m not all that fond of ham (it’s ok, just not my favorite) and Julie definitely will not eat lamb. So we go rogue at Easter, join us!

Celebrate Spring with Fresh Vibrant Spring Veggies
The date for Easter changes from year to year due to the way the various religious calendars work.  The range goes all the way from March 22 to April 25.  April 1, 2018 is definitely on the early side. Now, in Minnesota, spring doesn’t come until the latter side of April. We’re not thinking about cutting the grass yet, we’re not looking out for crocus’ and daffodils. We’re still waiting for the snow to melt. But on Easter, we are thinking that spring will come!

spaghetti carbonara with asparagus and peas. Served with Gruner Veltliner and Dry Lambrusco

Easter dinner with no lamb or ham in sight. OK, there is bacon present…

It’s time to serve something springlike, time to leave the dutch oven in the closet.  What to cook? Make sure it has plenty of asparagus and spring peas. How about spaghetti carbonara with asparagus and spring peas? In a nod to Grandma, carbonara does have bacon, so we have a touch of ham in the dish.  With all those fresh spring greens, wine pairing can be a bit of a challenge. Good choices include New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Grüner Veltliner, or perhaps a Vinho Verde from Portugal. For red, we went with a fun choice: (dry) Lambrusco frizzante. Lambrusco is a great partner for charcuterie, so the bacon is a natural. Forget Riunite, dry Lambrusco is a different animal and always a surprise: sparkling, red, and dry.

H&M Hofer Grüner Veltliner “Freiberg” Niederösterreich 1.0 liter bottle ($13.50 at Surdyks)

When you’re looking at Austrian and German wines, a sure sign of quality can be found on the back label; look for “Terry Theise selection, imported by Skurnik Wines”. Terry knows these regions, think of him as your trusted advisor.

Eye: Clear, medium lemon yellow
Nose: Clean, medium intensity, stony & floral with lemon peel, green apples, mild green herbal aromas.
Mouth: Dry, medium intensity, medium body with medium acidity well buffered by creamy texture. Medium finish of stony, flinty flavors with lemons and green apples. Delicious with the fresh, herbal notes of the vegetables and the acidity is a great counter for the creamy sauce.

Vigneto Saetti Ross Viola Lambrusco del l’Emilia IGP 2014 ($15 at Sunfish Cellars)

If you’re looking for dry Lambrusco, look at the alcohol content.  Anything over 11% will be dry.  This wine is imported by Louis/Dressner Selection and is listed as an organic wine. The label discloses this as a “red sparkling wine” fermented in bottle without addition of sulphur dioxide, disgorged in May 2015.

Eye: Clear, frizzante medium ruby color. Fine bubbles persist after a foamy pour.
Nose: Clean, medium intensity dark fruit with violets and baby powder perfume in front
Mouth: Dry (but fruity), Medium intensity flavors of blueberries, bright medium+ acidity, low tannins. Medium- body, medium- alcohol. Lively and full of fun fruity flavor with cleansing acidity with a persistent fizz in the finish. Great for cleansing your palette from all that creamy carbonara sauce.

Pasta Carbonara with Asparagus and Peas

There are a million carbonara recipes floating around the web. If you have one you like, by all means, use it.  We like this one, with the addition of asparagus and peas, you are into a full celebration of spring!


  • 1 lb. fresh asparagus, cut into bite size pieces on the diagonal 1-2″ long
  • 1 lb. fresh spring peas, hulled and blanched for 1 minute (2/3 cup of good quality frozen peas can be substituted if spring hasn’t quite arrived where you live. Like Minnesota…)
  • 12 oz. good quality spaghetti. We like Rustichella de Abruzzo from Italy. More expensive but worth it
  • 8 oz. bacon
  • 2 large eggs plus 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)


  • Pre-heat oven to 425°F
  • Put a large pot of well salted water on the stove-top to boil
  • Cook the bacon in the oven on parchment paper for approx. 20 minutes until done (or cook it in a skillet), chop into bite-size pieces
  • Arrange the asparagus on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Lightly drizzle with EVOO, and lightly salt and pepper
  • Whisk the eggs, egg yolks and Parmigiano-Reggiano in a small bowl and set aside
  • Roast the asparagus in the oven for 10-15 minutes
  • Once the asparagus is in the oven, place the pasta in the boiling pot of salted water
  • When the pasta is done, place it in a large bowl. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water.
  • Mix the egg and cheese mixture into the pasta, add pasta water as needed to produce a nice, creamy sauce.
  • Add the bacon, peas, and asparagus, and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper if needed.
  • Plate the pasta and enjoy with some freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese on top.
  • Grandma wouldn’t admit it, but she would be impressed

Change up your Easter Dinner, even if Grandma wouldn't approve! at



5 Responses to “Not Your Grandmother’s Easter Dinner”
  1. Fresh garden peas – I can’t remember the last time I had them! We never (ever) see them in Florida, but maybe I’ll get lucky while I’m up north. My grandmother used to grow them, and they always remind me of her. Love your pairings – as fresh and welcoming as the non-traditional menu.

  2. I love this meal. Works perfectly for me. Thanks for the inspiration Jeff.

  3. Lynn says:

    I’m going to have to make this Carbonara, Italian food is one of our favs (and I rarely make Carbonara)! Had a dry Lambrusco the other night, first time in eons. Sounds perfect with this dish.

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