Holy Saturday is in some respects the ultimate Sabbath or day of rest. We Christians sometimes forget that the Hebrew Sabbath falls on a Saturday and that the Old Testament’s rigorous rules against activity on the Sabbath—such as the command to sit in one’s house and not move from one’s seat (Exodus 16:29)—foreshadow Our Lord’s stillness in the tomb the day after His burial.
But not all Christians could keep still this day. In some places, such as Poland, boys who were fed up with forty days of eating fish would take a dead herring and ritually execute it by hanging it from a tree and then burying it with glee in a mock funeral! In other places, such as Costa Rica, Holy Saturday is a time for bromas, or practical jokes, like stealing your neighbors’ belongings and putting them in the town plaza. The association of Holy Saturday with practical jokes makes sense, since it was during the Paschal Mystery that the biggest joke of all was played on the Enemy, when Jesus Christ allowed the devil to stir up mankind against His innocent life without realizing that it was precisely Christ’s death that would free mankind from the devil’s bondage. Some Church Fathers even described Christ on the cross as the bait on a hook that Satan foolishly took.
In Naples, Italy, casatiello is a special donut-shaped bread filled with lots of pepper, pecorino cheese, and cured meats. It is easily recognizable by the whole eggs that are placed on top and secured by a cross of dough. Neapolitan casatiello is offered to family and friends only from noon on Holy Saturday until lunch on Easter Monday. In the old days (pre-1950s), the Easter Vigil service was held in the morning of Holy Saturday and ended around noon, and when that service ended so did the Lenten fast.
Tuscan scarpaccia does not have as close a tie to Easter as casatiello, but it was developed as a spring specialty by sailors making good use of their gardens. This crispy bread with integrated zucchini is delicious, and preparing it will not detract too much from your Easter preparations.
Serves: 4–6 Cooking time: 45 minutes
2–3 zucchini, cut into thin rounds
1–2 medium-sized onions, cut into thin slices
3 Tbsps. olive oil, divided, plus 2 tsps. more for the end of the cooking process
1 tsp. salt, divided
1 tsp. pepper, divided
1 cup all-purpose flour
1⁄3 cup of corn flour, plus 2 tsps.
2 Tbsps. fresh basil leaves, ripped
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Heat 1 Tbsp. of the olive oil in a sauté pan on medium-high heat and cook the zucchini and onions until the zucchini is slightly caramelized and onions are translucent.
- Season with ½ tsp. of the salt and ½ tsp. of the pepper and set aside.
- To a large bowl, add the all-purpose flour, 1⁄3 cup of the corn flour, 1 cup of water, 1 Tbsp. of the olive oil, the remaining ½ tsp. salt, and the remaining ½ tsp. pepper and mix together until a light batter is formed.
- Add the sautéed onions and zucchini and mix all together.
- Prepared a rimmed baking sheet by greasing it with the last Tbsp. of the olive oil.
- Pour the entire zucchini mixture into the pan and spread it out evenly.
- Sprinkle with a light coating of corn flour and drizzle 2 tsps. of olive oil over the mixture and ripped basil leaves over the entire dish.
- Place in the oven for 35–40 minutes, until it’s golden brown and crispy.
- Garnish with more fresh basil leaves or any other herbs and serve.
Food for Thought
This is a day that requires patience, for after a long Lent and a dolorous Good Friday, it is difficult to wait any longer for Easter Sunday morn or for the Holy Saturday night Vigil. What are you most impatient about in your life and why? As you meditate on the reasons, ask God to help you be patient with Him, others, and yourself.
The preceding is an excerpt from Dining with the Saints: The Sinner’s Guide to a Righeous Feast by Fr. Leo Patalinghug and Michael Foley (Regnery, 2023)