Falling on 8th March each year, International Women’s Day honours the achievements and sacrifices of women throughout history. From its roots in the radical socialism of the early twentieth-century (the first recorded ‘Women’s Day’ was held in New York in 1909, by the Socialist Party of America), the day is now recognised by the United Nations and celebrated worldwide.
Better known as la Festa della Donna, the first Italian event of this kind was held on 8th March 1946. Over the years, it’s become an important part of Italy’s cultural calendar, with its own distinct traditions, symbols and events.
How do Italians celebrate la Festa della Donna?
For many, la Festa della Donna is a day to reflect on the struggles and successes involved with the fight for women’s rights. As well as celebrating progress, others see la Festa della Donna as a reminder of the work still to be done to reach full social, economic and political equality. As a result, the date is often marked by female-led marches and demonstrations.
Whilst the day has serious political origins, it’s also a celebration. Perhaps the most common example of this is the bright yellow mimosa flower – the symbol of la Festa della Donna.
First initiated by the same Italian feminists who organised Italy’s inaugral Women’s Day in 1946, the giving of mimosa flowers has become synonymous with la Festa della Donna. Whether it’s women handing bunches to each other as a sign of solidarity, or men giving them to their mothers, sisters and wives, the mimosa is everywhere in Italy on 8th March.
The mimosa theme also extends to the foods of la Festa della Donna, with a whole range of yellow-hued delicacies on the menu. From mimosa eggs (a play on devilled eggs), to saffron-laden pasta and risotto dishes, trattorias across the land lean into the theme with gusto. Most famous of all is the torta mimosa, a cloud-like sponge cake infused with citrus liqueur and decorated to look like a bouquet of mimosa blossoms.
A personal view from Chef Roberta
On top of the traditions and celebrations, la Festa della Donna is also a time to recognise and appreciate the women around us.
Having grown up in Puglia, our lovely sfoglina Roberta has a deep appreciation for famiglia and has been inspired by generations of strong women. From her mamma to her nonna, Roberta’s formative years were filled with female role models and even now their words still echo in her mind when she needs guidance or advice.
From a young age, Roberta shared a special bond with her nonna, Maria-Assunta, and they spent many hours together foraging and cooking on the d’Elia family farm. It was Maria-Assunta who taught Roberta the art of pasta making, which to this day remains close to her heart.
As an unruly and somewhat impatient child, Roberta’s attention was easily distracted, yet she would sit for hours on end watching the wizened hands of her nonna form beautiful shapes from freshly prepared pasta dough. This special relationship has shaped much of Roberta’s life and on la Festa della Donna in particular, she remembers her nonna and is grateful for everything that Maria-Assunta taught her all those years ago in Puglia.
Our heavenly tiramisù is actually an ode to Roberta's happy childhood. Her paternal grandmother, nonna Carmela, used to make this dish for her grandchildren on special occasions. When she served it up to the d'Elia clan, their small faces would light up in anticipation of the delight to come. We think this dish is a fitting tribute to some of the inspirational women we know and love.
Sedanini with a Prawn and Datterini Tomato Sauce
- 4-5 fresh prawns
- 300g sedanini pasta
- 500g Datterini or cherry tomatoes (chopped in half)
- 1 garlic clove (skin on)
- A handful of parsley (make sure to wash & dry - otherwise you will struggle to chop properly)
- Extra virgin olive oil
Prepare the prawns
- Preheat your oven to 180 degrees and set 1 whole prawn aside.
- Remove the heads from the rest of the prawns. Place the heads in a bowl to one side as they will later be used to enrich the sauce.
- Remove the shell from the headless prawns. One by one, and using a sharp knife, slice down the middle of the prawn’s body and remove the vein. Repeat with all of the remaining prawns.
- Return to the prawn that is still whole. Using a sharp knife, slice down the middle of its body and remove the vein. Then, place on a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil. Cook in the oven at 180 degrees for 4-5 minutes.
Make the sauce
- Cut all of the tomatoes in half and set aside.
- Put a saucepan over a low to medium heat and add a good glug of extra virgin olive oil. Add the garlic clove with the skin on (this reduces the pungency of its flavour) along with all of the prawn heads. Cook for around 5 minutes.
- In the mean time, finely chop the parsley and set aside.
- After 5 minutes have elapsed, remove the garlic and prawn heads. Then add the chopped tomatoes, the prepared prawns and 100 ml of water to the pan.
Cook the pasta and plate up
- Put a large pan of water over a high heat until it begins boiling. Salt the water generously and add the pasta. Cook until al dente.
- Once the pasta is cooked, add to the pan with the prawns and tomatoes. Then sprinkle over the parsley and mix through. Adding it at the last stage here will preserve its colour and flavour.
- Plate up the pasta and top with the whole, oven cooked prawn from earlier. Drizzle with olive oil to give the dish a glossy sheen.
- Buon appetito!
However you choose to celebrate, we wish you a buona Festa della Donna – a very happy International Women’s Day!
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