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Italian Easter Bread (Pane di Pasqua)

Easter bread is a staple in many Italian American homes. Like brioche and challah yet unique. This version, from Philadelphia-area Italian grandmothers, is super light and airy. Often adorned with colored eggs, and colorful sprinkles, it is a delicious treat at Easter. Slice leftovers and make terrific french toast!

Overhead view of easter bread with blue egg

An Italian American Easter Favorite

I love this bread! My mother has been making this Italian easter bread for years and years – since I was a little girl. I always looked forward to it around Easter. To this day, it’s still a special tradition during the Easter season along with other specialities such as Easter pie and Italian rice pie.

Much like other traditional Italian recipes, every family has their own recipe for Easter bread. But, overall, it is similar: a yellowish, sweet bread that is similar to brioche or challah, but sweeter.

One recipe in particular seemed special to me, and that was a recipe from my cousin’s boyfriend’s family in South Philly. When I was younger, my cousin was dating a guy whose mom made the BEST easter bread ever because it was light as a feather. We were absolutely dying to have the recipe but you know these things aren’t always possible, especially in some Italian families where family recipes might not always be shared. Yup, it’s true.

Imagine our surprise when she shared this one! It’s really not terribly unique when it comes to ingredients but I will say that the techniques shared here are what will get you the best Easter bread of your dreams, a light, airy, and tender crumb.

The secret to great Italian Easter Bread

So, you wanna know the secrets to this bread? First of all, make sure it’s really Easter bread. Italian easter bread is high-ish in sugar and fat. Sorry, but that’s what makes it good!

easter bread dough

Okay here we go: (1). Double kneading or a double rise. After mixing, you will let the dough bulk rise for 1 to 2 hours (it’s a heavy dough, loaded with oil and sugar, so it takes some time for this dough to rise), then you punch it down and let it bulk rise again for 1 to 2 hours. After the second bulk rise, punch it down again, form your final loaf shape, and then let the loaves rise (in the fridge overnight if time is short). (2). Be very careful about not adding too much flour. You want to create the lightest dough possible but it shouldn’t be sticky. (3). Don’t overbake it! Overbaking it will dry it out. This should be baked at a lowish temperature. 

I think this bread is so worth the effort. Leftovers make a great base for French toast!

overhead view of easter bread with pink egg

Decorating with Colored Eggs

You don’t have to precook the eggs that are used for decoration.

Simply use an uncooked egg that has been dyed and place it in the center of the formed loaf. 

To avoid the bleeding that I experienced, make sure your dyed egg is completely dry and ensure that the egg wash that you brush your loaf with is completely dry too.

You may also bake with a wooden egg if you can find them and then replace the wooden egg with a hardboiled colored egg after baking.

And of course, no bread post would be complete without the crumb shot. See above ↑↑↑↑

📖 Recipe

Overhead view of easter bread with blue egg

Italian Easter Bread

The softest loaf of Italian Easter bread right from Nonna's recipe box. Makes 2 large loaves of light and tender bread (about 850 grams per loaf or 16 servings per loaf). Recipe may be halved for 1 large loaf or 2 small loaves.
5 from 8 votes
Author: Marie
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Bulk and Final Rise 4 hours
Total Time 5 hours 10 minutes
Course Bread
Cuisine Italian
Servings 32 servings
Calories 48 kcal


  • 1.5 cups (366 g) warm water (can use half milk and half water)
  • 4 teaspoons (36 g) instant yeast
  • 3 (132 g) eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups (250 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 (1) lemon zested
  • 2 teaspoon (8 g) vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup (224 g) oil divided (vegetable or canola)
  • 8 cups (1000 g) all purpose flour up to 9 cups (add this very gradually as you might need more or less)
  • egg wash (1 beaten egg with 1 tablespoon of water added)

For decorating (optional)

  • 4 medium (4 medium) eggs colored (not cooked)
  • powdered sugar icing 2 cups powdered sugar plus 2 to 3 tablespoons milk or water; add liquid one tablespoon at a time and whisk)
  • colored non-pareils


  • In a small bowl, add the yeast to warm water (use about 1/2 cup from the total needed). It should be lukewarm, not hot or the yeast may die). Stir well and set aside. We are waiting to see the mixture bubble to tell us it's active and working.
  • In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs and the sugar until light and fluffy (several minutes).
  • Add the lemon zest, extract, and the oil to the egg-sugar mixture and beat until combined.
  • Add the remaining milk/water and yeast mixture to the batter and mix until combined.
  • Begin adding the flour slowly. Add only enough flour to make a very soft dough. Beat very well to allow the flour to be absorbed, and avoid adding too much flour. You should aim for a soft dough, like your earlobe. I like to let the dough rest for about 10 minutes before adding more flour to ensure the flour has absorbed sufficiently. To do this, cover the dough with a clean towel.
  • This dough is best mixed for about 10 to 12 minutes, as it will eventually clear the sides of the bowl and form a ball. You can also hand-knead for about 15 or 20 minutes, with lots of breaks in between to allow for the slow development of the dough.
  • After the dough is smooth, let the dough rest for 10 minutes.
  • Place the dough in a large bowl or bucket, cover, and allow it to rise until double (1.5 to 2 hours; time will vary depending on room and dough temperature).
  • Optional: Punch down the dough after it has risen and let it bulk rise again for 1.5 to 2 hours.
  • After the dough has risen a second time, it's time to shape/form your loaves.
  • I use cooking spray on the countertop and coat my hands to make handling the dough easier.
  • To form the loaves, begin by dividing the dough in half to make 2 loaves.
  • For each loaf, you will then further divide each piece into 2 pieces. Roll each piece into a rope that is about 2 feet long and then twist the two ropes together.
  • Form the twisted ropes into a spiral circle and then tuck the ends underneath.
  • Place the loaves on a parchment-lined baking sheet (1 per sheet for large loaves or 2 per sheet if you halved the recipe).
  • Brush the loaves with egg wash, cover loaves loosely with oiled plastic wrap, and let rise for about 1.5 to 2 hours or refrigerate overnight. Save the egg wash (refrigerate) and you'll need to apply another coat of egg wash just before baking.
  • About 20 minutes before you're ready to bake, preheat oven to 325 degree F.
  • If you are decorating with eggs, place a dyed egg in the center and gently push the egg down in the center.
  • When ready to bake, brush the loaves with the egg wash avoiding the dyed egg.
  • Place loaves in the center of the oven and bake until lightly golden (about 30 to 40 minutes or more just until golden and the center is cooked – press down with finger it should feel firm not raw).
  • Begin checking loaves at 20-25 minutes and cover loosely with aluminum foil if they are browning too quickly).
  • Let the loaves cool fully before cutting!


Decorative colored eggs can be added raw or hard boiled; to prevent colored eggs from bleeding consider baking with a wooden egg and replacing with dyed hard boiled egg after the bread has baked. 
Store in airtight bag for 2 or 3 days or freeze bread for up to 1 month. 
Note: you can skip the bulk rise and just do a final rise after the loaves have been shaped. I find that the bulk rise (ie, the rise when dough isn’t shaped) helps the bread get really tender and soft. If you’re in a rush you can skip it but I encourage you to try doing the bulk rise (at least 1 bulk rise or even 2 bulk rises) when you have time. 


Calories: 48kcalCarbohydrates: 9gProtein: 1gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 16mgSodium: 9mgPotassium: 26mgFiber: 1gSugar: 8gVitamin A: 30IUVitamin C: 1.8mgCalcium: 10mgIron: 0.1mg
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  1. Hi! I read this recipe two days ago and it’s says the recipe was updated this morning. I can’t remember what the original amounts were, but I recall it was very close to my grandmother’s recipe. Do you mind stating what parts of the recipe were changed/their original amounts? ☺️

    1. Former recipe for Easter Bread

      This is the recipe that had been up for a while – I believe you’ll need more flour – if you made it please let me know. Also it makes a larger quantity of dough and so I was trying to reduce the recipe to make only 2 loaves.

  2. Hi Marie: I have always used anise oil in the bread. It kinda jazzes it up a bit. Thank you for all the wonderful recipes!

    1. Hi Linda.

      Sadly, I have missed placed my family’s recipe for Pane di Pasqua. I know the ingredients, but not the measurements. Your recipe is basically identical ingredient wise to what mine was.n

      I wanted to let you know there’s one common mistake in the recipe. So often people get their yeast mixed up. In your recipe it instructs the reader to activate the yeast in warm liquid, but you have them using instant yeast. The only yeast that is used with warm liquids is called active yeast. Instant yeast is put right into the flour without any warm liquid. There’s nothing wrong with instant yeast, but adjustments with measurement would be needed.

      Also someone asked if they can use butter. Yes, of course they can, but again the measurements would be different from the oil. However, oil gives a softer type of bread & crust. It’s perfect for this sweet bread. If they wish, they can also use Crisco.

      Then someone wanted to know why salt wasn’t used. My family never used salt either for this bread. I checked around online & it would seem that those who use salt are the American style type of recipes. So I’m thinking the old Italians felt salt was not needed & they were right. The bread is delicious without it.

      I did notice something a little peculiar while looking at recipes. Most used butter, not oil. One used Crisco & mixed a lot of Anice seeds into the batter.

      Oh well, thank you for sharing the recipe. I’m am so happy to have found a recipe that was just like my family’s. Buona Pasqua.

      1. Hi Angie, really great points! Only thing I want to add is that yes instant yeast doesn’t have to normally have to be activated. I normally never do this but there is some info that says it’s good to do this for breads with high amounts of sugar. Someday I’d like to try a comparison but for now it doesn’t hurt to do it this way and also, if someone is using active dry yeast, as you know, it’s recommended. Happy Easter! 🐣🐇🐰

    1. Hi John- this recipe was passed on to me so I can’t say but many traditional Italian Easter bread recipes use very low salt. I would imagine it was to help contribute to the very soft crumb. I may try to make it with and without to see the differences. But I wouldn’t say it’s for health because it has high sugar and fat.

  3. 5 stars
    This bread tasted EXACTLY like the bread my Italian grandma made every year, and we don’t have the recipe. She did individual loaves with and egg for each of us. I made the big ring. It was delicious. The only thing that went slightly wrong was the dough around the eggs was still pretty raw, and the eggs were soft boiled consistency. But the bread looked perfect and was hollow-sounding when tapped. It was rather dark already. So to fully cook it, what should I have done? I was thinking cover with foil so it doesn’t get too dark?

  4. You did not state just how much flour you used. The recipe only says 10 when it comes to measurements for flour for the Easter bread. Need exact measurements for the flour please

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