The Sunday before Easter is Palm Sunday. It commemorates Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the Sunday before his death. The scriptures tell us that the crowd waved palm branches and shouted, “Hosanna!” Churches around the world beautifully recreate this scene by distributing palm branches or branches from other trees, if their climate is not conducive to palms.
In many protestant traditions the whole Sunday feels like a prelude to Easter with bright colors and spring festivities. However, this day is not Easter. It is the beginning of Holy Week and the crowds are fickle. The crowd goes from shouts of “Hosanna” to shouts of “crucify him” in just a manner of days.
On this day most traditions move from the jubilant palm entrance to a reading of the passion narrative. Some times these reading are done dramatically and make the worshipers feel like they are a part of the unfolding drama. There is a tradition, possibly originating in India, which takes strips of the palm branches and folds them into the shape of the cross. This is a wonderful symbol of the dramatic movement of Palm/Passion Sunday.
In Italy, the day is often celebrated through food by making Penne Della Palma. This Italian pasta dish is a light treat with cherry tomatoes, fresh parsley, and parmesan over pasta. The signature ingredient is heart of palm, which is surpassingly rich and tasty. Heart of palm is a delicacy in many places, including rural Florida where it is called swamp cabbage. At the meal, you may want to find a version of the passion narrative and have members of the family take turns reading it.
Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem by 19th century French painter Jean-Hippolyte Flandrin (March 1809 – March 1864); 1846; Church of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Paris
Penne Della Palma
1 lb penne pasta
1/2 cup starchy pasta water
1 (14 oz.) can hearts of palm, drained
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup parsley, minced
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
1/2 cup brandy
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
- Boil 1 lb penne pasta according to package directions. Drain water, reserving 1/2 cup of starchy pasta water in the process.
- Drain liquid from 1 (14 oz.) can hearts of palm and cut into 1/4 inch pieces.
- In a large pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter on medium heat, then sauté 2 cloves garlic, 1/4 cup parsley, 1 cup cherry tomatoes, and the hearts of palm.
- Add 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese and 1/2 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs, stir to combine.
- Add 1/2 cup brandy, 1/2 cup starchy pasta water, and 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream.
- Stir in pasta. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Sprinkle with additional grated Parmesan cheese and garnish with parsley before serving.