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ROCCOCO RECIPE

Published December 13, 2013 by Tony

ROCCOCO’

Neapolitan Roccocò

Another Neapolitan delight.
I’ve talked about Neapolitan Christmas’ desserts in the post “Neapolitan Sweets”, but I now want to say more about Roccoco, the most famous and typical sweet for us.

This sort of biscuit can’t lack in each Neapolitan home because is synonymous with Christmas, and marks the end of lunch during Christmas period.
A sweet that comes from patience and dedication of the Real convent of the Magdalene‘s sisters, which perhaps is due the first preparation of the Roccocò, whose oldest recipe seems to date back to 1320.
Their name probably is derived from the French word “rocaille“, due to their hardness and baroque round shape, like a rounded shell.
Their shape, color and flavor talk us of the past, because Roccocò are impenetrable sweets, hard, dry, prosperous and humble at the same time, but yet affectionate and flavorful in their donut shape.  A tradition by now!
These biscuits are more suitable for those who have solid teeth… unless you eat them some days later the preparation, or add some yeast and cook them for less time. Some prefer to soak them in wine or liquor.
Preparation that is pretty easy but needs some ingredients that might be difficult to find in your countries. Two of them are called “PISTO” and “VANILLINA”, products already prepared powder and sold in small sachets. The benefit to using a powdered product is that when you mix it directly into a batter or a cookie dough you get the straight flavor and, like vanilla extract, without it being diluted in the alcohol.

PISTOPISTO” is an important  ingredient that gives Roccocò their typical flavor. It is formed from a mixture of various spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, coriander (cilantro) and dill. If you can not find the Neapolitan “Pisto”, you can prepare something similar by whisking together 10 cloves, a nutmeg half chopped, and half a stick of cinnamon; or mixing 2 grams nutmeg, 3 grams of cinnamon and 2 grams of cloves. I’d also add a teaspoon of anise liqueur, if you have it available.

vanillinaVANILLINA” is vanillin or vanilla extract. It is a mixture of several hundred different compounds in addition to vanillin. Artificial vanilla flavoring is a solution of pure vanillin, usually of synthetic origin. Today, artificial vanillin is made either from guaiacol or from lignin, a constituent of wood, which is a byproduct of the pulp industry. It’s used in very small quantity, like 1 gram (0,3 ounces) for a 500-600 grams cake (16-18 ounces). Failing that, you could use the vials with essence of rum, lemon, vanilla, bitter almond, butter-vanilla. Essences that you can find in some supermarket or drugstore.

INGREDIENTS

500 grams of flour (type “00”)
500 grams of sugar
300 grams of roasted almonds (you can add hazelnuts too)
7 grams of “pisto”
4-5 grams of ammonia (for food use)
1 or 2 teaspoon of cinnamon powder
1 teaspoon of vanilla powder (nearly 1 gram )
A pinch of salt
1 fresh orange peel
2 clementines or tangerines’ peels
1 fresh lemon (grated rind)
250-350 grams of warm water
1 whole egg beaten, for brushing over the surface of the Roccocò.

[In the case that you have almonds not roasted, place them on a baking tray lined with parchment paper and cook them at 180° C (fan oven) for 10 minutes exactly. Then set aside to cool them.]

PREPARATION

On a work surface pour the flour, sugar, pisto and salt. Add the fruits’ peels  chopped in very small pieces, the grated lemon’s peel (you could replace them with small pieces of candied fruit), the vanilla, cinnamon, cocoa, ammonia and salt. Add at little a time the lukewarm water mixing with your hands the compound. Amalgamate everything well until you get a homogeneous and rather compact mixture. Knead until the dough comes off from surface and hands, becoming dry and consistent: I recommend you do not add more water than necessary.


You should get a homogeneous and rather compact mixture.
Finally insert the almonds, distributing them evenly throughout the mixture, amalgamating it again if the case.
Preheat the oven to 180° C.

Meanwhile, roll up different parts of the compound to form long strips like snakes.  Cut each strip into several pieces about 15 cm long, and roll each to form a ring, no larger than 5-7 cm.

Flatten lightly them, to get small-sized donuts, and arrange them  -spaced apart – on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.

Brush their surface with the beaten egg and bake at 180° C. for NO MORE than  18-20 minutes. The right time they become “dark gold”. Extract them from the oven after that time! (These cookies become harder as the cooking time increases!) Note that they appear soft when warm, but begin to harden (how they gotta be) as they cool.

Here’s for some video

ROCCOCO’S PREPARATION
ROCCOCO’S PREPARATION

LO STRUSCIO

Published March 11, 2013 by Tony

‘Paschal struscio’
A sort of stroll

sepulcher

All over the world, the Holy Week for Catholics is the period before Easter, from Palm Sunday to Holy Saturday.
In Italy, the Holy Week’s representations are numerous and often very charming, popular in almost every region, in which strictly religious elements mix with folk components.
In Naples, one of these is the “lo struscio“.
From Good Friday the Sacrifice of the Mass is no longer officiated, and therefore the Eucharist is not consecrated. In addition, the repose of the  Eucharist is a way to invite the faithful to worship, in the night between Thursday and Friday (that we called Holy Sepulchers time), the establishment of a so big mystery and meditating on the sufferings of the Passion of Christ.
It was customary to decorate every altar with buds. In the days of Lent (which lasts forty-four days, starting from Ash Wednesday), many people placed in small flowerpots or bowls, containing wet soil or cotton wool, seeds of wheat or pulses, and then placing them in the dark. After a few weeks, they germinated in the form of greenish-yellow long and thick filaments, and on Holy Thursday each person brought the vase in church. (The seed, place in the ground -sepulcher- is transformed into a new plant that will look something different in appearance from the seed, but it is essentially the same thing, and maturing generates new seeds allowing the renewal of the life cycle).


In the past, during ‘Holy Sepulchers days’ many believers went in mass in the different parishes, generally seven (like the days of the week) to pray and visit the churches (the number of visited churches had to be odd and never less than three or more than seven, otherwise it was ominous).
Keep in mind that in Naples there are a lot of churches, often not very far from each other. In the eighteenth century in Naples there were a hundred convents and monasteries and about 500 churches, so that Naples earned the nickname of “the city with 500 domes”. Naples still has a large number of churches and convents, a value that is around thousand units, which places it among the cities with the highest number of worship’s place in the world. If we consider only the historical churches, the number is very high, in fact, they even surpass the 200 units in the old town and 450 in the entire city center.

“Ce qui nous to the paru plus extraordinaire à Naples, c’est le nombre et de ses the magnificence églises; puis je vous sans exagérer say this hides surpasse the immagination”  – Maximilien Misson –

Although in many parts of Italy and in general “lo struscio” (rub) is strusciodefined the evening Sunday stroll in provincial towns, once in Naples it referred to the visit of the Sepulchers made during Holy Week, (Thursday, Friday and Saturday) in the churches. The name comes from the Neapolitan verb “strusci-are” (to rub) and stems from the fact that, in the past, so much was the persons who moved into the street for this occasion, that crowding led people to touch and “strusciate” (rubbing) each other, or it can also refer to the sound of their shoes “rubbing” on the pavement.
Over time, this custom has lost its religious significance and although many people still leave their homes for a walk on Friday or Saturday evening, the ‘Paschal struscio’ has become an opportunity to go shopping, to show off new clothes or meet friends and people.
Even today, for young people it is a good opportunity to get “panni nuovi” (new clothes) from parents. This custom originated in the postwar years, when people bought some new clothing only on special occasions such as Christmas and Easter.

Easter in Naples

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NEAPOLITAN MIGLIACCIO

Published February 14, 2013 by Tony

MIGLIACCIO CAKE RECIPE

migliaccio

The Italian word “migliaccio” derived from “miglio”, which is the flour obtained from millet, a minor cereal used in the past, then replaced by flour derived from the maize. Although this term refers to several cakes, depending on the region of Italy, in Naples it once was a modest pudding, by rural traditional, made just with millet flour. Today, it is a typical carnival sweet made with semolina flour (wheat middlings) and ricotta. This ancient cake, simple in its preparation, will capture your heart and your palate if you will embark on the preparation.
Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients

• Water: 250 ml
• Milk: 750 ml
• Semolina: 250 g
• Ricotta (cottage cheese): 500 g
• Sugar: 400 g
• Eggs: 8
• Salt: a pinch
• Butter: 50g (for greasing the pan)
• cinnamon powder: 1 tablespoon
• Limoncello: a spoon (or a different aromatized liquor)
• Candied fruit: 100 g (elective)

Preparation

• Pour water and milk in a saucepan and bring to the boil, then lower the heat and slowly pour in the semolina. Stir constantly to prevent lumps, until the consistency is similar to polenta, then remove from heat and set the mixture aside.

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• In a bowl, beat the eggs and mix them with the sugar. Add the ricotta, candied fruit (optional), limoncello and cinnamon. Then add it to the semolina prepared previously. In order to mix better is advisable to use an electric mixer.

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• Pour the mixture into a buttered pan, large enough to make the cake not taller than 3-4 cm. (1:18 to 1:56 in.). Bake at 180 ° C – 200 ° C (356-392 ° F), until the cake surface is golden brown (40-45 minutes). The Migliaccio must be cooked at temperatures not too high (it must dry, mostly).

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You can dust with icing sugar before serving cut into slices.

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Migliaccio napoletano

The masterpiece of sweetness, softness and fragrance is served!

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ALESSANDRO SIANI

Published February 11, 2013 by Tony

A NEAPOLITAN BRED COMEDIAN

alessandro siani

Alessandro Siani (Naples, September 17, 1975) is an Italian comedian, actor, voice actor, writer and now also director.

His real name is Alessandro Esposito and he took the stage name of Siani, inspired by the last name of the Neapolitan journalist Giancarlo Siani murdered by the Camorra, whose case had echoed to the news at the national level for many years, though the comedian has no kinship. It is not known the reason of this choice, nor is it due to the content of his comedy, which does not touch the burning issues of organized crime, but only trace sweetened stereotypes of Naples today.
Alessandro Siani made his debut in 1998-99, during a transmission on a Neapolitan broadcast called Telegaribaldi.  In 2003 he became one of the most popular comedians in Campania thanks to the hilarious show “Bulldozer” on one of the national channel and by various sketches performed at theatre, from which some DVD-video sprang.  In 2006 he starred in the film “Ti lascio perché ti amo troppo” (I’m leaving you because I love you too much), by Francesco Ranieri Martinotti, in the same year he was among the actors of the film “Christmas in New York”, with Christian De Sica, Elisabetta Canalis and Sabrina Ferilli. And At Christmas 2007 he returned to cinema together Christian De Sica and Michelle Hunziker with the film “Christmas in cruise”. In 2010 the film “Benvenuti al Sud” (Welcome to the South), sees himself as the protagonist together the comedian and actor Claudio Bisio. The film was a huge success both the public and the critics.
In 2011, Siani published his first book “Un Napoletano come me” (A Neapolitan like me)  that looks like a declaration of love to his city, Naples. But it is also an amusing statement, in the noble tradition of Neapolitan comedy. The success led him to publish another book the following year, “Non si direbbe che sei napoletano” (You would not think that you are Neapolitan), where the Neapolitan comic shows how the life of a Southern going to Northern Italy is a continuous slalom between stereotypes and prejudices. In this book, Siani talk about the novelties that an immigrant encounters when decides to move to the North: a path of continual discoveries and pleasant surprises that the autor deals with wit and humor.
On January 18, 2012 “Benvenuti al Nord” (Welcome to the North),  was the sequel of the prior movie.
This month, his directorial debut with the film “Il principe abusivo” (The Prince abusive), set in Naples where between actors are Christian De Sica and the Neapolitan Serena Autieri.

Eclectic humour, Alessandro Siani is a full-blooded comedian, able to decline his talent in the most different ways: acting in theatre, television and film. Perhaps all this is because of his birthplace, Naples a land of extraordinary comic tradition.
Through Siani’s comic sense comes out his conflicting love towards his fellow citizens. To understand and fully appreciate his comedy, the spectator should (unfortunately) be Neapolitan, even if Alessandro can be understood by any Italian.
Among Neapolitans, many of his jokes have become a
catch phrase and in his first book he recounts the taste of his city and explains what it means to be born and live in Naples. The performer accompanies us in traffic where on a scooter are in five, and when the police stops them, asking why they are three on the scooter, they say, ” Scusateci, gli altri due nun so’ voluti veni’ ” (excuse the other two could not come).  Or on the bus where the controller is heard by a passenger who has a ticket expired the day before: “Azz, e tu mò vieni?” (Darn, and do you come now only?)
Naples is a wonderful city, which reacts always with joy (even the elderly do, like his grandmother who, hearing about ‘wombs for rent’, puts on her stomach the written “Fittasi” (for rent). And when his grandfather did the same thing on his crotch, she then added: “Yes, but to be restored!” Alessandro Siani gives us a unique and exhilarating portrait of this world by its ancient philosophy, made of sun, smiles and… “cazzimma”  (a purely Neapolitan term indicating craftimess + malice).

Naples is a postcard not mailed, crumpled, abandoned in the bottom of the boot that expects one thing, a mayor, a postman who dusts it a bit and mail it all over the world. [A. Siani]

alessandro siani

Here are some Siani gags (in Neapolitan), I will try to translate them into English for you.

<<I went to the grocery store to buy a mozzarella… “how much does a mozzarella cost?”, “€ 20 per kilo!”,  “20 EVEN!”, “ Yes, but if you squeeze it the milk comes out”, “uaaaaaaa for € 20 should come out champagne!”>>

<< My girlfriend told me one day: “My dear, the doctor told me that I need to take a week at sea, one at lake and another in mountain… where do you take me first??” , “to another doctor!” >>

<<The  Neapolitan navigator…. “I have installed it in my car, I typed the road and on the display I got the message: Get  down and Ask!” >>

<< My grandfather is really ignorant. One day he went to a museum and sat down on a chair. The guard approached him and said, “Get up please, this chair is of Louis XIV.” My grandfather said, “and when he comes I will get up!”
One day in the street, a beggar came to the grandfather and said, “look, I’m three days I do not eat.” And my grandfather said, “and you have to force yourself, it is pity to throw food!“>>

<< A woman goes into a sex shop and says to the clerk: “Excuse me, I want that red vibrator hanging there” – The clerk replied, “I am sorry, I can not give it, that’s the fire extinguisher!”>>

I can not even draw a veil over what people say. I finished the clothespins!

Neapolitan Sweets

Published February 9, 2011 by Tony

Characteristic desserts


Usually, any country has its speciality, its local product or typical dish and in Italy the situation is no less so. Campania – and Naples in particular – even is famous in the world for some of these legendary products and it could be sufficient to mention pizza, mozzarella or babà, for example.

Many are the dishes and products peculiar to this region but this post is aimed at the sweets and so you will read more about other products in successive posts. Campanians start their day with sweets, end their meal with sweets (especially during holidays), and punctuate their day with sweets, is this weird for you? Most Neapolitans have breakfast with croissant or with “graffe” (a sort of fried doughnut) together coffee or cappuccino. Many Italian families buy pastries on Sunday or on some important holiday to eat at the end of the meal. In the late afternoon most young people have a snack with some (industrial) cake.

Naples has some typical dessert or sweets and most of them are connected with holiday or festival and for that it will be easier for me to list them according to the different holidays.

Christmas

Struffoli, Roccocò, Mustacciuoli, Raffiuoli, Susamielli, Pasta Reale, Sapienze, Divinoamore, Torrone.

Easter

Pastiera, Casatiello or Tortano.

Carnival

Chiacchiere (angel winds), Sanguinaccio, Migliaccio.

Saint Joseph or Father’s day

Zeppole

Then, there are some common pastry linked with no festivity as Babà, Sfogliatelle and Taralli.

But, let’s analyze one by one these products now. I’m sorry if put no recipe because products are too many and for the most important speciality it will be easy for you to find the recipe by Internet, in the case you need it.

Struffoli are a sort of fried doughnut balls, more or less a quarter-inch long and slightly crunchy, soaked in honey and covered in sugar-sprinkles and candid fruits. It is a so popular dessert that during Christmas time there is no family without a plate of Struffoli on the table.

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Roccocò or Rococò (referred to the plural) a sort of crunch cookie with almonds inside, round shaped with a hole inside. It’s a dry and tough biscuit that looks like a dark squashed doughnut with a dough made of almonds and candied fruit. Roccocò’s etymology comes from “roccia artificiale” (artificial rock), because this Christmas sweet, presented on every table in Campania from the Advent day and for the whole holiday season, is very hard and almost marble-like. The original recipe says that the traditional Roccocò has to be kneaded on a large working bench where in the middle of a big mound of flour will be put sugar, white pepper, cloves, candied fruit peels, half an orange ground peel, one or two drops of cinnamon essence, a drop of ammonia and finely roasted and ground almonds together with whole almond nuts. The base is worked for a long time, continually adding water, until the right consistency is reached. The dough then is divided into little rings, brushed with eggs and baked until they go brown. Rococò, as any dessert, is often consumed after a meal with liquors and in Campania the famous “Limoncello” is one.

Mostaccioli or Mustacciuoli are biscuits of different consistencies depending on the dough, which is made of honey, flour, water, yeast and spices. The dough is left to rest and then baked. In the end the mustaccioli are covered with white or black icing, obtained adding powdered cocoa to the white one. They have a rhombus shape and are called this way because their squared shapes resemble moustaches.

Raffiuoli or Italianized in Raffioli, are made from a dough similar to the sponge cake and covered with a white (or differently colored) frosting made of sugar (jam on an icing sugar base).  Raffioli are rarely produced at home and can be found in cake shops around Campania. They have round shape and are doughy. Its recipe is ancient and quite challenging: egg whites and yolk are whipped with sugar and then mixed with more sugar, half a lemon, a quarter of a spoon of ammonia water, half a pack of vanilla and stiffly beaten egg whites. It’s all put in a piping bag used to prepare pieces of pasta, which are 14 cm long each and are folded on greased and floured oven plates. After baking the pasta pieces enlarge and have to be taken out and left to cool. Then they’re covered in icing sugar and brushed with apricot jam. They’re covered with more icing sugar and left to dry again. The icing can be prepared a few days before gaining flavour. Before using it on the Raffioli it has to be soaked in hot water, sugar and a pinch of baking soda on a slow flame. After it boils for a few minutes, it’s taken out and poured in a round bowl and stirred until it becomes white and creamy.

Susamielli are sweet in the shape of “S” of Neapolitan cuisine typical of the period of Christmas.
Are prepared with flour, sugar, almonds and honey, and flavored with cinnamon, pepper, nutmeg. We typically buy along with other sweets, especially Rococo and Mustacciuoli.  In local slang “susamiello”, maybe for the biscuit’s hardness, is used to indicate a boring or heavy person. A variant of elliptical shape, are the so-called Wisdom that once were prepared by Clare nuns in the convent of Santa Maria della Sapienza in Sorrento. The Dominican nuns of the church of Sapienza during Masaniello’s rebellion tried to protect their monastery by offering sweets to the people and the soldiers. Susamielli are often sold with Raffiuoli, Mustaccioli and the most popular Rococò.

Pasta Reale really is the name of the basic dough (Royal pastry) used to prepare these desserts but we Neapolitans refers to the small and colored pastries usually bought in cake shops. They aren’t expressly made during Christmas time because we can find them at any time in the confectioner’s. Pasta Reale is a marzipan,  well-known in Sicily too, made by cooking a strong syrup of sugar and water and then adding freshly ground almonds. Almond extract enhances the taste. The mixture is kneaded till smooth (like bread dough) and then shaped to get different forms, usually circular, rhombus or fruits shaped then decorated or coloured. They looks like the famous “Cassata” with a white icing spread externally on.

Divino-Amore, referred to the plural, usually are pinkish elliptical rose water flavoured marzipan (Royal pastry) covered with an orange chocolate glaze. These pastries take the name from the homonymous monastery. Confectionery was a common occupation for nuns at least from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century, in Naples as well as elsewhere. As a result, in Naples there arose a peculiar geography based on the fame and singularity of the pastries baked in each monastery. The divino amore (“God’s love”), was invented in the convent of Santa Maria Maddalena.

   Torrone (of Benevento), There’s different kinds of “Torrone di Benevento”: the white one with almonds, white “Torrone cupedia” with nuts, soft white Torrone with almonds and the crunchy Torroncino (small torrone) covered in chocolate. They all have common traits: they’re dry, sweet and friable. The classic Torrone from Benevento is made of simple ingredients: egg white, honey, nuts and almonds. Soft or hard, white or chocolate, with almonds or nuts, it’s a superb treat, almost royal. Art and tradition, past and present are mixed in harmony: the choice of the ingredients, work and cooking are made with the same dedication of old times gone. Traditional artisan methods and respect for the old recipes guarantee quality and genuiness.

Pastiera like Roccocò is the most popular and celebrated Neapolitan dessert and it cannot be completely appreciated unless it is prepared in the authentic manner, with a very delicate pastry crust and the wheat kernels which are at the core of its meaning. The origin of Pastiera is very old and it can be traced back to pagan cults when it was prepared to celebrate the spring arrival even. Someone affirms that the recipe, probably, derives from the breads made from milk and honey that were commonly eaten during the baptism ceremonies the night of Easter when Constatine was Emperor. The modern version of this cake was invented at the convent of San Gregorio Armeno, which at the time was located in Naples where a nun decided to make a cake using the ingredients that symbolized life and the resurrection. However, there is another ancient legend surrounding the creation of the Pastiera. Some believe that the siren Partenope would come out from the water of the Gulf of Naples every spring, delighting people with her lovely songs. Apparently on year, the people of Naples fell so in love with her songs that decided to offer her the most precious products of their land. Seven of the most beautiful girls of the area gave the beautiful siren flour, ricotta, eggs, wheat, orange flower water and spices, including cinnamon and sugar. Partenope, thrilled with her gifts, decided to return to her home under the sea and to offer her gifts to the Gods. To honor her beauty, the Gods mixed the ingredients together, creating a cake as delicious as the voice of the siren: the Pastiera napoletana. This centuries-old cake, is a dessert of short crust pastry (called pasta frolla) stuffed with a mixture of ricotta cheese, boiled wheat, eggs, spices and candied fruit. The short-crust pastry is crisp with a golden yellow colour, while its stuffing is a soft, despite its intense flavor and aroma change accordingly with the used spices. Pastiera appears in innumerable versions, each made according to a closely guarded family recipe. The major variations are in the amount of “acqua di arance” (orange’s water) or “Millefiori” (thousand flowers), a sort of non-alcoholic very fragrant essence, in the use of “crema pasticcera” (pastry cream), which some families include and others do not and in the amount of cinnamon powder.  You can recognize a Pastiera by the strips of pastry crisscrossed across the top of the cake like a fruit flan. The main and particular ingredient of the Pastiera is the grain (wheat) . It requires presoaked grain, which takes time to prepare (Neapolitan delicatessens now sell canned presoaked grain) that must be cooked with the milk over an extremely low flame for at least four hours, or until the grains come apart and the milk has been absorbed, so that the mixture is dense and creamy. It needs fresh ricotta stirred with sugar and yolks then adding the boiled grain, the orange water, the cinnamon, the candied fruit and vanilla. This creamy compound will be the filling. The pie crust is made with a mound of flour adding lard, sugar and yolks then handling the dough as little as possible till to obtain an uniform dough. It will be pressed and rolled out to line the pan, to fill then with the filling. The cake is traditionally served in a 8-10 inch diameter round metal pan with a two-inch rim; Neapolitan pastry shops sell the Pastiera in the pan and it is presented so at even the most elegant table. It is said that the Pastiera was the only thing that could cheer up Queen Maria Teresa of Hapsburg.  After her husband, Ferdinand II of Bourbon, the King of the two Sicilies, was able to convince her to taste a slice of Pastiera, the Queen, also known as the “queen who never smiles,” smiled in satisfaction. Pastiera is a miracle dish, like many others in Italian gastronomic culture, a dessert with its own allure due not to its goodness only but, to a subconscious love that is transmitted from generation to generation.

Casatiello is an Italian round bread filled with savoury meat (usually salami) and cheese (as provolone, roman, parmesan) and baked with whole eggs (as optional) with or without shell (if boiled), while the sweet version with candied fruit and nuts. Lard, yeast, salt and the flour are combined all together, adding as much water as necessary to get a rather soft dough but sticky and damp. It has then to raise in a lukewarm place. When the dough has leavened, is put on a pastry board and greased with lard kneading with the grated cheese (some small pieces too), pepper and the diced salame. Then the musky dough is shaped in a cylindrical form and put in a greased baking pan (10-12 in. diameter) with a hole in the middle to form a sort of ring. Here, it’s time to put the eggs on the top, a little bit stuck inside before baking. While cocking it has to become brown externally and dry inside. The salt Casatiello can’t be considered a sweet in fact, we eat it during the meals as a second course or as (high-calorie) snack! I mentioned it here, because is a very common and popular Easter dish also if many persons prepare it any time they want during the year.  It is full of symbolism as many Italian foods are, where meat represents animals which ritually were sacrificed in exchange for fertility while the cheese represents the milk of the lamb. Each bite gives an explosion of taste, starting from the soft bread flavored with lard and cheese till the meat pieces.

Chiacchiere is a fried cake prepared in the entire Campania region during the Mardi Gras period. They have a distinctive shape and consistency: tender and crispy, and are cut into irregular ribbons that are entwined in different ways. The dough is made of sugar, flour, water and eggs mixed to a drops of liqueur. After being entwined, the chiacchiere are fried and once carefully dried on absorbent paper, they are sprinkled with a lot of powdered sugar. Chiacchiere are prepared together with Sanguinaccio, a chocolate cream in which to dip and taste these sort of tasty biscuit.

Sanguinaccio is a cream made of chocolate and milk. Once, according to the original old recipe, pig’s blood had to be added too, no longer in use now for sanitary reasons. It is part of the old folkloristic recipes made at Mardi Gras and used to honor the killing of the pig, of which nothing is thrown away, not even blood. Ingredients are sugar, egg yolks (optional), flour, milk, dark chocolate and cocoa, which are all mixed together and cooked in pots where they have to boil slowly – stirred continuously – until the compound became creamy. Sanguinaccio is served cold, dressed with candied fruit and chocolate pralines, and usually with chiacchiere or soft biscuits like “savoiardi”.

Migliaccio is a typical winter cake made during the Mardi Gras season too, round in shape and 2 in. high. The dough is made out of semolina (flour from millet), ricotta, eggs, milk, sugar, salt, candied orange cubes, cinnamon, vanilla and orange aromas. The ingredients are mixed and cooked together in a copper or iron pan. After leaving the dough on the stove for an hour and stirring continuously with a wooden spoon, it’s fitted in a round pan and baked in the oven, until the surface becomes a pleasant golden yellow color.

Zeppole (of San Giuseppe)  is a typical dessert of Fathers day on the 19th of March, San Joseph feast.  A simple circular puff dough, with a cavity in the middle, baked or fried in boiling hot oil. The hollow is filled with cream (Confectioner´s Custard) and decorated with wild cherries in syrup and the pastry then dusted with powdered sugar. It is like a cream puff just a delicate ‘pâte à choux’. You don’t have to mix-up the fritters zeppoles, the savoury ones, also very popular in Naples (sold in friggitorie, fried food shops or peddlers’ stands – see my prior post here: https://italiots.wordpress.com/2011/01/15/panzarotti-zuppolelle/)with Zeppole of San Giuseppe. It is told that Zeppole born in the XVIII century in Naples, the former Capital of the then Southern Kingdom of the Two Sicily (the biggest among the Italian States), in one of the many convents, in which the nuns used to prepare delicious sweets. The nuns of Saint Basil, in the monastery of San Gregorio Armeno, were probably the inventors of a new sweet very similar to the modern zeppola. Some claim that the “new” Zeppole were made for the first time in another southern city, Bari, the Capital of the Region of Puglia, while someone else mention Sicily as the land where this dessert was invented.

Babà, the Italian one known worldwide as Neapolitan Babà is the universal symbol of Italian sweetness. Not by chance, “You’re a babà” is said to a person with a sweet character as well as one extremely skilled in performing thorny tasks. It is a rich small cake with a weird unusual shape, tall and a bit narrowed at one side like a mushroom, soaked in liquor (rum, as a rule), sometimes (optional) filled with whipped cream or custard. Since Babà is a very simple dessert based on a bread dough only, its secret is in the leavening that has to produce a very spongy and soft paste. There is a nice legend about this dessert’s birth. It is connected with the name of exiled king of Poland Stanisław Bogusław Leszczyński (1677 – 1766) whose daughter Maria Leszczyńska was French king Louis XV’s wife. Though the Polish sovereign was reputed a true Polish gentleman, he was said to be of ill temper and with good appetite. Once he was served a pastry, this one tasted too dry to him and in a burst he threw the dish with the sweet thing breaking a bottle of rum. The pastry fell into the rum; Stanisław tried it and found it excellent. As legend says, the new dessert evoked sweet eastern associations and the king called it baba – as the well-known Arabian character’s name, Ali Baba. Talking about the origin of the name, undoubtedly there are some analogies with the Russian Easter baba, babka in Polish, besides, about the pastry itself, a similar one was spread almost all over Europe – within the Germanic territory its name derived from kugel (ball), and within the baba in Byelorussia. Lastly, the name babà aside from giving exquisite allusions, becomes sweet in the pronounce for the close consonances and because formed from the first letters of the alphabet. Baba became a delicacy in France too where some years later changed in shape and composition and was called Babà Au Rhum. From Paris to Naples (Kingdom of the Two Sicilies) the step was short because Maria Carolina married with king Ferdinand of Naples and here the pronunciation brought the name to change in Babà or Babbà.  After a while, within a range of culinary experiments, the baba was among the fashionable culinary Neapolitan dishes and soon became a traditional dessert.  One of the last variation born in Capri and Sorrento where confectioners use Limoncello liqueur instead of rum but, in Naples nowadays it you can find Babà with cream, with Chantilly cream, with wild strawberry and chocolate.

Sfogliatelle. It is said that about 400 years ago a nun from the hermitage of Santa Rosa at Conca dei Marini, near Salerno, while was preparing a cake made a mistake with the dosage and she decided to experiment with a new creation. The Abbess was so happy for the new recipe that decided to dedicate it to Santa Rosa, founder of the order and prepare it every year on the 30th of August, the Saint’s religious celebration day.  “Santa Rosa” was made of many thin overlapping layers, in the shape of a hood with a filling of cream. In the 19th century the recipe came out of the monastery, with some variations: it was reduced in size, dried fruit was substituted with candied fruit and the cream with a cream made with ricotta. “Only the patience and free time of women locked in convents could allow for such work, stretching strips of dough several meters long and only a millimeter thick”. It became the specialty of a tavern in the center of the city and called Sfogliatella (flaky). The tavern became a specialized laboratory and the recipe spread all around the city in its two variations: “riccia” (ruffled) – the most known – and “frolla” (plain). “Riccia” refers to the shell-shaped version that most of you probably know, made with tissue-thin dough that is stretched and then rolled to create overlapping, irresistibly crisp layers. The “frolla” variation features soft, tender, flaky dough that literally melts in the mouth. Both pastries contain the same delicious filling, made from semolina, ricotta, sugar, cinnamon, eggs, and bits of candied citrus. Today in Naples Sfogliatella is made daily and offered while it’s still warm, fragrant and smells of orange flowers and icing sugar. It’s so famous that became part of a popular saying “Napule tre cose tene belle: ‘o mare, ‘o Vesuvio, e ‘e sfugliatelle” (Naples has three beautiful things: sea, Vesuvio and the sfogliatelle).

Taralli are a snack mainly and there even is some specific bakery producing and selling them. Like a sort of salt biscuit ring shaped, they are mostly dry and crunchy with entire roasted almonds inside. It’s a dough got adding lard and pepper and then baked giving back a tasty biscuit to be served with wine or beer.