Sweets are synonymous with celebration and during the Christmas season they become the real stars of the Italian table! Delicacies that accompany us with their tastes and aromas and that characterise every region of Italy, faithful to the local traditions. But let’s start our sweet-tooth tour in the discovery of the Christmas sweets of the Italian regions. We’ll start from the North, specifically from Lombardy where the Panettone with Milanese origin now is widespread throughout Italy. There is also the Crescenzin of Piedmont, black bread enriched with butter, powdered sugar, raisins, walnuts, apples and sometimes figs.
Heading south, we meet the Certosino or Panspeziale of Bologna whose ancient recipe dates back to the Middle Ages when it was produced by pharmacists (or “apothecaries”). Only later did the friars of the Certosa take charge of its production. In Emilia Romagna, we also find a gingerbread called Panpepato, typical of Ferrara, composed according to tradition by many ingredients including hazelnuts, almonds, cinnamon, pepper and obviously dark chocolate, which predominates both in the dough and in the external icing.
Tuscany is the home of Panforte, from Siena, composed of candied fruits, honey, sugar and spices. Enjoying undisputed supremacy in this region are, however, Ricciarelli: soft biscuits that resist crumbling, covered with powdered sugar. Continuing towards central Italy, in Lazio we find the classic Pangiallo Romano, which in imperial times was distributed during the celebration of the winter solstice, as it was considered to be a good omen for the return of the sun. Pangiallo has a golden crust that gives the cake its typical brilliance.
Many of the Christmas preparations in Campania originate from Neapolitan pastry-making tradition. Here we find true delicacies. From the famous Struffoli (small balls of dough fried in oil, dipped in warm honey and decorated with pieces of citron, sugar and colourful candied decoration), to Mostaccioli covered with chocolate icing. In Sicily, to finish our tour, in the days of Advent it is customary to prepare and enjoy the Buccellato: a donut-shaped cake of short pastry stuffed with a filling of dried figs, raisins, almonds, orange peel or other ingredients that vary depending on the location in which it is prepared.
During the Christmas holidays, every opportunity is a good one to allow yourself a few moments of sweetness. Let yourself be tempted!