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PIGNOLATA? STRUFFOLI?

Some people swear that Pignolata was introduced by the Sicilians to this country, while others call it Struffoli and guarantee it is a Neapolitan invention, born under the Vesuvio and brought here.

In Calabria they call it Cicirata o Turdiddi, in Umbria and Abruzzo Cicerchiata. We are talking about the delicious pine cone shaped dessert made of deep fried balls of sweet dough dipped in honey or glazed, crunchy on the outside and light inside. There is no formal decoration: some shape it like a ring instead of a cone; some make it rectangular, half covered in one flavor and the other half in another; some serve it in small portions arranged in modern shapes.

People who call it Cicirata or Cicerchiata say it is an ancient Roman dessert and the name derives from the latin cicer "chickpea". The history is unclear but during the Roman empire there was a sweet shaped like a pine cone covered with honey that would be prepared in certain time of the year for pagan rituals. It’s also connected to the Carnem Levare, the Roman Carnival, which was a Christian holiday with pagan connotations.

People who call it Pignolata say it was introduced by the Spaniards during their Italian domination as a sweet made of fried pine nuts covered with honey that would be served during the carnival celebrations. Later, pine nuts have been replaced with sweet dough, and the honey glaze replaced by chocolate, lemon, liquor, bergamot and many other variations. A notable version of the Pignolata is the chocolate and lemon glazed version that are today the symbol of the city of Messina, Sicily.

People who call it Struffoli give it a Neapolitan background: they say it comes from the word struffo, a straw ball used in the past to shine marble.

There are plenty of good recipes online, just pick the ingredients you like the most, the variation that suits you and your family, and make one with them or with your friends.