Alfabetti but not spaghetti! … Quaresimali Toscani

Alfabetti ma non spaghetti!
Alfabetti ma non spaghetti!

We are more than halfway through the Lenten season towards Easter, and even in Catholic Italy that calls for a break. Tomorrow, there is the Fiera Mezza Quaresima in our local town of Sansepolcro when people forget about having given up things for a couple of days and enjoy a little food and drink.


Traditionally this was the time for making quaresimali or Lenten biscuits, although the practice seems to have fallen by the wayside a little in recent years.

Quaresimali, once the only sweet thing you were allowed to eat during the six weeks of lent, are found all over Italy, but for some reason time has forgotten, in Tuscany, and only in Tuscany, they were made in the shape of letters of the alphabet.

I thought I’d try and reignite the tradition a little and make my own quaresimali this year. Essentially hazlenut, chocolate, and cinammon flavour biscuits these brutti ma buoni (ugly but delicious) are rather moreish. After, all they are essentially Nutella flavour … what’s not to like? I’ve almost eaten my way from A-Z while writing this post.

Quaresimali Toscani
Serves 6
Preparation time: 15 mins
Wait time: 2 hours
Cooking time: 10 mins
Total time: 2hr 25 mins
3 egg whites
200g (7 ounces) icing sugar
50g (1 1/2 ounces) hazelnut paste
200g (7 ounces) plain flour
50g (1 1/2 ounces) cocoa powder
1 sachet (2 tablespoons)  vanilla sugar
1/2  sachet (1 tablespoon) baking powder
a pinch of cinnamon

1. Beat the eggs to stiff peaks, then incorporate the icing sugar and hazelnut paste.

2. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, the cocoa powder, the vanilla sugar, and the baking powder.

3. Combine the two mixtures to form a dough.

4. Roll out and cut into letter shapes using cookie cutters.

5. Leave to dry for two hours and then bake at 150° C for 10 minutes.

(Recipe adapted from Petroni, P (2008) Il grande libro della vera cucina Toscana. Florence: Giunti.)

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