What is panforte?
For Tuscans, and nowadays many Italians, panforte means Christmas. A centuries-old tradition from the province of Siena, panforte is a rich cake made of almonds, candied peel, and honey peppered with winter spices, with a unique flavour and texture. There are several variations on the recipe for panforte, but to create this one, I went back to the official requirements of the Italian Ministry of Agriculture for Panforte di Siena IGP (Indicazione Geografica Protetta). If you fancy something different, I also created a cherry, hazelnut, and chocolate version which you can find here.
Pasta with chicken? Mamma mia!
If you’re a fan of pages such as Italians Mad at Food, or if you google the ‘rules’ of Italian cooking, you will know that there’s only one thing worse than putting pineapple on pizza: eating pasta with chicken. That’s right. Any of you who have been cooking and eating pasta with chicken are risking the wrath of the people who brought you spaghetti and lasagne. You’d better stop it now.
It’s Chestnut season!
As you probably know, at the weekend I visited the Festa del Marrone di Caprese in Tuscany. While I was there I bought a couple of kilos of chestnuts and some freshly milled chestnut flour. Look what I got up to and try it yourself.
Autumn in central Italy is sagra season. These are local food festivals and with so many typical products coming into season in September and October—grapes, mushrooms, olives, and truffles to name but a few—there’s a choice of sagra to attend every weekend. The two last weekends of October are the time of for the small Tuscan village of Caprese to have its chestnut sagra: the Festa del Marrone di Caprese.
Writing this post was a problem. There are so many exquisite Italian pastries that limiting myself to ten was hard. My selection here is in no particular order. Some choices are obvious and some more obscure but I wanted to represent the range of pastries available up and down the country, from the extreme north of Friuli-Venezia-Giulia to the southernmost point of Sicily. I’ve also included my personal favourites. So, marvel at the variety of pastries on offer and be sure to try as many of these out as possible on your next trip to Italy.