Tag Archives: Modica

Pastry Post-Doc: ‘Mpanatigghi

SicilyA few weeks ago we did a feature on the surprising Mexican origins of Modica chocolate in Sicily, which was brought over by the Spaniards. While researching Modica chocolate, we learned of another quirky Modica recipe with a Spanish connection – the Mpanatigghi cookie (Impanatiglie in standard Italian). The word “‘Mpanatigghi” is a Sicilian-ization of the Spanish word “empanada/empanadilla”, and its half-moon shape is certainly empanada-like. The filling of a ‘Mpanatigghi cookie is chocolate, cinnamon and almonds, but also something pretty unusual – a little bit of beef! Sounds pretty weird until you think of savory Oaxacan moles with chocolate-tinged sauce. Perhaps this cookie also has a bit of Mexican influence somewhere? Even being familiar with Sicilian cookies – this unusual concoction is a new one for us – here’s a recipe for the culinary adventurers out there.

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Photo from Anita’s Italy

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The Mexican Roots of Modica Chocolate

Mexico FlagItalyThe story of Modica chocolate is one of our favorites, and we are looking forward to bringing it to you in advance of of the most visible Mexican holiday in the US, Cinco de Mayo. So we know that chocolate is a new-world creation, and was popular among Aztecs (where it was known as Xocoàtl) for centuries. So now that chocolate has spread the whole world over, where can you still find the most traditional Aztec recipes? Sicily! No, I am not joking. It turns out that Sicily, conquered many times over, was under Spanish rule while the Spanish were also colonizing the new world, and these colonizers brought back the Aztec recipes for chocolate to Sicily. These traditional recipes are still made in certain parts of Sicily today with nothing but cacao, sugar and (maybe) spices.ModicaChoc

The process of making the chocolate by grinding it on a metate (as it was originally in Mexico) imparts a pleasantly gritty, natural texture to the chocolate, which is delicious and completely unique. A historical and picturesque Sicilian town in the province of Ragusa, Modica, is known for its expertise in all things chocolate, and is home to several longstanding chocolate shops producing chocolate the traditional Aztec way, which has become known in Italy as “Modica Chocolate.”AnticaBonajutoOn our trip to Sicily, we took a visit to Modica to see this piece of chocolate history for ourselves, and stopped at the Antica Dolceria Bonajuto (Corso Umberto I, 159, 97015 Modica RG, Italy), one of the more famous chocolatiers, in operation since 1880. This shop in particular is known for their wide variety of Modica chocolates made on the premises. The chocolate bars here come in almost every cacao percentage, plus unique flavors like lime, marjoram, almond and orange peel. Fortunately they let you sample, so we were happy to taste a bunch of varieties before we arrive on our two favorite picks: sea salt and hot chili.ADBCannoliWhile you can find good traditional Mexican chocolate in Oaxaca and other places in Mexico itself, what Sicily has to offer is on par with these treats. And truth to be told – we could see that this chocolate and that found in Oaxaca were cousins, maybe even siblings. If you are unable to visit Modica itself, you can get the Modica-made Sabadi chocolate bars at Eataly. P.S. If you visit the Bonajuto shop they also have the best cannoli ever!

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Filed under Finer Things Club, history