Mustacciolo is a dessert prepared in the
and in the islands of Sicily
The mustacciolo has been a favorite dessert for centuries and it is habitually
prepared after the harvest of grapes, when fresh juice of grapes is cooked into must and also for the Christmas
Long before the Romans, the Etruscan prepared
a cake made with must - cooked wine- and with a mush made of barley or millet: it was offered to their
divinities or prepared for special occurrences.
In Rome, the mustaceum was a cake baked with must and flour, thus the name mustaceum; it was baked to solemnize weddings and to offer to the gods and to
the wedding party.
The wedding cake, the mustaceum, was wrapped in laurel leaves to infuse the cake with a fine
fragrance and flavor; when baked the heat of the oven would burn the laurel leaves which would vanish into
In Roman customs, laurel was a symbol of glory
and laurel wraths were bestowed to heroes or brave people because of their extraordinary actions. When someone
by means of schemes and plots, was searching for fame, it was as foolish as in the Latin proverb “Loreolam in mustaceo querere” which translate “to look for laurel in the
trifle”, meaning it is silly to seek fame by maneuvering, as it is stupid to look for laurel in the wedding
cake, since it burnt and faded away into ashes as it is the recognition for undeserved merits.
In time, the must cake has morphed into a
dessert of a different kind, size and shape, the name changed and even the main ingredient, the must was at
times substituted and replaced with honey or sugar.
The later version of the must cakes called
mustazzuoli or mustaccioli
is prepared nearly all over Italy and each region, town and family uses different ingredients and different
Following a basic recipe to make mostaccioli, a brief description is offered to illustrate the different
techniques and products utilized to bake these cookies in the Italian Peninsula and Sardinia. A separate chapter is dedicated to Sicilian mustazzuoli in the desserts
- 1 lb. flour
- 1 pint of must or 1 lb. of honey
or 1 lb. sugar + ¼ cup water
- 2 eggs or 1 pint of red wine or
about 1 pint of water
- ½ cup toasted almonds, chopped
with a knife
- ½ teaspoon of cinnamon powder
- ½ teaspoon of ground
- Zest of 1 orange or fresh or
candied orange peels
- ½ teaspoon of baking
- Extra flour to add if mixture
results too soft
If using fresh orange peels follow
these directions: to ready the fresh orange peels for the filling, rinse with cold water, dry and bake at 375
degrees for 15 minutes. When cooled, cut them with scissors into very thin strips to resemble “angel’s hair”-
Mix all the dry ingredients, mound on a flat
surface and form a well or place the ingredients in a bowl; add remaining ingredients.
When using the eggs, break them and beat with
a fork, before mixing in. Start to blend the flour from the inside of the well, and keep incorporating it with
the liquid ingredients.
Using your hands, bring all the flour together
to form a ball with the dough. Fold and press with the palm of your hands and add a little more water if needed,
to moisten the flour, or if dough is sticky, add some more flour.
Do not over mix, set aside when dough forms
into a single mass.
Cover and rest at room temperature for about 1
Clean your hands and working surface and
Preheat oven at 325 degrees, grease and dust
with flour cookie sheets or cover with parchment paper.
Dust working surface with flour and with a
rolling pin, flatten the dough evenly to 3/8 of an inch thick and cut into squares, rounds, stars etc., or use a
cookie mold to create special designs, depending on the local traditions. If preferred, with a damp brush go over cookies to lightly wet tops and
decorate with granulated sugar or colored sugar sprinkles or almonds.
Bake at 325 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, or
until the mustazzuoli are a light and golden color. Sprinkle with
powdered sugar or coat with honey or a chocolate glace.
Another way to mould the mustazzuoli is to
compact a portion of the dough and shape into 1 ½ inch log. Cut it into pieces to form small sticks about 4
inches long and ½ inch thick, place each piece into greased pans 3 inches apart and shape it to form an “S” or
into a ring-shaped cookie. To decorate, make 4-5 small cuts on top of each cookie, using a pair of
MUSTACCIOLI IN THE OTHER
In the Po’ Valley to 2½ lbs. of flour and to 2 lbs. of sugar, a
pint of red wine is used with the addition of grounded cloves and abundant cinnamon. Add more flour or wine to
get a solid and smooth dough. The mustaccioli are cut into 2 inch
rhomboidal shapes (oblong squares) and about ½ inch thick.
In Lombardy these morselli called mostazzon are made with sugar, flour, eggs and anise seeds; they are baked in
pans covered with wafers, then removed from pans, cut into 2 x 3
inches and each slice is laid on side and baked again until lightly toasted.
In Veneto, mostacciola is an almond cake made with
chocolate and various spices.
In Emilia Romagna, mostacciola is a flat fruit cake made with
candied fruits, including orange, citron and raisins, in addition to chocolate, honey, nutmeg, mace and
In Tuscany, Umbria and
Basilicata, the mustaccioli are mostly made with sugar or honey, flour and walnuts, almonds or
hazelnuts, in few localities must is used as a sweetener.
In Southern Italy as well as
in Latium, the mustazzuoli are mostly made with honey or sugar mixed in equal parts to flour,
with the addition of eggs. Also ½ cup toasted almonds, chopped with a knife, ground cinnamon, cloves, the zest
of 1 orange and a small amount of baking powder is mixed in.
In the province of Naples
the rhomboidal shaped mustazzuoli
are made with cooked must, honey, eggs, toasted almonds, chopped with a knife, ground cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg,
zest of orange and of lemon and a small amount of baking powder. After baking until pale golden, they are dusted
with confectionary sugar or covered with chocolate icing.
In Puglia to 1 lb. of flour is combined with ½ lb. of sugar and ½ lb. of honey; then in addition to a
tablespoon of oil, 3 table spoons of bitter cocoa, ½ cup toasted almonds, chopped with a knife, ground cinnamon
and cloves, zest of 1 orange, little less than ½ teaspoon baking powder and some water is included to obtain a
compact and elastic mixture. The dough is shaped in small irregular balls more or less 1 inch in diameter and
placed in baking sheet at least 2 inches apart. After baking they are covered with a chocolate
In Calabria the baking powder is replaced by a jigger of hard liquor; to 1 lb. of honey and 1 lb. of
flour, 2 eggs, 4 tablespoons (½ stick) of butter are mixed in, as well as ½ cup toasted almonds, chopped with a
knife, ground cinnamon, cloves and diced candied orange peels. The rolled out dough is cut into various forms
reminiscent of pagan traditions or into Christian symbolic figures. After baking they are covered with a
In Sardinia, the
mustazzolos are diamond shaped biscuits, made with flour, sugar,
yeast, and water; they are aromatized with cinnamon and lemon and covered with vanilla icing after