Spagnolette 

 

Ricotta Pastries

 

 

Marsala is a town located in western tip of Sicily. The region is rich of history and historical sites: Roman baths, pagan and Christian temples, necropolis and other sign of ancient times and more recent events.   

The small island of Mozia is located almost in the center of the nearby lagoon; it was a stop for Phoenicians, Carthaginians and Roman traders and at that time, an important commercial and shipping center. The Whitaker Foundation, which owns Mozia has restored the ancient salt pans and windmills for the production and grinding of the salt, and a museum was set up in the villa Mozia, where Mozia, Egyptian, Greek, Corinthian, Phoenician, Carthaginian and Roman artifacts are displayed.    

   

The largest economical resources in Marsala are wine production, hospitality business and the fishing industry.  

Marsala is encircled by natural salt pans, vineyards and olive trees; there are mills for grounding salt, fisheries and important wineries where the famous Marsala wine and large quantities of quality red and white wines are produced.   

The many beautiful beaches and the climate have favored the local tourism and the hotel industry.  

 “La Mattanza del Tonno”, tuna fishing, is practiced in the traditional way; a variety of fish and in particular tuna are cooked in many inventive ways, pasta is seasoned with bottarga, salted tuna row, local fresh lobsters cooked in light tomato sauce are a delicacy and their sauce over spaghettini is a gourmand delight. Eggplants, tomatoes, peppers, capers, garlic, herbs and salted anchovies, fresh sardines and other fish are evolved into special pasta dishes or into typical main courses. However a simple dish of pasta with olive oil, basil and garlic or freshly baked Marsalese bread “pane cunzatu”, drizzled with local olive oil, herbs, salt and spices can be an unforgettable fragrant and tasting experience.  

A Berber dish, the couscous prepared in Morocco with the mutton or vegetables, in Marsala is cooked with fish, abundant in the area and the use of different spices creates a completely incomparable and tasty dish.   

The ricotta produced in Marsala gives an inimitable characteristic to Sicilian pastries and cakes made with ricotta cream; cookies and biscuits are baked with traditional recipes; cannoli, cassate, “cappidduzzi” - a dessert similar to thecassateddi turnover- have a distinctive and unique taste. A delicate and exquisite delicacy, the original spagnolette are ricotta cream pastries: they are made by sandwiching the cream between two round savoiardi biscuits. 

To make the savoiardi use the recipe that Mrs. Bernadette Johnson kindly shared with us; another version of the spagnolette is prepared using pasta frolla, Italian style shortbread stuffed with the same filling.  

Both recipes will follow; I prefer the original recipe made with the savoiardi biscuits.  

 

To Makes 40 to 50 Savoiardi Biscuits or 20 to 25 Spagnolette

    

    

INGREDIENTS

THE SAVOIARDI SHELL 

  • 6 large eggs at room temperature   
  • 2 cups sugar (1lb.)   
  • 3 ½  cups of flour(1lb.)   

 

THE FILLING FOR ABOUT 20 PIECES 

  • 1 lb. of ricotta  
  • 4 tablespoons of sugar  
  • zest of 1 orange  
  • 1 drop of cinnamon oil  
  • 1 drop of vanilla essence  
  • ¼ cup of chocolate chips or bitter-chocolate shavings  

 

 THE GARNISH

  • ½ cup powdered sugar  
  • ½ teaspoon of powder cinnamon  

 

PREPARATION 

THE FILLING FOR ABOUT 20 PIECES 

 

Ahead of time, in a large bowl, mix well the ricotta and sugar until smooth. Blend in the zest of orange, cinnamon oil and the vanilla, store in the refrigerator for a few hours. Before using it, mix the ricotta cream with a wooden spoon to aerate and make it silky-smooth, and add the chocolate chips or the chocolate shavings over it.  

  

 

 

THE SAVOIARDI SPAGNOLETTE 

 

 

The Making  

Beat the eggs and the sugar at low speed for 15 minutes, to thoroughly blend the eggs; then add the flour in 1/2 cup increments, with a few minutes between increments while beating continuously.  

    

The Cookies  

Drop two tablespoons of the mixture on a wax paper lined cookie sheet two inches apart, and bake at 350 for 10 to 12 minutes.

Move cookies to a wire rack to cool.

 

The Spagnolette  

Place 1 tablespoon of ricotta cream onto a cookie and top it with another cookie to form a sandwich. Press them gently so that some of the ricotta cream seeps out a little.

Smooth out the edge with a spatula, remove any extra cream. Place into a serving dish.

 

Continue until you finish either the cookies or the filling: any leftover ricotta cream can be used to spread on toasts to make a delicious snack, or you can enjoy the plain cookies as a unique breakfast.

Mix the powdered sugar and cinnamon and garnish by sprinkling the spagnolette with it.

The “Spagnolette” are a specialty dessert originated in the town of Marsala  and there is no better paring than a Marsala Superiore, a unique wine with a full-bodied taste and an attractive aroma. 

*****

THE PASTA FROLLA FOR THE SPAGNOLETTE

 

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb. all purpose flour. About 5 cups 
  • 7 oz. or 1 cup sugar less 1 tablespoon 
  • ½ lb. or 1 cup unsalted butter (melted) 
  • 2 large eggs 
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder 
  • Pinch of salt 
  • zest of one lemon 
  • powdered sugar  

 

PREPARATION 

The Dough
Make a well with the flour, place in it the sugar, butter, eggs, salt, baking powder, and lemon zest.  Mix all ingredients using your hands, knead to bring dough together. If mixture is too dry add a few tablespoons of water, if too watery add some flour.
Do not over mix. Do not handle dough more than necessary. Refrigerate dough for 1 hour.
  

The Spagnolette  

Prepare some cookie sheets by lightly greasing them and pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.  

Retrieve dough from refrigerator, dust working surface with a little flour and place the dough in the center; fold and press with the palm of your hands a few times and with the help of a rolling pin, flatten the pastry dough to about 1/8 of an inch thick. Use a 3 1/4” to 4” round fluted biscuit cutter to get circles or if a cutter is not available, use the rim of a glass to make circles about 3 ½” wide.  

Spoon out and place in the center 1 scant tablespoon of ricotta cream and top it with another circle to form a sandwich. 

Press down all around with the prongs of a fork to make sure they are properly sealed to avoid the filling from leaking. 

 

Place the pastries in the baking sheet pan(s) 1 inch apart and bake until lightly golden, at 375 for 10 to 15 minutes.   

Garnish the “Spagnolette” by sprinkling powdered sugar on top and serve warm or at room temperature.