The cassatelle of Agira


For the stuffing

420 g of toasted almonds
100 g toasted chickpea flour (calia)
30 g of bitter cocoa
45 g sweet cocoa
235 g sugar
500 ml of water
grated zest of 1/2 lemon
For the dough

1 k 00 flour
400 g lard
230 sugar
n ° 1 egg
n ° vanilla bag
water at room temperature to taste

Historical origin of the dish and curiosities:

Cassatella di Agira is a dessert of very ancient origins, an essential element of the traditional Agirina cuisine in the province of Enna. It is difficult to document the history of the Cassatella since there are no written sources about it and the oral sources that can be obtained in the area are related to an empirical knowledge of the topic that refer to a fairly limited period of time and coincide with personal experiences in which the recipe has always been handed down from mother to daughter. It is said that to prepare it were the wives of the peasants who took care of the lands of the nobles. In fact, the housewives who took care of the domestic hotbed were able to prepare it to offer it to the owners of the fiefdom on holidays. In its oldest version which has now disappeared, it was indicated with the name Pasticciotto. This had a circular shape and was characterized by a pastry button placed in the center of the upper disc, almost as if to recall another Sicilian dessert, the “Minni de Virgini” of Sambuca di Sicilia or the “Minni di Sant’Agata” in Catania. The cultures that undoubtedly had the greatest influence on the birth of Cassatella di Agira are Arab (for chickpeas) and Spanish (for cocoa) to which agro-pastoral and baronial elements have been added. Analyzing the internal structure of the product, one can note the presence of noble ingredients such as almonds and cocoa with modest chickpeas to fulfill the role of natural thickener. These ingredients, in fact, gave life to a different filling (native) and with a unique taste. A suggestive hypothesis on which we have no historical documents to comfort, but completely compatible with the elements at our disposal and with a careful analysis of the product. The cultural and economic importance assumed by the Cassatella di Agira has convinced the municipal administration to adopt and attribute to it, in order to protect it, the Municipal Denomination (De. Co.), a trademark that distinguishes it and protects it from imitations.


Procedure for the filling:

Chop the toasted almonds together with the lemon peels. Repeat the mincing operation (at least three times), in order to refine the mince. Turn the “caliati” chickpeas into flour. Put the water in a saucepan and dissolve the sugar in it, then add the chopped almonds. Over low heat, bring the mixture to a boil and mix to make the dough homogeneous. Once it has boiled, add the two types of cocoa previously mixed, stir continuously in order to prevent the mixture from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Finally, always over low heat, add the chickpea flour to rain to avoid lumps and mix well with the mixture. Leave to cook for about 5-6 minutes, stirring constantly. After cooking, place the dough in a preferably enamelled container and place a damp cloth or cling film on top to prevent it from hardening on the surface. Wait until the filling is well cooled before using and processing it.

Procedure for the dough:

Sift the flour and mix it by hand with the lard in order to melt it. Add the sugar and mix again, add the beaten egg with a little sugar and mix well with the dough, slowly adding the water to give the dough a smooth consistency that can be stretched with a rolling pin. Let the dough rest for about 10 hours before kneading it.

Subsequently, before being used, work the dough lightly in order to make sticks. Procedure for making the Cassatelle Remove a little of the dough from the sticks and make balls. Sprinkle the workbench with flour and roll out the balls previously made with a rolling pin, forming a thin circular disk with a thickness of about 3 mm and a diameter of about 12 cm. Be careful not to dirty the top of the pastry with flour so as not to have difficulty closing it later. Arrange a spoonful of filling in the center of the disk made and close in half by pressing the edges with your fingers to form a crescent. At this stage, care must be taken to avoid dirtying the edges with the filling so that the Cassatella cannot open during cooking.

Place the Cassatele on a baking sheet with parchment paper, space them evenly and cook in the oven at a temperature of 170/180 ° c for about 8/10 minutes (the Cassatella should be white and soft). Once cooled, sprinkle them with a little icing sugar before being eaten or served. N.B. “To make the icing sugar adhere to the Cassatella it is advisable to brush them first with a glue, preparing a syrup with a little water and sugar. Lightly brush the surface, taking care not to let it absorb by the cascade paste. In ancient times, this dessert was cooked in a wood oven where, before placing the cassatele, almond peel was burned to help accentuate the aroma, smell and flavor.

Recipe by Chef Carmelo Petralia

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