The Sicilian Pastry
Delectable crescent shaped pastries encase a sweet chocolate ricotta filling, comprising the Sicilian wonder that is Cassatelle (or cassateddi, if you are a local). Similar to a mini calzone, they hail from the teeny town of Calatafimi in Trapani, dating back to 1700 and a peasant-based lifestyle.
Fresh, local sheep ricotta is the fundamental ingredient – Cassatelle are consequently consumed most frequently in winter and spring, when the milk is most abundant. The ricotta is combined with sugar, chocolate, vanilla and lemon/orange zest to produce a sharp, creamy filling with citrus undertones. The dough, consisting of flour, sugar, extra virgin olive oil, white wine and Marsarla or dry Sherry further strengthens the recipe’s utilization of local products.
A ‘poor man’s dish’ and proudly western Sicilian, it is served at Carnevale and Easter; either deep-fried or baked. Here it serves to cement social bonds and install a sense of belonging in citizens through shared practises and heritage (Belasco 2008). And, you can’t deny that a crisp, perfectly hand-sized pastry bursting with a decadently rich filling won’t add to the joy and pizzazz of the occasion!
Although accorded the title of ‘Agribusiness Traditional Product of Italy’, Cassatelle also demonstrate the diverse cultural history of Sicily. Hints of Arabic, Greek & Spanish heritage are enmeshed in the Cassatelle: sugarcane and a fondness for sweet pastries were brought by the former, Ancient Greeks prompted the production of sheep and goats milk and the latter introduced chocolate and the empanada (a familiar shape, no?). In this sense the Cassatelle is a measure of the long-rooted cultural change in Sicily, and also reflects the complexity and transitional nature of many purportedly ‘authentic’ cuisines across the globe (Ripe 1993).
Variations are produced throughout Sicily, Italy and beyond. Chickpeas, chocolate, walnuts/almonds and honey are a popular combination, however Once A Tailor in Hawthorn prefers to stick to a more ‘traditional’ recipe. Snaffle your fix of this Sicilian pastry pocket at this vibrant cafe and add another thread to the diversity and cultural culinary journey of a seemingly fundamental regional specialty.