No matter how you pronounce them, Abruzzo’s traditional Christmas treats Caggionetti are one of the best Christmas treasures around. Chocolate, chestnuts, almonds, rum, lemon zest, cinnamon & honey are just part of the filling, enclosed within a paper-thin white wine fried ravioli casing, who could possibly resist? apart from those allergic to nuts perhaps…
Within our village stories are told about how they used to trade corn, normally an animal food, and food crops with those in Seranica and other chestnut enclaves so that they could enjoy these divine treats over the Christmas period.
They were a rare treat, a Christmas indulgence most commonly first served after Mass on Christmas Eve in bygone times; now you will see them served in Abruzzo from November as soon as the Chestnut sagre commence.
Yes, they are a little bit time-consuming and a 2-stage job for which fillings need to be prepared the day before and left to marinate. I, a self-confessed lazy cook, would even say a little fiddly, but they are worth it! Remember, each family, village town and city will have slightly different interpretations of the recipe, so do experiment with less or more in the filling depending on your own taste preferences, and of course what is available in the cupboard; these are the Bascianella variety:
For the Dough
500 g 00 Flour
150 ml Extra Virgin Olive Oil
150 ml Dry White Wine
2.5 tsp Baking Powder
1 Pinch of Salt
For the Filling
1 / 2 l Mosto Coto or 250 gm honey
150g Toasted Finely Chopped Almonds
300 g Chestnuts
50 g Sugar
30 g Candied Peel
100 g Grated Dark Chocolate
2 freshly brewed Espressi – make sure it is an Italian sized espresso cup
Zest from 1 Lemon
120 ml Anejo or other good quality Golden Rum
1 Cinnamon Stick
Oil for frying (groundnut works really well)
Sugar and Cinnamon to decorate.
In a saucepan add honey or mosto cotto, cinnamon, chocolate and gently heat. Add toasted almonds, zest and candy peel and sugar, add the chestnuts to the mixture and mix well, cooking for another 2 minutes on a very low heat.
Remove from heat and pour into a large bowl add rum and coffee. Mix well, cover with a tea towel and leave overnight for the flavours to marinate.
Add flour and the dry dough ingredients into a large bowl, add the oil & wine and work into a firm dough, knead it for about 3 minutes to make sure it really is the right consistency… durum (hard wheat) flour takes a while to absorb liquids. You may need to add more flour or some cold water accordingly.
On these pasta strips add a heaped teaspoon of your chocolate, chestnut mixture at intervals. It will be a sandwich in affect as you place another strip on top.
If you have a pasta cutter cut between each to form squares; if not use a glass to cut the sandwich and pinch the edges together.
Fry these parcels in hot ground-nut oil – don’t let them brown! It’s very quick process, they will puff up and be crisp when done. Don’t put too many into the pan at once or you’ll reduce the heat and they won’t puff.
When cooked drain on kitchen paper.
When cool sprinkle with icing sugar and cinnamon according to taste.