Spongata, the Christmas speciality from Lunigiana

Spongata is traditionally made in Lunigiana at Christmas time.  It is often compared to the English mince pie but is more like an Italian panforte or panpepato enclosed in shortcrust pastry.  Its origins are uncertain. Some say it was brought to Italy by the Jews, others suggest that it was a Roman dish.  The first recorded mention of spongata was as a gift to Francesco Sforza, the Duke of Milan, in 1454. Spongata is also found in neighbouring Emilia Romagna.

This recipe for spongata is from the book, Piatti Chiari, by Tiziana Falorni, the owner of the restaurant Alla Piazza di Sopra in Filleto, and is the third in our series of recipes.  If you’d like a copy of the recipe book, it is available directly from the restaurant and in bookshops in Lunigiana. You can also buy it online at Amazon.it and other online booksellers in Italy.

My thanks to Laura Razzoli, Tiziana’s daughter, for the photos and the help in translating the recipe.

spongata della lunigiana



For the pastry

250g white flour
100g sugar
150g butter
1 egg
grated rind of one lemon
salt to taste

For the filling

50g hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
50g almonds, coarsely chopped
50g walnuts, coarsely chopped
20g pine nuts
50g chopped, candied orange peel
2 teaspoons dark cocoa powder
100g sugar
100g creamed butter
2 teaspoons orange marmalade
1 egg yolk
60ml strong black coffee with a dash of amaretto liqueur, to taste

To decorate

Icing sugar
 spongata della lunigiana

Preparation method

  1. Mix all the pastry ingredients together until you have a smooth dough
  2. Divide the dough into two – a slightly larger portion for the base and a smaller portion for the lid
  3. Roll the pastry out into two circular pieces to fit a 24 cm tart tin
  4. Grease the tart tin with butter and line it with the larger piece of pastry
  5. To make the filling; in a bowl mix together the dried fruit, nuts, orange zest, cocoa powder, sugar, butter, marmalade, and egg yolk
  6. When the filling is well mixed, add the coffee with amaretto
  7. Add the filling to the tart tin
  8. Cover with the pastry lid, using a little water to seal the edges together
  9. Bake at 180 degrees Centigrade for around 40 minutes
  10. Leave to cool and dust with icing sugar.

The spongata in the photo is also decorated with honey-glazed phyllo pastry and chopped pistachios.

Serve with a little chocolate sauce and honey, or alternatively with cream.

Ristorante Alla Piazza di Sopra
Piazza Immacolata 11
Filetto, Villafranca in Lunigiana, MS
Telephone 0187 493796/Cell 349 8783364
Email allapiazzadisopra@libero.it
Website: www.allapiazzadisopra.com

Open Tuesday to Sunday for lunch and dinner.

You may also be interested in Tiziana’s recipes for Lasagna Bastarde della Lunigiana and Torta di Castagne
Spongata, the Christmas speciality from Lunigiana appeared on Ciao Lunigiana on 17 December 2013.

Ristorante Alla Piazza di Sopra

About Ristorante Alla Piazza di Sopra

Alla Piazza di Sopra is located in the beautiful medieval square in the picturesque village of Filetto near Villafranca in Lunigiana. The restaurant offers an original and often unusual take on traditional dishes from Lunigiana, while using only the very best quality local ingredients. The recipes for many of the dishes served in the restaurant can be found in the cookbook, Piatti Chairi.

Alla Piazza di Sopra is a family affair, with mother and daughter, Tiziana and Laura in the kitchen, and daughter Chiara front of house. At busy times, other family members are on hand to help. But no matter how busy the restaurant, you will always receive a warm welcome and friendly advice on the day’s specialities.

Ristorante Alla Piazza di Sopra is consistently rated the top restaurant in the province of Massa Carrara on TripAdvisor.

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