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.
For the pastry250g white flour 100g sugar 150g butter 1 egg grated rind of one lemon salt to taste
For the filling50g 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 decorateIcing sugar
- Mix all the pastry ingredients together until you have a smooth dough
- Divide the dough into two – a slightly larger portion for the base and a smaller portion for the lid
- Roll the pastry out into two circular pieces to fit a 24 cm tart tin
- Grease the tart tin with butter and line it with the larger piece of pastry
- To make the filling; in a bowl mix together the dried fruit, nuts, orange zest, cocoa powder, sugar, butter, marmalade, and egg yolk
- When the filling is well mixed, add the coffee with amaretto
- Add the filling to the tart tin
- Cover with the pastry lid, using a little water to seal the edges together
- Bake at 180 degrees Centigrade for around 40 minutes
- 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.
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.