Monday, 23 December 2013

PANPEPATO SABINO - Il Gusto del Natale in Sabina.

Winter view of Catino, courtesy of Giorgio Clementi
The olive harvest is over, the days are colder, the nights are longer, and snow begins to decorate the postcard-perfect hilltowns of the Sabina. It's that time again.

In the light and greenery-doecrated piazze of towns and villages throughout the Sabina, from Passo Corese to Antrodoco, from Monteleone to Montebuono, Christmas Markets are being held.  

Christmas Market in Poggio Mirteto, courtesy of Alessandra Finiti

In these stalls you can buy all sorts of wonderful gifts, from local arts and crafts, hand-made soaps, decorations and toys, local wines and cheeses, the newly harvested Sabina D.O.P. olio novello, and all sorts of delicious cakes and confections, some internationally familiar, and some not so familiar...

In this post, I would like to introduce to you a Sabine Christmas treat called Panpepato. As you can see in the poster below advertising the Sagra, or festival, held in its honour in the town of Collevecchio, this is sometimes spelled Pampepato

Panpepato, sometimes translated as gingerbread, means literally "peppered bread". Panpepato has existed in various versions throughout central Italy from as far back as the middle ages. Recipes vary from region to region, from town to town, even from family to family.  

The most internationally famous version is Panforte from Siena in Tuscany. This is exported and sold in stores in Canada and the US, and likely most parts of Europe around Christmas time.

Panforte Siennese photo courtesy of Wikipedia
The "forte" or "strong" in the name comes from the fact that the cake was heavily spiced with black pepper.  

This particular version of Panpepato Sabino comes from our friends Fiorenzo Francioli and his wife Antonella Bigi who live in the historic town of Montebuono Sabino. 

If you have followed this blog for a while, you will know that Fiorenzo works with the ProLoco of Montebuono and that he is an avid motorcyclist. Richard and I first met Fiorenzo a couple of years back when we wanted to visit the hill town of Fianello...

Fianello and its pentagonal tower courtesy of Matteo Bordini via
...and the fascinating, recently restored medieval churches of Santa Maria Assunta...


...and San Pietro ai Muricento--both which are built atop the ruins of ancient Roman villas...

Courtesy of I Luoghi di Cuore
As part of his work to promote Montebuono and all its historic and cultural treasures, Fiorenzo organises a popular motorcycle tour of the region called Andar per Olio e per Cultura that attracts over a 120 participants each year.
Photo courtesy of Claudio D'Artibale
Fiorenzo and his wife Antonella are not only skilled cooks, but they are also very accomplished bakers -- they have a wood fired bread oven in their home kitchen! Over the past month or so I have been following with envy Fiorenzo's pasta making and bread making exploits on Facebook.

A recent post of his about Panpepato, re-posted by another of our friends, Alessandra Finiti, reminded me that I wanted to try my hand at Panpepato Sabino, especially since it was a recipe that came from our friends in Montebuono. 

Photo courtesy of Fiorenzo Francioli and Antonella Bigi
So, here is Fiorenzo and Antonella's recipe for


 Almonds - 100 g
 Hazelnuts - 100g
 Walnuts - 100g
 Candied peel ( orange peel ) - 100 g
 Sultana raisins - 100 g
 Dark chocolate - 150 g
 Honey - 200g
 2 tsp Cinnamon
 1 tsp ground Nutmeg
 fresh cracked Black Pepper
 White Flour

The ingredients with the hazelnuts not yet chopped

Soak the raisins in warm water for at least 20 minutes before you prepare the other ingredients. 


Chop walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts and chocolate. 


Put these in a large mixing bowl. 

Add the candied fruit, a couple of teaspoons of cinnamon, one tsp nutmeg, a generous sprinkling of ground black pepper...

...and finally the wrung out raisins.

Turn on the oven and set it to a temperature of 180°C/356°F. Prepare a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.

In a saucepan, heat the honey and some water over low heat. Bring the honey to a boil. 

Pour immediately over the ingredients in the bowl so that the chocolate melts. 

Hot honey!

At this point add some flour, a bit at a time,  mixing all the time. 

The resulting mixture should have the right consistency to be able to shape the rolls to be placed on the baking sheet. 


You can prepare 5 to 6 pieces depending on the size.

Bake for 10 minutes.

Remove the cakes from the oven and let them cool down before you remove them from the pan. 

Although the recipe did not call for it...

...we gave our Panpepato a light dusting of confectioner's sugar. 

The Panpepato can be stored for a couple of weeks in a cool place in tin containers, and can be easily wrapped in cellophane to give as gifts...


So there you have it everyone, a wonderful recipe that brings the taste and tradition of the Sabina to your home. 

Casperia, courtesy of Giorgio Clementi

The recipe is so easy, and the results are delicious. Just ask my Mom!

My mother taking her first taste of Panpepato Sabino after Christmas Dinner 2013

Thanks to all of you who have been reading and supporting me in the writing of this blog. Richard and Smokey and I wish you Buon Natale, and every good wish for a happy, healthy, prosperous, and love-filled 2017. Stay tuned for more posts. Alla prossima!!!