Riesi Mastazzola

Ark of taste
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Riesi Mastazzola

Mostacciòli or mostazzòli (and many other variations) refer to traditional sweets made by many communities in Mediterranean Italy and particularly Sicily. This ancient term derives from the Latin mustaceum, sweet cakes made with grape must, cooked on bay leaves.
The ingredients and texture of the mostaccioli vary greatly, not only from region to region, but also within the same region. Within Sicily, the same name is used for very different sweets. Riesi’s "mastazzòla” have unique characteristics. Their shape and diamond decorations are shared by other versions (including those from nearby Ragusa and more distant Erice) and probably represent characteristics from the ancestral prototype. What differentiates them and makes them unique is an unusual ingredient: carob syrup. The other ingredients include durum wheat flour, cinnamon, cloves , sugar, almonds and orange zest, but also bay leaves (recalling the Roman mustaceum).
Several of these ingredients, like bay, orange and almonds, are typical of Mediterranean cuisine and are also traditional local crops. But the use of carob, rich in protein, vitamins and minerals and traditionally found in various forms in the Mediterranean diet as well as in popular medicine, is particularly worthy of note. Carob trees are typically grown in the Sicilian hills, but sadly their cultivation is being gradually abandoned. The unusual flavor that comes from the carob means the mastazzola have little in common with the “standard” tastes of globalized sweets, meaning their production and consumption have been limited.
The most similar sweets to those of Riesi are the mustazzoli from around Ragusa, which use vino cotto, cooked wine, instead of carob syrup. One theory links the origin of mastazzola to the history of Riesi. The town was founded in 1647 and was originally the location of important sulfur mines, which until the 18th century attracted laborers from the surrounding areas. Workers from the province of Ragusa, who came to Riesi at some point, could have brought their typical sweets with them, and over time the vino cotto was replaced by carob. Or perhaps, as sometimes happens in communities of emigrants, they might have stayed faithful to the original recipe while the tradition evolved and changed in Ragusa.
These days, the mastazzola are primarily prepared at home for Christmas, but they can also be found in some local pastry shops and bakeries.

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Production area:Riesi (Caltanissetta province)

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Cakes, pastries and sweets