The spouses ciambella (in dialect ciammella) is a typical dessert from Rocca di Papa, a mountain village in Castelli Romani in the province of Rome. It has a round shape and medium size (about 12 centimetres in diameter, although today the size of doughnuts for everyday consumption has decreased). Its surface is brushed with egg white and sprinkled with grains of sugar. It turns a golden colour after it is cooked. The dough is prepared with simple ingredients: flour, eggs, sugar, extra virgin olive oil, aniseed, cherry liqueur, yeast, salt and grated lemon peel. The consistency is crunchy and crumbly, and it smells like eggs, combined with olive oil and liqueurs. It has a rather sweet taste, with a very persistent light salty note.
Today the doughnuts are eaten on different occasions and at various times of the day. Often at breakfast or as a snack, but also as a dessert at the end of a meal. However, originally, they were the main food used in rituals related to marriage and represented a wish of happiness to the spouses.
These sweets were traditionally brought to the friends and relatives of the bride and groom as a gift to invite them to join the party. Very precise rules were followed when they were handed out which varied according to the relationship between the recipients and the spouses. Friends and neighbours were entitled to 6 ciambella, 8 for wedding guests and cousins, 12 ciambella were for uncles and grandparents and 24 for the god parents. These were wrapped in white tissue paper and delivered by the children of the family. Traditionally it was the mothers of the couple who chose the ovens and bought the ingredients.
In the village there were several community ovens, which were recognisable by the bundles of firewood accumulated outside the entrance. The products were prepared at home and brought to the oven to be cooked.
Relatives and friends were also invited to participate in the preparation of the ciambella, whereas the newlyweds were not allowed to make them.
The job of making the ciambella was handed down from mother to daughter for over two hundred years, until the last real ciambella disappeared. In recent years, the custom of giving this sweet to announce a wedding seemed to have been lost, replaced by the less demanding classic wedding favours.
Today, however, many families are reviving this ritual and some bakeries in the town have taken up the traditional recipe and bake the ciambella daily. In addition, since 2012 the spouses ciambella festival has been established, so that this ancient tradition can be celebrated. The event is organised every year in Rocca di Papa in September.