From Sicily with Chocolate
February 3, 2022
Modica in southeastern Sicily, is a UNESCO world heritage site, known for its magnificent baroque buildings, including and the imposing (duomo) dedicated to Saint George, revered patron saint of the city. Every year in April, a huge festival in his honor occurs when the saint is carried out of the cathedral on his mighty white steed and carried through the streets of upper and lower Modica. Of course. food is part of the celebration and Modica is famous for its chocolate, introduced by the Spaniards who brought it from Mexico, courtesy of the Aztecs, who used it in drinks and in cooking. According to renowned Sicilian author, Leonardo Sciascia , the quality of Modica chocolate is unmatched anywhere in the world as he noted in one of his writings:
Modican chocolate is unparalleled in savor and tasting it is like reaching the ultimate, the absolute. Chocolate produced elsewhere is an adulteration, a corruption of the original.
The chocolate was very bitter and used to enrich sauces for meats, grated for vegetable dishes like eggplant and eaten on its own. It was just a matter of time before the most famous pastry shop in Modica, Antica Dolceria Bonajuto, dating back back to the 1880’s would mix chocolate with finely ground meat as a filling for cookies called ‘mpanatigghi, meaning to wrap or cover and is said to derive from the Spanish word, empanada. At first, I thought the combination was strange but one bite and I was a believer. Why the meat? This was a way of preserving meat before the days of refrigeration. Modica chocolate is available on line and specialty chocolate shops. Make some for Valentines Day! The recipe that follows is from my book Ciao Italia: My Lifelong Food Adventures in Italy.