Only a few places in the world can offer their visitors such a rich variety of local food and wine products: you just need to step in a bakery or a restaurant in Modica in order to get overwhelmed by an explosion of smells, shapes and colors that will disclose all Sicily’s magic flavors.

The Sicilian Cassata’s chromatic richness, the Modica chocolate’s captivating smell, the local wine’s quality and the fresh fish cooked with creativity and love for traditions: you cannot really ever get to know Sicily if you don’t try its cuisine.

The time before Easter is when you can really understand how true this is: in this time of the year Modica’s pastry-making expresses itself through a profusion of sweets and delicacies, which are prepared as reward to the devotees for their Lenten fasting. The Mpanatigghi are a bizarre traditional dessert made of chocolate and, it’s hard to believe it, beef.

Etymology tells us where its name comes from: the “empanadas” or “empanadillas” are sweet ravioli that most likely were introduced by the Spaniards in the 16th century. There is a legend about its recipe: some nuns in a monastery unintentionally invented this dessert by hiding ground beef inside some chocolate and almond cookies that, in Lent, the nuns used to give to brothers and sisters from other cloisters. This way, the preachers could restore energies despite the fasting.

If during your stay in Modica you had the chance to taste it, you probably got curious to know the recipe: here it is!

MODICA ‘MPANATIGGHI’S MAIN INGREDIENTS:

  • 400g re-milled bread flour
  • 100g sugar
  • 100g lard
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 egg
  • 1 coffee cup of wine (such as Marsala)

For the filling:

  • 180g sugar
  • 300g almonds
  • 300g ground beef
  • 100g walnuts
  • 100g chocolate (better if Modica chocolate)
  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves

DIRECTIONS

Place the flour on your worktop, and make a well in the middle. There you put the yolks and the egg. Mix everything and then add the sugar, the coffee cup of Marsala and the lard. Keep on kneading until you obtain a soft and smooth dough. Let it rest in a cool and dry place for 40 minutes.

In the meantime, you can prepare the filling: put the ground beef in a pan and, on a low fire, brown it on a few drops of olive oil.

Finely chop the almonds, the walnuts and the dark chocolate. When the meat gets cool, add the chopped chocolate, the dried fruit, the sugar, the cinnamon, and the crushed cloves and mix all together.

Knead the dough for some minutes and then make some 2mm-thick dough sheets. Cut some circles out of the sheets and put the filling on the half of each circle. Fold over the half without filling to make a half-moon shape and seal the edges. Grease a baking pan with oil and place all the ‘mpanatigghi on it, separating them from each other. Score their surface by making small cuts and then bake at 180 degrees for 20-30 minutes until golden.

Take them out of the oven, let them cool and then dust with powdered sugar. Now they are ready to be served, together with a glass of Marsala, of Rosolio or a glass of passito.