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Vero Italiano DOLCI

In his latest instalment in the series uncovering the secrets of Italian food, Mario Matassa looks at some regional and seasonal delights of irresistible Italian home baked biscuits and cakes that you can recreate in your kitchen

There can be nothing more evocative and comforting than the wafting aromas of freshly baked biscuits and cakes. Bound up in childhood memories of hearth and home, this feeling runs deep in our collective subconscious – a nostalgia for the welcoming warmth of the kitchen and trays of indulgent treats hot from the oven. It’s not surprising that so many recipes are handed down from generation to generation.

In Italy, it is thought that the first desserts were baked doughs enhanced with natural sweetening ingredients like dried fruits and honey – refined sugars only became available in more recent times, and then commanded such a premium it was only the aristocrats who could afford to add this luxury to their desserts.

One historic dessert is the panforte of medieval Siena, not as dense as its more modern variations, but with similarities to the simpler and lighter bisciola della Valtellina fruit bread in our recipe opposite. In fact, many of the country’s famed desserts incorporate the word pane (bread) in their names – the most obvious being the panettone of Milan, and the pandoro of Verona. Others include the pandolce of Genoa, the Roman pangiallo, and Ferrara’s pampepato.

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About Italia!

True to form, this issue is packed with fascinating features and articles covering the Italian peninsula. You’ll love the evocative account of a visit to Genoa – our cover star this month – there is so much to see and admire, and take a boat trip out onto the Venetian lagoon to explore the forgotten islands, all with poignant tales to tell. Our newest writer Anna takes us on a tour of the Alta Maremma, once a marshy swamp and now the home to some of the finest wines in Italy, while the Po Delta is the destination for a weekend away.