December 19, 2018 adminIFAW

Italy offers a large variety of Christmas sweets, typical regional, including some that start with the word “pane” or “pan”. But they are not all truly bread. And they’re definitely not all the same and are very different from each other.

Here’s how to tell the difference between them!

Pangiallo: history cake from Lazio                          

Pangiallo has ancient origins. Pagan Romans baked up pangiallo’s predecessor during the winter solstice as offerings to facilitate the sun’s return. From Rome and the Lazio region, pangiallo, a golden yellow (giallo) bread filled with nuts, raisins, spices, and candied fruit (including lime and orange peels). The nuts, though, are a recent addition; previously, Romans used dried plum and apricot kernels instead, since nuts were simply too expensive. A great match: Fragolino or Moscatello Viterbese or Aleatico Passito.


Panpepato (Umbria – Tuscany – Emilia Romagna)

Panpepato is not really a bread, either, panpepato (“spiced bread”) is a heavy gingerbread cake spiced with cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, honey, nuts, dark chocolate, and candied fruit. It dates back to 15th century Ferrara, although some say its origins are Umbrian and Tuscan, and the cake’s shape is supposed to look like a clergyman’s cap. In 1465, the first reference to panpepato showed up in writing in no less than a record book for the noble house of d’Esta. We suggest a great sweet wine: Sagrantino Passito


Panforte, a Christmas sweet from Siena (Tuscany)

Panforte: Despite the name, this isn’t really a bread at all. Instead, it’s a chewy, dense fruitcake from Siena, heavily flavored with honey, cloves, coriander, cinnamon and white pepper. Thanks to its durability, Crusaders carried panforte with them on their quests. Records showing that cakes of panforte even were paid to Senese monastery as a kind of tithe in 1205! What do you think with a Vin Santo of Chianti?


Pandolce famous in Liguria

Pandolce: Meaning “sweet bread,” pandolce is the variety from Genova. Legend has it that the famed 16th-century Doge of Genova, Andrea Doria, invited Genovese chefs to submit recipes for a food that would represent the Republic’s wealth, as well as be nutritious, durable and suitable for long sea voyages—and so pandolce was born. It’s dense, crumbly, and filled with spices and candied fruits. According to tradition, a part of the pandolce should be set aside for the poor, while another should be kept for the feast day of St. Blaise on Feb. 3. We remain in Liguria with a Cinque Terre Sciacchetrà.


Pandoro, popular in Verona and Venice (Veneto)

Pandoro: This sweet Christmas is dusted with powdered sugar and star-shaped. The name Pandoro means “bread of gold,” and since white bread cost a lot in the Middle Ages and was consumed only by the wealthy, that’s exactly what this would have seemed like to the Veronese families who pinched pennies to enjoy this treat once a year!

Today, you’ll sometimes see a hole cut in pandoro and filled with chantilly cream or gelato. Serve it with Recioto della Valpolicella or Recioto di Soave.


Panettone, one of the most famous Italian Christmas sweets (Lombardy)

Panettone, hailing from Milan, is a sweet, dome-shaped bread loaf studded with raisins and candied citrus peels. Interestingly, the dough takes several days to make: Like sourdough, it has to be cured. Serve it up with either a hot beverage or a sweet wine like Moscato d’Asti or, better, Moscadello di Montalcino.

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