The Tuscia is a land of wonders: intact medieval villages, lakes, woods, history, culture and – being in Italy – delicious food, of course. This fertile, volcanic land produces an incredible array of top quality products that tell a story of ancient traditions. Christmas time is without a doubt the best period for food lovers to visit this part of Lazio. As the locals slow down to enjoy some quality time with their families and prepare their meals with extra care, getting out grandma’s recipe book from the cupboard, the restaurant and patisserie owners in the area give their best to greet the visitors, cuddling them with delicious food. Some execute the traditional recipes in a rather strict way, some others prefer to give them a more modern twist: never mind personal inclinations, rest assured that wherever you eat at Christmas time in Tuscia you will definitely taste some of the best ingredients available in the Bel Paese.
Hazelnuts, chestnuts and walnuts end up in cakes, cookies and puddings. In some parts of Tuscia, they are also used to prepare pasta and other savoury dishes. Pangiallo, panpepato, tozzetti, torroni and mostaccioli are on display in every patisserie’s window and on the stalls at the numerous Christmas Markets present almost in every town and village. They look nice, they smell nice, they taste even better!
Old recipes that keep alive a gourmet tradition
Among the cakes prepared during the Festive Season, the pangiallo (literally: yellow bread) from Viterbo is probably the one the boasts the oldest recipe. Shaped like a bread loaf – hence its name – the pangiallo is an explosion of flavours as it is prepared using all the typical ingredients coming from the nearby Cimini mountains: hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds are finely chopped and mixed with dried figs, cinnamon, chocolate an honey, which gives it its yellow colour. For centuries its recipe has been handed down from mother to daughter and each family had its own secret ingredient to personalize it. Nowadays it is available online and in recipe books but to make it perfect the original ingredients from Tuscia are necessary, so try the real pangiallo whilst you are in Viterbo to experience its original flavour and do not forget to do some food shopping before you leave.
Another unmissable dish of the season – usually served on Christmas Eve – is the Maccheroni con le noci (maccheroni pasta with walnuts). Do not be fooled by the Maccheroni: this pasta dish is actually sweet as it is prepared with hazelnuts, chocolate, sugar, cinnamon and biscuits. It is probably the strangest pasta dish you will ever try but do try it as it is simply delicious. It is usually served as a dessert at the end of the meal but some offer it as a starter as well.