After yesterday's little cookie-amuse start to my contribution to this month's SHF/IMBB event, I wanted to take you today to have a look at a delicious example of culinary melting-pot recipe from Sicily: 'mpanatigghi.
'Mpanatigghi or Impanatigghi are a typical sweet from Modica, but this superficially simple fact hides a much deeper historic background. Although there is no certainty that the tale went as I'm about to tell you, it is not too risky to imagine the following ingredients were needed. Take a few the Sicilian nuns, inventors of some of the islands most intriguing sweets. Take a couple of Spanish priests. Send them first to the Americas, where they learn about chocolate, then have them introduce the godly product to Europe, and clearly also in the Spanish domains in Southern Italy, hence in Sicily too. Take the Catholic dietary rules for Lent, forbidding meat consumption. And last, but not least, keep those Arabic influences in Sicily, especially the spices, and the Spanish Empanadas in mind. You have it all? You ready to go on then!
Now imagine that those inventive nuns in Modica. It's the evening just before Lent and they have this nice piece of beef left. It would be a waste to throw it away, right? Maybe there's a way to store it somehow, or – forgive the thought – to disguise the meat somehow. Maybe, at the same time, one of the nuns was just preparing a huge batch of empanadas dough; there's plenty left for some "special" filling. Our nuns get to work: a classic cover-up and camouflage mission! After some hard brain work they take a little of these Arabic spices, some of that chocolate the Jesuits brought back from the Americas, and a lot of those unmissable almonds. They grind the meat and mix everything together. Could anyone imagine there's meat there?
From that day on those "special" empanadas become famous. After some time their name changed, maybe to "impanate" first and then to the modern impanatigghi. They're indeed still made with beef today, and no, they don't taste of meat at all, those nuns knew what they were doing. They're rich, slightly spicy with almost a Medieval taste. If you ever pass by Modica don't miss them.
P.S. The impanatigghi above are, once more, from the Antica Dolceria Bonajuto, and taste delicious as all the products of Bonajuto.