Mimina’s tasty Christmas pastries ceci ripieni are a little different to those we eat up in the province of Teramo and called caggionetti. They team chickpeas, almonds and dark chocolate and coat them in the town of Prezza’s famous mosto cotto, encasing them in a soft egg based fried pastry that easily fools you into having six with an espresso!
The vermouth used in the pastry adds contrast to the sweet middle, which even though you only add a couple of tablespoons of mosto cotto into comes through and helps cut down on the sugar required. I’ll never understand why mosto cotto isn’t more readily available outside Italy, it’s the closest you can get to having sweet summer in a syrup; no wonder it was adored by the Romans who used it in everything. Try using Port as a substitute in this recipe if you cannot find it locally.
I met Mimina, the recipe author, on a week’s Italian cooking holiday in Prezza, nicknamed the balcony of Abruzzo. This small quaint town nuzzled between Pratola Peligna and Sulmona has been described by Vanity Fair as the place to stay in Abruzzo. I do think it is one of its friendliest which is not an easy accolade to achieve. She is the local butcher’s wife, and cousin of the chef that runs this Abruzzo food tour. It’s worth visiting Prezza just to sample their home-made salami and guanciale which were some of the best I have tried in Abruzzo. They’re easy to find, they sit at the top-right of the piazza, just look for the tumble of geraniums. After sharing her secret Christmas stuffing recipe, she taught us all how to make amazing sausages, a simple porchetta recipe and the recipe for these ‘ceci ripeni’ which I was intrigued by, having only experienced the chestnut caggionetti pastries previously.
If you get to Prezza and like mosto cotto take a detour down the road to the nearby cherry town of Raiano and visit Bar Aterno for a mosto cotto ice-cream using Prezza’s Praesidium mosto cotto. Its incredible ice-creams are all organic and it’s listed in Italy’s Top 100 artisan ice cream makers.