Christmas sweets from the Amalfi Coast

On the Amalfi Coast the most authentic Christmas traditions are found in the kitchen and above all in the typical desserts. In addition to the classic panettone and pandoro, there are countless proposals for Christmas desserts, the recipes of which are handed down from generation to generation.

What are the Christmas desserts of the Amalfi Coast? Here are 5 delicacies that will make your mouth water just looking at them.

The susamielli

Susamielli are the Christmas dessert par excellence of the Amalfi Coast and in fact they are never missing on the table during the holidays. These are biscuits with the characteristic S shape which are prepared with flour, sugar, almonds and honey, and flavored with cinnamon, pepper and nutmeg. They were originally called sesames because they were covered in sesame seeds. In ancient times they were prepared in three different versions: the “susamielli nobili“, made with top quality white flour for illustrious guests; the “susamielli dello zampognaro“, made with raw flour and recycled ingredients, to be offered to poor guests or bagpipers; and the “susamielli of the good path“, intended for priests and filled with black cherry jam.

The struffoli

Loved by adults and children alike, struffoli are among the most emblematic symbols of Christmas tables on the Amalfi Coast, as throughout Campania. You will certainly have seen and tasted them: they are small balls of dough (made with a simple dough based on flour, eggs, sugar, butter and aniseed liqueur) which are fried, soaked in honey and decorated with colored sugared almonds (also called diavolilli ) and candied fruit. They have a thousand-year history behind them. It seems that the Greeks brought them to Naples during the times of Partenope. And the name also derives from Greek: precisely from the word “strongoulos”, which describes the “rounded” shape.

The roccocò

Among the Christmas desserts of the Amalfi Coast we also find roccocò. They are dry donut-shaped biscuits, whose dough is based on honey, almonds, candied fruit and pisto (a mixture of spices typical of the Neapolitan culinary tradition). Its origins are very ancient: it was prepared in convents as early as the fourteenth century during the Christmas holidays. The etymology of the word roccocò refers to “artificial rock“, since this dessert has a particularly hard consistency, so much so that it is recommended for those with healthy and robust teeth. To soften it, it is soaked in liqueur wines. However, today it is also prepared in a softer version, suitable for children and the elderly.

The mostaccioli

Photo © Regione Campania – Agricoltura

Mostaccioli, also known as mustacciuoli, are another typical Christmas dessert on the Amalfi Coast. But they are widespread throughout Southern Italy, with different names and many regional variations. In any case, they are diamond-shaped biscuits covered in chocolate icing. Its traditional recipe uses all the festive ingredients: honey, candied fruit and a mix of fragrant spices. Regarding the origin of the name, there are two hypotheses. According to the first, it derives from the Latin “mustum”, meaning must, an ingredient present in the recipe in ancient times. However, for the second they are called this because their shape recalls that of mustaches, the thick and long mustaches worn by gentlemen of other times.

The calzoncelli

Photo © Regione Campania – Agricoltura

We conclude this roundup of Christmas desserts from the Amalafi Coast with calzoncelli (cazunciell’), also known as Christmas pastries. As well as in the province of Salerno, they are widespread in the Sannio Beneventano area and in Irpinia. They are small fried parcels (half-moon shaped) of very thin dough prepared with flour, sugar, white wine, salt and eggs. The filling consists of chocolate, pine nuts, dried pears, cocoa, coffee, flavorings and chestnut puree. The latter constitutes its characteristic ingredient. It can have different shapes but generally the edges are fringed and the laces are folded alternately to create a lace.