While most people know Italian food for its divine pizza, pasta, and gelato, many are unaware that Italy also boasts an impressive variety of holiday breads in its culinary repertoire. In fact, Italy has a longer tradition of holiday breads than any of the aforementioned foods!
Here is a list of five must-try sweet breads when visiting Italy during the holidays:
Panettone – originally from Milan, this sweet bread contains candied orange, citron, and lemon zest. It is often served with a sweet hot beverage or sweet wine, and is the most well-known Italian holiday bread.
Pandoro – called pan d’oro (literally, “golden bread”) for its long history as the choice holiday treat of Italian nobles and aristocrats since the 1st century B.C. It’s a star-shaped sweet bread that is dusted with vanilla-scented icing sugar, so that it resembles the snowy peaks of the Italian Alps during Christmas.
Panpepato – the most versatile of the Italian holiday breads, panpepato has a wide range of possible ingredients, including almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts, pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, orange zest, cocoa, and honey. Each family’s recipe is different! (And they will all tell you it’s the best)
Panforte – hailing from Siena, panforte is the predecessor of the American fruitcake. Panforte translates to “strong bread,” probably in reference to its peppery flavor (in fact, it used to be called panpepato, “peppered bread”). It is made by dissolving sugar in honey, then mixing in flour, nuts, fruits, and spices.
Pangiallo – Lazio’s contribution to the holiday bread catalog. Made from a mixture of dried fruit, honey, and cedar candy, its invention dates all the way back to Imperial Rome.