Migliaccio, a typical dessert of the Neapolitan carnival tradition, is perhaps less known than others, such as chiacchiere with black pudding and castagnole. Of course, we are talking about a fame outside Neapolitan boundaries, as there are no doubts about the fact that people in Naples have been loving and consuming this exquisite cake since a very long time. For those having a gap about this spectacular and very simple preparation, this article aims to remedy this lack.
Origins and history of Neapolitan migliaccio
Neapolitan migliaccio is, in all probability, one of the most ancient recipes of the Neapolitan tradition, as it seems to date back to the Middle Ages, around the year 1000. The name migliaccio (miliaccium) derives from an ingredient which today is not used anymore, millet, used because of the spreading of its cultivations in the Campania's territories. Therefore this cake was born because of the strong presence of millet, to which were added other ingredients easily available from farmers and breeders: eggs, milk, sugar and ricotta cheese (in the ancient recipe was expected goat cheese). Millet was later abandoned in favor of semolina, which is actually used in the current recipe. Another ingredient used in the original recipe was pig's blood, which is a further evidence of the peasant and poor origin of this preparation, as it was the most needy people who used this ingredient, considered extremely rich in nutrients. About pig's blood it seems there was an open dispute between the people and the Church, contrary to the use of this ingredient considered pagan. The opposition of the church could not however oppose the strength of traditions, as the same blood has been still used for a long time even for the preparation of the famous black pudding (with the addition of chocolate and spices, and often served with the above mentioned chiacchiere).
Neapolitan migliaccio: a home made cake of the Neapolitan tradition
The most fitting definition for Neapolitan migliaccio is perhaps that of a homemade cake, as it is a recipe very often prepared at home, rather than in a pastry shop. Therefore a simple dessert, keeping intact the tradition and the taste of preserving those typical recipes being almost part of a place folklore. In recent times, there is a great attention for traditional recipes, the flavors of the past and the rediscovery of customs in vogue when life was simpler and a slice of migliaccio was enough to bring a smile and to gather a family around the table.
Recipe of Neapolitan migliaccio
The procedure to prepare Neapolitan migliaccio is not complex, it could be said it is divided in two steps. These are the ingredients required for the basic version of the recipe: semolina, water, sugar, butter, ricotta cheese, eggs, vanilla, lemon, powdered sugar. The first step is bringing the liquids to a boil together with the butter and then gradually adding the semolina. The second step is to whip the eggs with sugar and ricotta cheese. The two compounds will then be combined and baked, once the semolina mixture has cooled. The final touch is a nice dusting of powdered sugar! Of course there is more than one version and more than one recipe, as it often happens for these sweets handed down from family to family. For example there are those who add orange peel instead of lemon peel, or use pure vanilla instead of vanillin in a bag. The type of ricotta cheese used can also vary, and in order to remain faithful to the original recipe, a copper pan should be used for cooking. Regardless of the variations, it remains a mouth-watering dessert, to be tried at least once.
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