Ricciarelli: Siena’s sweets hailing from the far East.Local Traditions
Ricciarelli: Siena’s sweets hailing from the far East.
Alongside panforte, they are among Siena’s sweets that best represent the city. Just thinking about their orange and vanilla scent, soft texture and almond paste covered with a rich layer of icing sugar, is enough to make your mouth water. Why are they so called and what is their history?
Originally, they were known as ‘marzapanetti’ precisely because they were made of the typical almond paste. It seems that this had reached Siena from the Middle East, so much so that the word marzipan could derive both from the Burmese city of Martaban and also the Arabic word mauthban which refers to a container used precisely for marzipan sweets. It seems that it was Ricciardetto della Gherardesca who brought these delicacies to Siena upon returning from the Crusades. The sweets originating from the Middle East were supposedly called ‘ricciarelli’ because they resembled the tips of sultans' slippers.
In Siena these sweets were prepared by the apothecaries who had spices and aromas available to flavor and preserve food. Orange zest was added to the initial recipe with almond paste, sugar and egg white. They were allegedly served at Caterina Sforza's wedding party. In the historic center of Siena, near Piazza del Campo, there were many shops where ricciarelli and panforti were produced.
Even today, if you are in Siena, in the best pastry shops you can find handmade ricciarelli whose delicacy and taste cannot be described in words! What should you then do? That’s easily answered, just book our Siena food tour in the Palio city and taste them: just a single bite will feel like a journey that from the flavors of the Far East will transport you straight to Siena!
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