One of the oldest recipes in Abruzzo that takes form in various guises is for the famous calcionetti, cavcinitt, caggntt’ or caciunitt – deep-fried ravioli-shaped small pastries with a filling. The name and stuffing vary in different areas of Abruzzo. The most common are either a mixture of chickpeas sweetened with concentrated grape must or with just a basic grape jam. There are few homes in Abruzzo where some version is not made during the festive Christmas season.
When I first came to live in Abruzzo, the only recipe I knew was the chickpea version, which my family in Australia made religiously every Christmas. But my mother-in-law, Donnina, introduced me to an amazing version of calcionetti with honey and almonds. Her son, now my husband, is a beekeeper, so her supply of honey was abundant and it was her recipe of choice.
While in my town of Tocco da Casauria, where she lived and where I live now, the chickpea version was the norm, and she introduced her recipe from the province of Chieti to the locals. Considered the expert of the honey and almond calcionetti, Donnina eventually started making them for the whole town during the Christmas season.
Honey has accompanied, often behind the scenes, the history of Italian nourishment from the remote past to our current days. Used by the Etruscans as a votive offering, honey was mentioned for the first time by the Romans in detailed descriptions of its culinary usage, which was that of a sauce for savoury dishes.
Today, in Italian cuisine, honey is mostly used in desserts such as torrone, panforte and fritters. Honey is a favoured ingredient in southern cuisine, as the Southern part of Italy has experienced the strong influence of the Arabs, whose palates have a preference for sweet and sour combinations. A spoonful of honey can sweeten a glass of tea, turn a plain piece of bread into a treat, glaze a delicious barbecued sparerib, or serve as the basis for an unforgettable salad dressing.
See Connie’s mother-in-law’s recipe for calcionetti in the June issue of ABRUZZISSIMO Magazine. Click here to subscribe.
By Connie De Vincentis. Connie runs a home restaurant and cooking school in Tocco da Casauria.
Watch a live cooking demonstration below to learn how to make calcionetti.