by Simona Vitagliano
If in the collective imagination the Sicilian cassata certainly becomes part of the Christmas food scenario, as far as the pastiera is concerned, many think that it is a purely Easter dessert, although it is not uncommon to find it also proposed on the Christmas table: accomplices the genuine ingredients and the taste that make it really too irresistible to be consumed only once a year!
Although these are two completely different recipes, the two preparations have some raw materials in common: the pastiera, in fact, as the legend that we told you some time ago recalls, includes among the ingredients ricotta, candied fruit, wheat, eggs and flowers orange; the cassata, for its part, includes sheep’s ricotta, sugar, sponge cake, real pasta and candied fruit.
Still, the tastes of the final preparations will be very different from each other!
Those who prefer the pastiera at Christmas certainly have an intrinsic and greedy Neapolitan style that is impossible to dominate.
It is, in fact, a simple dessert, which has its roots in the Campania capital, among its myths, its rulers and its fishermen, and is the bearer of a real symbol of Naples in the world.
With the surface decorated with those strips of pasta arranged in squares, then, it recalls a frugal, country, humble table, taking on a very intense meaning for those who carry their city in their hearts, especially if belonging to the ranks of people who moved elsewhere for business or personal reasons.
Cassata, on the other hand, as we know is a Sicilian dessert – although, over time, it has also evolved into an entirely Neapolitan conception – of Arab origins: its recipe, in fact, has its roots in the domination in Sicily dating back to the IX-XI centuries ; on that occasion, the Arabs imported to the new territory products hitherto unknown to its inhabitants, such as sugar cane, cedar, mandarin, almond, bitter orange …
The first dough, it is said, took place in the hands of an Arab peasant, then arriving at the Emir’s court in Palermo, forged and baked in the oven by his cooks.
The Neapolitan cassata is nothing but a lighter version of the original one, with cow’s milk ricotta instead of sheep, without real pasta, with the sponge cake soaked in the proverbial Strega liqueur of our Benevento and covered with sugar glaze and simple decorations and tasty.
In short, although it is a simplified and more Neapolitan variant, one senses that those who prefer cassata are someone with a more sophisticated taste, more tied to the values of tradition (this is certainly the sweet prince of the Christmas holidays!) And oriented to make beautiful figure with the guests!
And which side are you on?