In this week’s #NIAFblog, our guest blogger, Jenifer Landor – founder of Live and Learn Italian – offers a fascinating look into the culture and traditions of small Italian towns in the Apennine hills.
A large rotating vat – which looks almost like a cement mixer – slowly turns in the back room of the little shop, the oldest dolciaria in Molise. Here, confetti ricci are being produced from a recipe unique to the Carosella family. They have been making dolce here since 1839.
Fire is still at the heart of most of the town’s artisan work, and creating confetti ricci is no different. It takes 7-8 hours of slow rotation over the flame to fully coat Sicilian almonds in the special syrup, one ladle at a time. Although high in the Apennine hills, where temperatures usually remain very pleasant, this summer was hotter than usual, so Roberta began working through the night. The basin holds about 15 kilos of almonds, and with all those summer weddings, work is pretty constant.
Most small businesses in Molise are passed down from father to son; in this case, it was from grandfather to granddaughter. Roberta grew up seeing her grandparents hand-make all the confectionery. She would come to watch, and play, and – of course – to taste, and in time, she knew she couldn’t see the business pass into the hands of an outsider, so she took it on herself.
Confetti, sugared almonds, are famous all over Italy, but the Carosella version are soft and chewable (and, I think, much more delicious then traditional ones). Roberta told us that during the war, confetti were impossible to get hold of, and because of the longstanding tradition – you have to have confetti to bring luck to the bride and groom – the townsfolk would bring her grandfather whatever they had; hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds – imploring him to make them into confetti.
So his grandfather devised a method to sugarcoat the nuts, and the result was not a hard coating, but a soft one – confetti ricci. These are now the most famous product of the Dolciaria Carosella, today sent all over the world. Unlike confetti, confetti ricci are fresh, and need to be consumed within 10 days, so orders have to be carefully scheduled. Anna, Roberta’s assistant, deftly makes up beautiful little bags, 10 in each– white for weddings, blue or pink for a christening, and red for a graduation!
Other specialties of the house are mostaccioli – little chocolate biscuits filled with sour cherry, Le Paste Imperiali – created for a visit to the shop from Vittorio Emanuele himself, Le Ostie di Agnone – wafers filled with chopped nuts, chocolate, orange peel and honey (allegedly created by a nun who, when she spilled her cake ingredients, scooped it up with a communion wafer), and a hot favorite of mine, tegole – in the shape of terracotta roof tiles; almonds, miraculously woven into a light, crunchy biscuit! All the fruit is from the family orchards, recipes have been passed down the generations, and presentation and packaging is sublime.
On a tour of the local shops, our guests meet craftsmen, shopkeepers and food producers, getting to know some of the town’s stories and history. Carosella has it all – a beautiful old shop, a family story, long traditions, and excellent quality products, generously offered to us for tasting.
You can visit their website here.
LIVE AND LEARN ITALIAN offers language and culture holidays in the small historic town of Agnone, Alto Molise, far from tourism. Mature students of Italian come to live among a friendly community to practice, improve, listen and engage. Cook with the locals, visit family businesses, and discover the culture and history of a beautiful region.