Since December is the time of year when most Italians start preparing for the challenges of digestive overload, it would be difficult not to mention one of the most treasured products of our region: il torroncino (or small nougat) of S. Marco dei Cavoti.
There are two schools regarding the origin of the word torrone. References to it can be found as early as 100 B.C. in ancient Roman when it went under the name of “cupedia”, a term used to describe greed and lust for fine or delicate foods. Some say the word torrone comes from the Latin verb torréo, rrés, rrùi, stum meaning to roast, toast or tan, referring to the process of toasting the hazel nuts which are a prime ingredient in nougat. Others believe it stems from the word turùnda meaning flat loaf, cake or bun typical to the Mediterranean. Be that as it may, this exquisite delicacy made of honey, egg white, hazel nuts and almonds is a coveted treat that draws young and old to S. Marco dei Cavoti every year for the Festa del Torrone in December.
Nougat is made by slowly stirring honey in a double boiler over a low flame. At the same time a light caramel mixture is made with sugar and water, while egg whites are beaten until firm. All the ingredients are then mixed with the honey and nuts, then rolled onto a table sprinkled with powdered sugar after which it is cut into pieces.
The nougat of S. Marco dei Cavoti was developed in the 19th century by cavalier Innocenzo Borrillo and is particular because it is cut into bite-sized pieces and covered in rich, dark chocolate. It was a favorite of the Bourbon King of Naples Ferdinando I, but made its way quickly to the tables of popes and nobles all over Europe. The Borrillo family’s tiny jewel of a store still exists today.
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