Rice cake. Emilian or tuscany versions ?

A very old reecipe

by Alice Gabriellini


Both Tuscany, my native land, and Emilia Romagna, my adopted region, have always contended for the paternity of the rice cake. Nicknamed "Torta degli Addobbi" in the areas of Parma, Reggio Emilia and Bologna, it is instead known as "Torta alla carrarina" in the province of Massa Carrara, with that pinch of parochialism and egocentrism that distinguishes my fellow villagers.

Being part of a very ancient culinary heritage, it is difficult to trace the real origin of this dessert. In fact, some authoritative sources tell of its presence as early as 1470. Always from the analysis of historical testimonies, spring turns out to be the usual period for the preparation of this delicacy in all the territories in which it is known.

There is a basically practical reason for this. In fact, this is the season when the hens generate the most eggs, a fundamental and inescapable component of the dough. To this day, the tradition has not been broken: in Carrara it is typically cooked on the occasion of the day of St. Joseph, the patron saint of the city, while in Bologna and neighboring countries, it is served during the festivities in honor of Santa Rita.

The basic ingredients are the same: rice, milk, eggs, sugar and, finally, to flavor alchermes, a vanilla berry and the peel of an untreated lemon.

Despite being a cake already quite rich and substantial, since some versions even provide twelve eggs for a pan for four people, both the Emilian and Romagna recipes even bring the addition of peeled almonds, candied cedar and crumbled macaroons. However, the changes do not end there. In fact, the Torta degli Addobbi provides for a generous sprinkling of icing sugar on the surface: an unacceptable act in Tuscany.

And dear grandmother, if you are wondering how it is possible that I know all these things about emilian rice cake, I must confess that yes: I tasted it. I ask forgiveness for betraying your sacred recipe, although I must confess that the crunchy almond blends perfectly with the creaminess of the dough. If I were you one day I would try.

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