Panettone – Italy’s Beautiful Christmas Dessert

panettoneThe legend of panettone.

Well, actually there are several legends about the famous Italian sweet bread called panettone, but the one that is told most often (and the one I happen to like the best) is a love story …

panettone multi.001In the city of Milano, Italy, during the 15th century, there was a poor baker named Tony who had a beautiful daughter named Adalgisa. Naturally, Adalgisa caught the eye of a young man (probably many), but this particular young man, named Ughetto, happened to be wealthy. He fell in love with Adalgisa, but knew that his rich family would oppose him marrying a commoner.

Undaunted, Ughetto did what any young Italian man would do. He began secretly meeting his love very late at night – in the wee hours before dawn when Adalgisa went to work in her father’s bakery. 

Then a series of misfortunes befell Adalgisa’s father, Tony. His bakery began to lose clients and he became ill. Adalgisa was left to do all the work in the bakery. So, naturally, the gallant Ughetto stepped in and offered to assist her.

Not only that, since obtaining ingredients for making anything beyond basic bread was out of question for the poor Adalgisa, Ughetto sold some of his prized hawks to purchase butter for her to make a more special, tasty bread. It was a success!

When Ughetto decided to add some sugar to the recipe, the bread became even more popular and the bakery began to thrive. Not only that, his beloved Adalgisa was happy!

But Ughetto wasn’t finished yet. He improved upon the recipe once again by adding candied citrus fruits and eggs. At Christmas time he added raisins. More success! Tony’s bakery now became known throughout the city of Milano and Tony himself became wealthy.

That was good news for Ughetto, because his family would now approve his marriage to the daughter of a wealthy bakery owner, and so he and Adalgisa were, indeed, married, and their secret recipe for sweet, candied bread became more popular than ever. Other bakers even began to imitate the recipe and panettone became all the range in Milano, and eventually all throughout Italy.

Today panettone makes its way around the world at Christmas. The variations on Ughetto’s original recipe are seemingly endless, as are the ways to beautifully package this ever-popular sweet bread.

So here’s to Ughetto and Adalgisa and their recipe of love. Bello panettone!

Ready to try making your own panettone? Click here!


Pamela HaackPamela Haack is an author, specialized travel consultant and founder of Off the Beaten Strada where she creates and hosts custom retreats in central Italy, for travelers who wish to be immersed in the history, culture and traditions of the region.

Get your FREE copy of Pamela’s Italy Trip Planning Tips, plus her FREE Off the Beaten Strada ezine filled with recipes, regional stories, practical travel tips and news from off the beaten strada in the heart of Italy. Click here.

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