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- Ancient flavours and fragrances of the Sorrentine Peninsule -

The works of arts of the Sorrentine Peninsula's culinary art to honour the Patron Saints


(Translated by Marianna Mastro)

The maccheroni 'ncasciati is a typical work of art of the Sorrentine Peninsula’s culinary art whose origin recalls probably to the Pre Colombian age and its name must have been “maccheroni ‘ncaciati” that is without the “s” to indicate the type of dressing used - covered with cheese - also the type of pasta used for this dish was similar to the “lasagne” and not the cut “zito” or the “mezzani” if we consider that the term “maccherone” in the past was used to indicated any type of pasta, as well as its dressing didn’t require neither the tomato nor the chocolate.

From time immemorial this dish has been chosen by the citizens of the town of Piano to honour their Patron Saint: Saint Michael in occasion of his Patron Feast.

Annota la ricetta

In order to obtain a perfect result of this dish, it’s necessary to slightly fry in 100 gr. of olive oil two onions, add 500 gr. of pork chops and quickly after, add a glass or dry white wine. Continue to cook until the fat of the meat is all in the saucepan and the meat has come off from the bone and has rolled to the centre of the bone. At this point mince some basil leaves with the fingers; as soon as the basil withers, take the pan away from the fire and add a hand full of raisins from Smyrna or sultana, together with a hand full of walnut kernels, wait a few minutes in order for the raisins to soften. In the meantime, in another pan the pasta is cooked and well drained and mix in a bowl the sauce and the pasta covering everything abundantly with the grated cheese of the ‘head’ of a well-seasoned caciocavallo (local cheese).


The lunch of Saint Michael is concluded with the usual “dulcis in fundo” of the Scuola Medica Salernitana, which are stuffed eggplants covered with chocolate. The origin of this dessert is contested among various convents and monasteries of the region.

According to me, the Convent of the Francis Fathers of Polvica in Tramonti of the Salerno area, obtains the most credit for the birth of this delicacy they call “melanzana dolce” (sweet eggplant).

The fathers of this convent prepared a very sweet liquor infusion by putting peels of green lemons, cloves, cinnamon, liquorice, and nutmeg in alcohol for 30 days to which was added a barley syrup scented with aromatic herbs, not always the same, such as citronella, thyme, marjoram, etc.) They called this infusion the “concert of the herbs. In this infusion were moistened the long slices of the eggplants, previously fried in oil, preparing in this way the sweet eggplants.

As it often happened between the convents and the monasteries, the Fathers of Tramonti passed the new recipe among the religious communities of the Peninsula and of the region and the recipe was then transformed in various ways according to the inventiveness of the Father Cooks and Mother Cook who covered the slices of eggplants with a delicate chocolate sauce and who obviously changed also the name of the new invention to chocolate eggplants.

This dessert is present in various areas of the region with various changes, such as the addition of ricotta cheese and minced amaretto cookies in Sorrento or with the addition of minced candied fruit and pine-seeds and “Strega” liquor in the Amalfi and Cilento Coast.

Successively, the gastronomic tradition of the Sorrentine Peninsula begins to mingle with the one of the Campania region, when the region is enriched with its undisputed protagonist “il maccherone” (that’s how it seems to be called the pasta in the late Middle Age, the same name that today indicates a type of cylindrical hallow pasta opposite of the spaghetti).

It is not very easy to date the appearance of the pasta in the alimentation of man. There is who sustains without any scientific proof, that the pasta was an aliment already used by the Etruscans and yet also during the Ostrogothic domination. According to the common tradition, Marco Polo who “stole” the idea from the China introduced it in Italy.

The pasta represented a great innovation to the various types of bread because it could be eaten hot maintaining its taste and shape better than the other products dried and obtained with cereal flours.

The Indians and the Arabs also nourished themselves with “vermicelli” at least 50 years before Marco Polo left Venice for his trips to the East, and the distance from Venice to the Arabian countries was relatively short.

It is probable that the pasta was introduced in Italy through this way around the 11th century and became affirmed in the commercial cities of Venice, Florence, Genoa, and Amalfi. It was diffused rapidly through the rest of the country by the service staff of famous families and through the convents and the monasteries.