The pignolata is the typical Messina dessert par excellence. Its origin probably dates back to the period of Spanish domination in Sicily (1516-1713). Originally the dessert was prepared by covering the piles of dough with fresh honey. Subsequently, the Messina pastry masters, at the request of the aristocracy, reworked a more refined version of the dessert, which is the current one, characterized by the use of a double glaze.
The birth coincides precisely with 1516, the year in which Charles V of Habsburg, appointed king of Spain, found himself reigning over a vast empire including Sicily. It is believed that it was the Spanish nobles who expressed a preference for a chocolate and lemon glaze instead of the traditional honey.
The glazed pignolata is a mound of fried dumplings consistent on the outside but with a fairly crumbly heart that is sprinkled half with a chocolate glaze and the other half with a lemon glaze.
It consists of fried biscuits obtained from a mixture of eggs, flour, sugar and alcohol which are then dipped for the white part in a lemon flavored meringue sugar syrup and for the black part in a chocolate-flavored sugar syrup.
Its name derives from the particular pine cone shape and its origins date back to a few centuries ago, when the confectioners of Messina reworked the ancient pignoccata or pignolata with honey by the will of the foreign aristocracy.
This easy-to-prepare and pleasantly crunchy dessert is widespread throughout the Messina area and Reggio Calabria. Once the glazed pignolata was one of the many desserts that were prepared exclusively for Carnival, but today it closes more and more every festive banquet of the Messina people and is sold by local pastry shops throughout the year.
The Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies has included the Sicilian dessert in the List of Traditional Agri-food Products (PAT) with the name of “Pignolata di Messina”.
The “pignolata” glazed from Messina can be kept for a maximum of 3 days wrapped perfectly in cling film for food, or under a glass bell. Either way in a cool place. It is certainly a dessert to try and has nothing to envy to “cannoli” and “cassata”.