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Santa Cecilia

Every year on the 22nd of November, we celebrate in Taranto (Puglia) the festivity of Santa Cecilia, which officially marks the beginning of Christmas. People from Taranto and neighbouring towns would typically gather in the early morning to make this famous pastry called Pettole. Pettole are easy to make deep-fried dough balls which can be seasoned with sugar or salt. Although the original ones are always with sugar!

pettole pastry

There are tons of urban legends and myths around the origin of this recipe, but the story that every kid knows is the following:

A woman in the città vecchia (old town Taranto) had to knead and prepare the dough for making bread for her children, she was then captured by the music of the pastorale made by the Zampognari in the early morning of the 22nd. As she went down to follow the band through the vicoli (streets) of Taranto, the dough started to overproof at home. On her return, she noticed the dough was impossible to be used for bread, so instead she divided it into little dough balls and deep-fried them. Her kids loved the taste so much that she shared it with the Zampognari, astonished by the new creation, they made it famous throughout the city.

When I lived in Taranto, I also would be woken up by the music of the marching bands around 5:30am, followed by the aroma of fried dough that you'll probably be able to smell to this day by walking in the city.

Ever since I moved out of my hometown, I tried to preserve this tradition almost every year. I'm not really the type of person who would strictly observe folklore and customs in general, but this one in particular made me always feel happy and nostalgic of home. This feeling is always a gateway to various other thoughts and questions like: why did I emigrate in the first place, why is Italy and specifically south of Italy so inhospitable for young generations? Pretty much all of my friends and acquaintances emigrated either to the north or outside the country. But before we go into a rabbit hole, I won't be discussing this here and I definitely don't have the answers, although there are lots of articles about this. So far Ireland made me grow up a lot personally and professionally, for this I'm very grateful. The tiny sacrifice obviously was losing the comfort of my dialect and the small traditions of my hometown.

Ok, going back to the original topic, to this day I still I don't have a definite recipe for making Pettole (unlike my super secret Pizza Recipe™). Every year I try a different one, when asking my grandmas and relatives, they would always answer: I don't have a recipe, i' 'u fàzze 'a uècchie, which translates to I do it by heart! I wonder if they just don't want to disclose it, maybe these grandmas are simply in cahoots with proprietary software companies.

Anyways the quantities I'm going to try this year are the following:

Knead no more than 15 mins, proof for a couple of hours and finally deep-fry. Always add sugar at the very end. A nice English written recipe can also be found here if you're interested.