I just can’t get them out of my head – those two Greedy Italians have won me over. I tried to stop thinking about their passionate love of food and shouts of “fantastic” but I just couldn’t. So I gave in completely to it. I had written about these fellows before but this time it was their zuccotto (which they called a layered ricotta and panettone pudding). I couldn’t stop thinking about it. On the tv show, Gennaro Contaldo starts dancing around when he eats it with cries of “ooooh mmmmm” while Antonio Carluccio looks to the heavens and tucks into it.
The zuccotto originally hails from Firenze (Florence) apparently because it is shaped like the dome of the Duomo (cathedral). It is actually a bit like an English trifle – but without the jelly – and of course it has a hefty dose of alcohol laden panettone. The word panettone comes from the word pane meaning bread. A panettone is a traditional Easter or Christmas cake in Italy and is a bit like a sweet bread. It can be made with or without sultanas and other candied fruit. Last week I went to the local supermarket Piedimonte and bought the last 3 panettoni they had in the red box (my favourite brand Eurobisc) so I could make zuccotti for the next few months.
Like Gennaro, I too danced around when I ate it. It is soft, creamy, festive and best of all it is terribly easy to make. It takes a bit of time to assemble but it is almost impossible to go wrong. I improvised with what I had in the pantry – I found dates, some candied peel and some pistachios. No vinsanto (sweet dessert style wine)? So I used marsala. It still tasted amazing. The only problem is – it takes 6 hours to rest, in the fridge, weighted down, before you can eat it. So you need to plan ahead. It is glorious to eat for a festive occasion with a sweet wine or with a coffee. I ate it for breakfast today. Well it has ricotta in it so surely it is ok as breakfast food?!
750 g panettone, cut into slices (1.5 to 2cm thick) – you will have a bit left over
700g firm ricotta
120g icing sugar
1 tablespoon cocoa powder (and some extra for dusting)
50g dark chocolate, grated
30g mixed citrus peel
30g cranberry pieces
50g Pistachio nuts chopped
3 large dried dates, chopped
150 ml Marsala
1.5 litre capacity bowl to use as a mould (mine was 16cm diameter)
Line the mould with several layers of overlapping plastic wrap. Make sure a lot hangs over the rim as you will need to fold it over the top of the zuccotto and use it to help you lift it out when it is ready.Divide your ricotta between 2 bowls and mix half the sugar into each. Use one spoon in each. Add the cocoa powder and chopped dates to one bowl of ricotta and add the pistachio nuts, candied peel, cranberries and grated chocolate to the other. Stir the contents so that you have two homogenous but quite different ricotta fillings. Set them aside.
Cut the top off your panettone in a slice. Place it at the bottom of the plastic wrap lined mould so that it covers the base. Drizzle some of the Marsala onto the panettone in the mould so that it is reasonably soggy. Now you will need to construct the sides of your zuccotto. Cut more slices of panettone (I cut the panettone in vertical slices for the rest of the recipe). Drizzle Marsala onto them and place them in the bowl, cutting them if necessary so they fit snugly against each other along the walls of the mould. Now add one of the ricotta mixtures to the prepared mould. Pat it down flat with the back of a spoon.
Place a round slice of panettone over this so it covers all of the ricotta mixture and drizzle Marsala over it. Spoon on the second ricotta mixture and pat it down. Place the final slice of panettone so that it forms the lid of the zuccotto (this should be just above the level of the rim of the bowl) and drizzle the rest of the Marsala on it. Fold the plastic wrap over the zuccotto. Place a plate over the plastic wrap and weight it down (I used a 1 kg jar of anchovies on top of the plate).
Chill it in the fridge for at least six hours or even overnight. When it is ready, unwrap the top of the zuccotto and try to lift it up with the plastic wrap. Once you are sure that it lifts up, invert it onto a plate. Remove all the wrap and sift some cocoa powder over the top. Now you are ready to present it to family and friends at your celebration – just wait for the cries of “wow” from them!