Giallo Zefferano – Yellow Saffron
Cassata consists of round sponge cake moistened with fruit juices or liqueur and layered with ricotta cheese and candied fruit. A filling this is sometimes used with cannoli.
Cassata has a shell of marzipan, pink and green coloured icing, and decorative designs. Cassata may also refer to a Neapolitan ice cream containing candied or dried fruit and nuts.
Cassata did not signify a dessert until the late 17th century and did not take on its current striped form until the 18th century. “Cassata” is sometimes the subject of an invented tradition based on the claim that its roots lie in the Muslim Middle Ages. Many other local food traditions purport to be as old.
Unlike the round, traditional shape some cassata are made in the form of a rectangle, square, or box. The word “box” in Italian is cassa, although it is unlikely that the word cassata originated from this term.
Cassata Catanese, as it is often prepared in the Sicilian province of Catania, is made similar to a pie, containing a top and bottom crust, filled with ricotta, and baked in the oven.
The Cassatella di Sant’Agata (pl. cassatelle)—colloquially named Minni di Vergini, meaning “virgin breasts”—is a similar dessert, but made in a smaller, personal-serving size, with a candied cherry on top, and often a specifically green-coloured marzipan. It is typically made in Catania for the festival of Saint Agatha. The allusion to the female breast relates the specific torture Saint Agatha faced as a Catholic martyr.
When a cassata is made, layers of gelato (Italian ice cream) can be substituted for the layers of cheese, producing a dessert similar to an ice cream cake. The version of the recipe followed in Messina is less sweet than the one used in Palermo. “Cassata” can also refer to a flavor of ice-cream inspired by the sweet.
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