Mostaccioli are Italian cookies made with grape must acting as both a liquid and a sweetener.
They were something you made on the once or twice-a-week occasions when you fired up the stone ovens outside to make your bread. More modern versions, though, don’t use bread dough, but rather have you actually start from “scratch” with flour, etc., because most people aren’t likely to be making bread at all anymore.
They are made throughout Italy, but one of the best known versions in contemporary times is that from Umbria.
In Umbria, they are made from bread dough which has been allowed to rise once. Then, anise seeds, white grape must and sugar are added and kneaded in. The dough is then let rise again. After this second rising, pieces of the dough are formed into shapes that can be tresses, straight rods, or rings. Pine nuts or other nuts can be pressed into the surface.
The dough is then baked for 10 to 15 minutes, then cut into slices. Sometimes, the slices are placed back into a slow oven to dry out.
Other regional versions:
- Abruzzo: Almonds, honey and cinnamon, covered in chocolate;
- Calabria: Called “mustazzola.” There, they are hard cookies made from flour, honey and cooked must. Decorated;
- Emiliat: Candied peel added;
- Lazio: Pepper added;
- Lombardy: Cornmeal is used;
- Naples: Large, glazed with sugar;
- Salento: Cocoa powder added.
Mostaccioli Cookies are almost certain one food item that truly does trace its roots back to the Romans, to their small cakes called “mustacae.”
Mostaccioli comes from the Italian word “mosto”, meaning “must.”