Raviole, Calderara di Reno, 2022 ©Piergiorgio Sorgetti

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Traditional Christmas delicacies from Bologna

Updated on 23 December 2020 From Bologna Welcome

Bolognese cuisine is now world-wide famous for its traditional fresh pasta as tortellini, tortelloni, tagliatelle, lasagne, its delicious cured meats, of which Mortadella Bologna is the jewel in the crown, its ragù. But how many of you have ever heard of Bologna's traditional desserts? We bet very few!

Bologna's desserts are indeed less popular than other typical dishes, but no less good.

Here are 4 most delicious and traditional Bolognese delicacies which should not be missing


The Bolognese are known to be gourmets, and how could they not be when faced with delicacies of all kinds? It is no coincidence that the city is referred to as La Grassa (The Fat). However, the Bolognese are also very fond of traditions, especially when it comes to Christmas. 

So what better cake could quench these thirsts? The answer is Certosino, the quintessential Christmas dessert, a triumph of flavours given by the combination of almonds, candied fruit, pine nuts, dark chocolate, honey, mustard and other spicy aromas; it is also known as Panspeziale.

The name originated in the Middle Ages, when the dessert's production was carried out by apothecaries, before being being passed on to the Carthusian monks, whose recipe was so good that the cake was eventually named in their honour.


Originally, pinza was a Christmas cake unlikely to be found in other seasons, somewhat akin to panettone. It was later de-seasonalised and can now be found all year round in any bakery in Bologna (lucky us!).

Pinza looks like a flattened bread covered with crunchy sprinkles. The dough is rolled out into a rectangle, covered with a generous layer of mostarda (dark jam made from apples, quinces and oranges) and then rolled up.

The name is said to originate from this very fact, because by closing the cake in such way the dough tightens the filling like a pair of pliers (pinza in Italian)

An ideal dessert for breakfast or a snack!


Speaking of breakfast, if you really don't want to deny yourself anything, you can accompany the pinza with raviole. Raviole are a crescent-shaped cake made of shortcrust pastry filled with mostarda

The dough is prepared with flour, sugar, butter and eggs, on which is then spread a spoonful of mostarda bolognese. Once folded into a crescent shape, the raviole must be placed in the oven, brushed with alchermes and covered with caster sugar. 

This recipe is believed to have originated from the peasant tradition: sure enough, on St Joseph's day (March 19), raviole were hung on hedges as an ornament to mark the beginning of spring and the resumption of work in the fields.


Last but not least, we come to the rice cake, perhaps the most famous among Bolognese desserts. 

The cake was traditionally prepared during the Festa degli Addobbi, a festival established in the 15th century during which colourful drapes were displayed in the windows.

On that day, the houses of the parishioners were open to visits from neighbours and acquaintances and the guests were offered rice cake, known at the time as Torta degli Addobbi, which was served cut into small diamond shapes, each topped with a toothpick. 

The taste of rice cake is strong, made unmistakable by the almonds, candied citron and bitter almond liqueur that add a distinctive flavour to the milk and rice used for the dough. 

Luci e albero di Natale, 2019 ©Pietrobondi

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