Paste Nuove

“New” Pastries

I first heard the term paste nuove at the Santo Spirito Monastery, in Agrigento, where it was used to describe a small spherical bun of baked almond paste filled with zuccata, a type of candied zucchini. (The zucchini in question is an extremely long, light green Sicilian variety. Zuccata resembles candied watermelon rind in concept but not flavor and is sweet and spicy, like good-quality candied citron.) I was amused at the name because I thought it meant that the pastries were an innovation, and I snickered to myself that the last time these were new was probably around five hundred years before.

It was not until I read about paste nuove in Giuseppe Coria’s Profumi di Sicilia (Flavors of Sicily) that I learned that the word “new” refers to the new crop of almonds, from which these pastries are traditionally made.

Since the zuccata is not available in the United States, I give a recipe for it, although I have written the recipe for paste nuove using candied citron or a mixture of candied peel. The paste nuove are sweet, but they are more a confection than a pastry and are, after all, no sweeter than a macaroon.

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Ingredients

    Dough

  • 1 heaping cup whole, blanched almonds
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 8 ounces canned almond paste
  • 1 large egg

    Filling

  • ½ cup candied citron, rinsed and finely diced, or Zuccata
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ ounce semisweet chocolate, finely grated

Method

For the dough, combine the almonds and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade and pulse repeatedly to grind the almonds very finely. Break the almond paste into 1-inch pieces and place it in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the paddle. Add half the sugar-and-almond mixture and beat on low speed to combine. Add the rest of the sugar-and-almond mixture, then the egg. Continue beating on low speed until the dough is smooth and masses around the paddle. Remove from the bowl and wrap in plastic until needed.

For the filling, stir the cinnamon and chocolate into the citron or zuccata.

Roll the dough into a cylinder about 12 inches long. Cut into 24 equal pieces. To form a pastry, roll a piece of dough into a sphere, then flatten it into a disk in the palm of your hand. Press the center of the disk into your palm with the index finger of your other hand to make the dough slightly concave. Place 1 teaspoon of the filling in the concave area and pinch the sides of the disk of dough together to enclose it. Repeat with the other pieces of dough. Arrange the pastries seam side down on pans lined with parchment or buttered wax paper. Bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes, until they are a light golden color. Remove the pastries, still on the paper, to racks to cool. Store between layers of wax paper in a tin.

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