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The Torrone of Aquila

The soft chocolate nougat from Aquila, also known as "Torrone Nurzia", is a variety of nougat characterized by cocoa, honey and vanilla in the dough and by a very soft texture. Born from the imagination of pastry chef Ulisse Nurzia and produced in L'Aquila since the 19th century, it is considered an Italian excellence and has been included in the list of traditional agri-food products (P.A.T.) recognized by the Italian Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies.

Torrone
In the picture, advertisement from the 1920's

Before Ulisse Nurzia created his tender chocolate nougat, that still today enjoys fame and renown also outside the Abruzzo region, in the prominent families of Aquila, in accordance with ancient recipes, home nougats were made with honey, sugar and almonds. Since the work was long (one recipe required mixing for about 7 hours) for this operation a couple of workers were hired so that they would alternate in the hard work of stirring the sticky, hot mass.

Finally, when the mixture was ready it was poured on marble tables, sprinkled with fine sugar, in a uniform layer and left to dry. Subsequently, sheets of colored tissue paper were cut, frayed, as an elegant wrapping of the nougats, once ready.

In the Christmas period the torroni were offered to visiting friends or left in the baskets " of the customers and farmers of the house master, in exchange for the good things from the countryside, as good wish offers, in accordance with ancient habits.

The Nurzia family was originary from Arischia, which Gennaro left in the early 1800's to move to Aquila. Gennaro Nurzia was a wood carver and liquor maker, and he established in the Abruzzo capital a confectionery shop.

His grandson Ulisse created the soft chocolate nougat, as an alternative to the white, almond nougat from Cremona. The secret of the recipe is in the quantities of the ingredients and in the procedure, which gives out a tender, but easy to cut product.

The new product became famous and appreciated, and Ulisse was invited to Milan but the nougat, though with the same ingredients and procedure, had a different flavor and texture, and did not hold together, so he realized that the secret must be in the Gran Sasso water and returned to his hometown.

A Torrone recipe from the year 1866

"Honey 18 lbs - hazelnuts 33 lbs - sugar 3 lbs - egg whites 15 in number.

The eggwhites are added as soon as the honey becomes liquid. In order to obtain a perfect mixture, the pot is removed from the fire and stirred for about 7 hours; sugar and hazelnuts are added at the very end. Sugar must be sprayed over a table, where the mixture is poured in a uniform layer. Before the mixture is too hard, it must be cut into rectangles".

A Torrone recipe from the year 1872

"Honey 4 lbs - hazelnuts 9 lbs, not cleaned and not dried - sugar 2 lbs - egg whites 4 in number".

A Torrone recipe from the year 1873

"Honey 5 lbs - hazelnuts 13 lbs, not cleaned and not dried - sugar 3 lbs - egg whites 4 in number, cooked in a pot immersed in hot water ("a bagnomaria") then squashed when solid".

A Torrone recipe from the year 1874

"Honey 10 lbs - hazelnuts 26 lbs, not cleaned and not dried - sugar 5 lbs - egg whites 7 in number".

A Torrone recipe from the year 1879

"Honey 10 lbs - hazelnuts 26 lbs, not cleaned and not dried - sugar 6 lbs - egg whites 8 in number".
Extract from "The Torrone Aquilano" from Nice Cortelli Lucrezi, "Le Ricette della Nonna - L'Arte del Mangiar Bene in Abruzzo", first publication 1966 - out of print - Translated and reproduced by permission of Dr. Alfonso Lucrezi - All rights reserved