PASTA DI MANDORLA (How to make Marzipan recipe)

This photo of marzipan fruit (also called Frutta di Martorama) was taken in a pastry shop in Catania. This pasticceria has shaped the marzipan into a variety of shapes: apples, apricots, oranges, prickly pears, different varieties of plums, cherries, green figs, pomegranates, pears , chestnuts and almonds.

I make marzipan when I make cassata di ricotta which I cover with a thin coat of pale green marzipan (I use a drop of green food colouring. In earlier days my mother used to use a little puree made with wilted spinach leaves). Sometimes I also add a proportion of ground pistachio nuts to the almond meal.

In one of my previous posts I have included a non traditional, simple recipe for making marzipan and for shaping marzipan fruit. I like this version because  it is less sweet.

almonds ground, 500 g – blanched and ground finely
icing sugar, 300 g, icing sugar
vanilla bean paste, to taste
egg white, 1
salt, a pinch

In a bowl whisk the egg white with the salt until frothy. Whisk in the vanilla. Gradually stir in the almonds and the sugar, kneading as you go to form a smooth, pliable dough. Add  more almond meal and/ or icing sugar if it is too soft.

The most authentic recipe that I have found is in the book called Bitter Almonds, Recollections and Recipes from a Sicilian girlhood. The book was researched and written by Mary Taylor Simeti and it contains recollections and recipes of Maria Grammatico, famous for making almond pastries. She has a wonderful pastry shop in Erice and I visited this recently (in September 2009).

This is the recipe as written in the book.

• 2 CUPS (3oo gr) whole blanched almonds
• 2 CUPS (4oo gr) granulated sugar
• 1/3 cup (0.,75 dl) water
• 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 teaspoon almond extract (optional)

In a meat grinder or a food processor, grind the almonds with about 2 tablespoons of the sugar until very fine, almost powdery.
In a food processor or in an electric mixer, combine the nuts, the rest of the sugar, the water, vanilla, and the almond extract, if using. Process or mix until the paste is very smooth. Remove to a marble slab or other cold work surface dusted with confectioners’ sugar and knead briefly by hand.
Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use. Marzipan will keep almost indefinitely in the refrigerator. This makes 800gr of marzipan.

A particular specialty at Easter time in Sicily are the pecorelle pasquali (marzipan lambs). These lambs are from Pasticceria Spinello in Modica Sicily (it is near Ragusa where my relatives live). In Sicilian they are called agneddi (lambs)or pecuredde (small sheep) di pasta riali. . They are often filled with citron jam or paste made from pistachio nuts.

I once bought one for my mother and she still has it, 20 years later. She said that it was too pretty to be eaten. It was never kept in the fridge – it is a little bit dusty!


11 thoughts on “PASTA DI MANDORLA (How to make Marzipan recipe)”

  1. I have had a request from a reader about Pascal lamb cake tins and where to buy them In Australia.

    Pastry cooks/pasticceri who make them in Australia have bought the tins/pans In Italy – either a relative has sent them or they purchased them there and carried them home.

    I used Google and found 2 sources in Australia.

    The tins are Nordic Bundt ( American I think, in spite of being labelled Nordic)
    3D Spring Lamb Cake pan available/mailed to you from:

    Cake Deco – Australia’s largest … $48.00

    Everten Online

  2. When I was younger and we visited Sicily, my parents would bring home blocks of an almond paste, which was grated, mixed with water, and then frozen and scraped as a granita? Does anyone know what that is and where I can find it?

  3. Alfia, I know exactly what you mean, but apart from Sicily, I do not know where it is sold (I do not even know what country you live in).

    Whenever my parents visited Sicily they always returned to Australia with these small bricks of pasta di mandorle. This was dissolved to make latte di mandorla (it was very sweet and so different to the one made just from fresh almonds). My mum dissolved it and drank it, used it in cakes, drinks, ices and like marzipan (which it is). The packets that were given to me, never lasted long, I just ate it.

    It is a mixture of almonds, sugar and glucose (the secret ingredient to keep it moist). The recipe I have uses small quantities. Traditionally a mortar and pestle was used. Almonds are blanched, then dried in the oven for a few minutes. Use about 1 cup of almonds with about ½ cup of sugar and grind it until it looks like coarse flour (even grind). Mix with liquid glucose and work till smooth. Wrap it in plastic wrap.

    I thought that I would look at the web and found this link – it is interesting but looks like a bit of work.

  4. I’m wondering, other recipes I’ve seen add eggs instead of water. And where can I purchase glucose? I’ve not seen that in other recipes.
    I love this cookie and want to get it right.

  5. Hi
    New to your blog and loving it! My question is what kind of mold one would use to create these lambs at home and where can they be bought? Is any kind of silicone candy mold okay? I have never molded marzipan so not sure how to do this. I remember these lambs from my childhood here in New York and would love to try my hand at making one at home for my kids! Tx for all the great entries. Catherine

  6. Hi Catherine, glad you like the blog.
    I cannot see why you could not use silicone. Traditionally they used metal (there were no silicone ones) and metal would perhaps hold/form the shape better than silicone, especially if the silicone is soft/pliable. However, the lamb need not look perfect- the irregular surface could be its wool!!

  7. Hi Marisa,
    Thank you for the reply about the pan for the marzipan lamb. I will let you know how it turns out! Buona Pasqua. Catherine

  8. You would be better off looking at the web to have an answer, but the Paschal Lamb is part of Christian Tradition; it is the symbol of Christ/of the sacrificial lamb that had to be sacrificed to redeem the world by having to die (as a man). He died at Easter. There are many references to sacrificial lambs in the Old Testament of the bible/ especially to do with The Passover.

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