Carnival is the most joyful festival of the year, celebrated with masks, parades and above all, tasty deserts. In fact, the Carnival precedes the time of abstinence of the Lent.
Literally, the word ‘Carnevale’ comes from the Latin expression ‘carne levare’ , which means “farewell to meat”, signifying the approaching of the Lent, a period of abstinence and fasting in which meat was forbidden after the banquet held on the last day of Carnival (Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras).
The ‘transgression’ of this period is reflected in the culinary traditions of the various Italian regions, where the Carnival fried treats are everywhere, even if named differently.
In Italy, every region has its own recipes linked to their local traditions. Also in Le Marche there are many traditional carnival desserts often related to folk tales.
Among them there are also the “Funghetti di Offida”, whereas ‘funghetti’ in Italian means ‘small mushrooms’…no, not mushrooms but small cookies of that shape made with anise, flour and sugar.
According to a tale the recipe was born during a siege in the fourteenth century. The women in Offida had nothing to cook and they did not even had the wood to light the fire (because it was used for barricades). On that occasion, they mixed the only ingredients available: honey (later replaced with sugar), flour and water (anise was added later). A simple and long-lasting product, energy and tasty: the Offida ‘small mushrooms’!
Let’s bake them by following the original recipe…
700g (1 ½ lb) all-purpose flour
600kg (1 ¼ lb) sugar
1 pinch anice seeds
water to taste
Work together the flour, the sugar and the anise seed using a mixer, adding a little water until you have a smooth dough. Form the dough into 1-inch balls, then allow them to dry for 30 minutes on parchment paper. Place the balls in a mini tin, one ball in each mold. The molds should be small enough, with the dough touching the edge. Bake the cookies at 350°F (180°C) for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown.The heat melts the sugar that fills the spaces between the round molds, taking a nice golden color, while the remaining part inside the circles retains the color white. Remove the anisette cookies from the oven and serve hot. These Le Marche typical sweets get very hard when cold, so, reheat them before serving. These cookies perfectly match with coffee and anisette or try them with a good glass of Passerina Passito wine.
The ‘Funghetti di Offida’ are not only delicious cookies, but they are another clear example of how traditions and folk legends handed down over the years are able to preserve foods and recipes, as well as being a delight for the palate, they are also able to tell something about us, our ancestors and our ancient culture.