Invented by the nuns, you can smell them from miles away: I biscotti della Monaca.

Anise seeds biscuits: made by the nuns centuries ago, still fill the city of Catania with their characteristic smell

The nun’s biscuits or biscotti della monaca are delicious dry biscuits that contains anise seeds. You can smell them from miles away.

This type of biscuit was originally baked and sold by the nuns of Santa Chiara monastery in Catania. The church is a few steps away from Palazzo Miceli guest houses, another reason that makes it the perfect location for a holiday in Catania.

The Church of Santa Chiara in Catania, where the nun’s biscuits were originally baked and sold.
Photo credits: Image by fazen is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Once you’ll bake these biscuits, you’ll be able to picture what that part of the city would smell like a couple of centuries ago.

Ingredients for 15-20 biscuits:

250g plain flour
60g butter
1 tsp anise seeds (or 1,5 tsp fennel seeds if you can’f find anise seeds)
50g sugar
1/2 tsp baking ammonia
50ml milk
a pinch of salt
some additional milk

Andiamo in cucina! Let’s go to the kitchen!

  1. Dissolve the baking ammonia into the milk and put it on the side
  2. Put the rest of the dry ingredients in a bowl
  3. Add the softened butter and mix briefly
  4. Add the milk with the baking ammonia
  5. Mix to form a dough
  6. If the dough seems too dry, add a tablespoon of milk at a time. Roughly 3 tablespoons should suffice for a compact yet workable dough
  7. Cover in cling film and put in the fridge for one hour.
  8. Take the dough out of the fridge and roll it out with a rolling pin.
  9. Whit a flat knife cut the dough in strips (10 cm long, 0.5 cm wide, 0.3 cm deep)
  10. Put the strips on a baking tray covered in baking paper giving the traditional “s” shape
  11. Put in pre-heated oven for 10 min (200 degrees C). Take them out and let the biscuits cool down.
  12. Put the biscuits back in the oven for 20 min (140 degrees C)

The biscuits are now ready. Buon appetito!

When something belongs to someone, in Italian we use the preposition ‘di’.

Il libro di Simona
The book of Simona/Simona’s book

Il Duomo di Milano
The Cathedral of Milan/Milan Cathedral

I biscotti della monaca
The biscuits of the nun/The nun’s biscuits.
In this case we use ‘della’ (di+la) as what follows the preposition di is not a proper noun (like Simona or Milano), but a common noun (monaca-nun) and therefore it needs the article “la” before it.

Another example with ‘della’
L’odore della città
The smell of the city

Now make your own sentence! Get the first thing you find, who does it belong to? Use an online dictionary to find the words you don’t know.


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