Maritozzi Quaresimali, Rome’s Lenten Buns

Written by Katie Parla on February 23, 2016

Maritozzi con la panna at Regoli (Rome’s year-round buns)

Rome’s maritozzi con la panna, butter-based leavened buns, are having a moment. Well, not really, its just that now there is one more place in town (Roscioli Caffè) that sells them. They used to be a pretty common breakfast food in Rome, but that all started changing in the 1970s. Now, to quote Roman baker Pierluigi Roscioli, “90% of Rome’s breakfast pastries are frozen”. I would wager, his estimate is probably conservative.

Of the huge number of pastries sold in Rome, many of them are the awful cornetti that have dominated Rome’s breakfast offerings for decades. Back in the 1950s and 60s, whipped cream-filled maritozzi were the standard Roman breakfast (along with pieces of poundcake or slices of pizza bianca, both of which were served with a side of warm milk at the city’s many latterie). But then industry came a long and ruined everything and introduced cheap factory made pastries to Italians everywhere. The story of how cornetti spread is the subject of this post for Eater’s first ever Breakfast Week. Long story short, maritozzi and other local baked goods were relegated to the back seat in favor of inferior (but undeniably higher margin) products.

But even before there were butter-based breakfast maritozzi, there were maritozzi quaresimali, leavened buns studded with pine nuts and candied fruit and made during Lent. Made with oil rather than butter, Rome’s maritozzi quaresimali are a historic food that still appears in pastry shops in the weeks before easter. This recipe comes from Sara Levi of the Rome Sustainable Food Project (with input from her mother-in-law).

Maritozzi Quaresimali

For the preferment:
25 grams fresh compressed yeast or 10 grams active dry yeast
2 tablespoons warm water, plus more as needed
50 grams bread flour

Final dough:
150 grams bread flour
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons warm water, plus more as needed
50 grams sugar
2 tablespoons raisins, softened in warm water
2 tablespoons pine nuts, lightly toasted
1 tablespoon candied orange peel, roughly chopped

For the glaze:
125 grams powdered sugar, sifted
3 to 4 tablespoons water

Make the preferment: In a small bowl, dissolve the fresh compressed yeast in 2 tablespoons of warm water. Add the bread flour and mix, adding water as needed, to form a soft, smooth dough.

Cover the bowl with a damp dish towel and let the dough rise in a warm place for 1 hour, or until it has doubled in volume.

Make the dough: Sift the flour onto a work surface. Make a well in the center and add the preferment, the egg, oil, a pinch of salt and two tablespoons of warm water. Mix with your hands to form a dough and knead well for about 10 minutes.

Add the sugar and continue to work the dough with your hands for another 5 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball, put it in a bowl, cover with a damp dish towel and let rise in a warm place for half an hour.

Meanwhile, line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Return the dough to a lightly floured work surface and add the raisins, pine nuts, and candied orange peel. Work them into the dough with your hands until fully incorporated.

Divide the dough in half, and each piece in half again. Divide each of the four pieces into three so that you have a total of twelve pieces of dough of equal size. Roll each one into a torpedo-shaped bun and arrange all twelve pieces, evenly spaced, on the cookie sheet.

Cover the cookie sheet with oiled cling film then a towel and allow the buns to proof in a warm place until doubled in size, about 2 hours.

About 15 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 190°C. Bake the maritozzi for about 10 minutes, until light brown and dry on the underside. While they bake, whisk the powdered sugar and water together to make the glaze. As soon as the maritozzi come out of the oven, brush them with the glaze, then return them to the oven for two minutes more to dry out the glaze.

Cool the maritozzi and serve alone or (if you’re not giving up dairy for Lent) with whipped cream.

In Rome you can find martitozzi quaresimali at, among other places, century old Pasticceria Regoli.

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