Regional Italian Food

Torrone: Three-Ingredient Nougat

By • December 3, 2013 • 12 Comments

Every Tuesday, Italian expat Emiko Davies is taking us on a grand tour of Italy, showing us how to make classic, fiercely regional dishes at home. 

Today: Three ingredients and an age-old Sardinian recipe for a sugarless, simple nougat. 

Anyone who has tried making nougat -- torrone, in Italian -- at home with the sugar syrup method will know how nerve-wracking it can be: Waiting for that decisive moment, that exact degree that will render the torrone a failure or a success, soft or hard, set or a flop. Surely the thermometer makes things more precise -- and when dealing with the chemistry of syrups, candy and meringue, precision is a must for securing success. You'd think. 

But when researching traditional recipes for torrone in Italian, such as Ada Boni's 1921 cookbook, The Talisman, there are no indications of temperature, thermometers, or the dangers of proceeding without one -- just old fashioned instructions for stirring for hours and perhaps testing for doneness with a drop of the molten candy in a glass of water. Torrone dates back to at least Ancient Rome -- surely liquid glucose, candy thermometers and cocoa butter are unnecessary modern additions. 

 

Torrone has a long tradition in various regions all over Italy, each done a little differently. The festive treat is a favorite, taken to friends' homes and shared with an espresso as a sweet snack or with dessert wine at the end of a meal. The one from Cremona, also known as torrone classico, is brittle and hard, broken off in chunks to eat. Abruzzo's Aquila produces a chocolate torrone. And Benevento's torrone is probably the oldest in Italy. But Sardinian torrone, a soft nougat with an ivory hue, is unique because, in its most elemental form, it's made with just three ingredients: egg whites, almonds, and honey. 

No liquid glucose, corn syrup, powders, butter, or cocoa butter. No watching of thermometers, no scalding syrup or defining moments. Just a gentle heat and slow, continuous stirring. It's a simple, even relaxing recipe. Put on some good music, or better yet, have some good company in the kitchen with you so you can share the stirring and you're halfway there.

 

The most traditional recipe uses just almonds and Sardinian honey, which is gathered from the Mediterranean scrub that surrounds the island. There are a few simple variations that you can make: A small portion of pistachio, pine nuts or hazelnuts, perhaps, as long as you keep the proportions. It's traditional to use peeled almonds, but I like the contrast of the skins on -- either way, an even toasting of the nuts is a must. If you want to add some further aromatics to the batch, try some vanilla or freshly grated citrus peel. 

Typically, the torrone is set between special wafers known as ostia in Italian; use them if you can find them, as they hold the torrone together beautifully and are a nice way to gift it. They also help avoid getting sticky fingers. If you can't get these easily, line your pan with parchment. 

Torrone Sardo (Sardinian Nougat)

Serves 10

1/2 pound of nuts
1/2 pound of honey
2 egg whites 

Read the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Emiko Davies

Jump to Comments (12)

Tags: Italy, Regional Italian Food, Sardinia, candy, holiday traditions

Comments (12)

Default-small
Default-small
Open-uri20140508-13872-marcks

4 months ago Eliana Lara Martinez

Hi Emiko! I am trying to find a recipe for hard Torrone, I guess the Classico one from Cremona. The 2 I tried making today were NOT hard, as it showed online! One of them made a delicious soft Torrone but I really want the hard, brittle one I grew up eating and loving! I was also concerned that once the sugar got to hard crack stage it was quite amber in color and the hard
Torrone I love is very white in color, not tan or amber at all. Do you have a recipe for the king of Torrone I am looking to make??? Help! Thx in advance! my email is pastrygirl@moresprinkles...

Default-small

8 months ago Sarah

I'll see if I can get it back in the pan for a bit more of a cook (no blow torch) - it is not as ivory white as yours so I suspect perhaps it does just need longer, I'll let you know how I go! Good idea re the gelato, I may even try to turn it into an ice-cream Christmas cake (I'm in Australia so a chilled desert on Christmas day is a must!)

Default-small

8 months ago Sarah

I made a double batch of this and stirred for 1hr 40min. Tested using glass of water and torrone did not dissolve - rolled into soft ball in fingers - but I have spread it into tray and left it over night in fridge and it is still super goey/sticky! Is there any way I can save it/do you know what I did wrong? Making it for Christmas hampers so don't want to waste it!

Emiko_davies_new_portrait

8 months ago Emiko

Oh dear! It usually sets when it cools, no need to wait till overnight. But perhaps you can return it to pan and keep cooking? I haven't tried that yet but it may work. I've heard of people reheating it through the pan with a blow torch! Otherwise try it again with a new batch and with this one you can make a delicious torrone semifreddo/gelato! An idea: http://www.jamieoliver...

Default-small

9 months ago Bizzy Lizzy's Good Things

Emiko, thanks for sharing this recipe… I've been wanting to make torrone for years!

Default-small

9 months ago RW

How long does it keep? I'd like to mail it.

Europe_451_-_version_2

9 months ago Sarah | strawberryplum

I love how simple this recipe is. I made it last week with almonds, dried apricots, and lemon zest--everyone loved it!

Default-small

9 months ago Gizell

Provisions should stock ostia!! As a kid I loved peeling it off of a torrone and letting it melt in my mouth.

Gunsandcoffee

9 months ago The Pontificator

I'm making this! And I might just go wild and make some "Southern-Style" torrone using peanuts. Or pecans. Or maybe both

Default-small

9 months ago Ksb

I'm pretty certain you could use rice paper instead of "ostia".

Emiko_davies_new_portrait

9 months ago Emiko

You can! It's not traditional but it works as does parchment. Rice paper is also slightly chewier than ostia, so I prefer parchment paper but that obviously has to be removed before eating so neither are perfect.