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Meet Torrone, the Italian Christmas Candy

Torrone is Italy’s sweetest tradition.

When it comes to Italian sweets, panettone may get all the attention come Christmas time, but there’s another beloved favorite that’s worth a closer look. Torrone is a dense nougat-like candy made from egg whites, honey, and sugar studded with crunchy almonds, pistachios, or hazelnuts. You’ll find regional versions of it all over the country, sold in blocks or bars, round cakes or bite-size morsels. We’ve never tried a torrone we didn’t love!

As with so many Italian foods, there are about as many stories about when and where torrone was invented as there are ways to make it. The most romantic story is that it was invented in Cremona, in northern Lombardy, in the 15th century to commemorate the marriage of the Duke of Milan’s daughter. Cooks molded the sweet in the shape of the city’s famous towers, called torrione, and the rest was history. In reality, versions of the candy can be traced back to the Ancient Romans and Greeks, and the name is most likely from the Latin torrere, which means to toast (as the nuts are toasted). 

torrone

Over the centuries, every region of Italy has evolved its own unique form of torrone. Some give it a different name (mandorlato in Veneto, panetto in the Marche region). Some flavor the nougat with spices like clove and cinnamon or citrus peel, while others keep it simple. And then there’s the world of mix-ins: Dried fruit, nuts, seeds, and chocolate are all fair game; in the Campanian town of Grotta, spantorrone wraps the nougat around a thin cakelike biscuit soaked in alcohol. It doesn’t get more festive than that!

All of the torrones you’ll find on the market fall into two categories: morbido (soft) and friabile (crunchy). The amount of sugar in the recipe determines how hard it becomes. All-honey versions, like in Sardinia, are soft and yielding, because the honey does not change its form when heated. Sugar, however, will crystallize as it cooks, so the more sugar a torrone contains (and the longer it’s cooked), the crispier it is. 

italian christmas candy - torrone

For both types, the egg whites, honey, and sugar are cooked in a copper pan for up to 10 hours, carefully tended the whole time by master candy makers. When it’s at just the right consistency, mix-ins are quickly added and the candy is poured into molds and left to cool, or poured onto a marble slab and kneaded for a denser texture. When you see torrone in round shapes, such as the rolled torrone from Antica Torroneria Piemontese, it’s usually been kneaded. 

But why stop there when you could cover it in chocolate? That’s always a question we like to ask. Especially in the Piedmont, known as the chocolate capital of Italy, torrone bars, rolls, and morsels can be found dipped in dark chocolate to add a bitter edge to the sweet treat. There are so many variations on torrone that every Italian has their own personal favorite. Whether you like it yielding and chewy or pleasingly crisp, packed with pistachios or coated in chocolate, there’s a torrone in our shop that’s just right for you.

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