mostaccioli by giuseppe dell'anno



Baking these delightful mostaccioli, with their distinctive diamond shape, rich spiciness, and sumptuous dark chocolate coating, creates an irresistible Italian treat!




Preparation time:
50 minutes, plus resting and chilling

Total baking time: 15–17 minutes

For the dough

  • 230g (1¾ cups) soft wheat 00 flour or plain (all-purpose) flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 70g (1/3 cup) caster (superfine) sugar
  • 20g (generous 2 tbsp) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ tbsp pisto (see the introduction for alternatives)
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
  • zest of 1 unwaxed organic orange
  • 130g (scant ½ cup) clear honey
  • 30g (2 tbsp) water
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste


For the filling

  • 60g (2¼oz) Rich Tea biscuits or other light, crisp sweet variety
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 50g (about 2½ cups) mixed candied peel, diced
  • 50g (scant ½ cup) raisins
  • 30g (¼ cup) toasted chopped hazelnuts
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 200g (7oz) quince paste
  • 30g (2 tbsp) dark rum or Strega


For the coating

  • 250g (9oz) dark chocolate chips or bar, broken into small pieces (50–55% cocoa solids)
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil (preferably corn or sunflower)

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Several (and often different) sweet treats in Italian gastronomy are called mostaccioli: the name probably comes from mosto (or ‘must’ – unfermented fresh grape juice) often used as a sweetener before sugar became an affordable commodity. Nowadays a staple on the Christmas table, their origin is lost in the mists of time, though written references date back to the sixteenth century.

My mostaccioli are close to the Neapolitan version: diamond-shaped, richly spiced and coated in dark chocolate. The soft and fragrant nut and fruit filling is a common addition, especially in Gaeta, my home town. Traditionally, the filling includes quince paste, loosened with rum, but you can replace it with apricot jam: in this case reduce the rum to just 15g (1 tbsp) and use 90g (3¼oz) of crushed biscuits – this will keep the texture at the right level of softness.

This recipe uses pisto, a very aromatic blend of ground spices used often in Christmas cookies. In principle, pisto can be bought ready-made, but it is not easy to source outside of Italy. If you cannot find it, swap the ½ tbsp of pisto with 1 tsp ground cinnamon, ¼ tsp ground cloves, 1/8 tsp ground black pepper and 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg.

Mostaccioli are an excellent way to use up old cake, stale croissants or leftover panettone: these can all be used as alternatives to biscuits when making the filling. For a vegan version, replace the honey with agave or golden syrup.


Make the dough

  1. Put the flour, sugar, cocoa, pisto, bicarbonate of soda and orange zest in a bowl large enough to accommodate all the ingredients and mix until fully combined. Warm the honey in the microwave; about 20 seconds will be enough to soften it. Add the warm honey to the dry ingredients, along with the water and the vanilla. Mix with a spoon and, when the dough starts coming together, turn it out onto a clean and dry worktop and knead gently by hand until smooth and homogeneous. The dough will be stiff and only slightly tacky. Wrap it in cling film (plastic wrap) and let it rest in the fridge while you prepare the filling.


Make the filling

  1. Finely crush the biscuits by hand in a bowl large enough to accommodate all the ingredients. Add the cocoa, candied peel, raisins, hazelnuts and vanilla.
  2. Put the quince paste and rum in a small microwave-safe bowl, and warm them in the microwave for about 40 seconds to soften the paste. Combine the paste and rum with a fork until homogeneous, then add to the biscuit mixture and mix thoroughly to form a firm paste. Lay a 40-cm (16-in) long sheet of cling film (plastic wrap) on the worktop, tip half of the paste onto it and shape it as a 30-cm (12-in) long sausage by rolling it on the cling film. Wrap it in the film and twist the ends. Repeat with the remaining paste to make a second wrapped sausage then chill them both in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.



  1. When ready to bake, set the shelf in the middle of the oven and preheat it to 180°C static (350°F/Gas mark 4). Line a baking sheet with baking paper or a silicone mat.
  2. Divide the chilled dough into two halves. Set one half aside and roll the other to 5mm (¼in) thickness over a lightly floured, 35-cm (14-in) long sheet of baking paper. Shape the pastry as a rectangle, about 10 x 30cm (4 x 12in), and position it on the worktop with a long side facing you. Unwrap one of the sausages of filling and place it on the dough. Use the baking paper to lift the dough and wrap it around the filling slightly overlapping the joint; press very gently on the overlap to seal it. Using the baking paper under the pastry, flip the whole log over so that the seal is on the underside. Flatten the log gently with the palm of your hand to about 3cm (1¼in) thickness.
  3. Trim off the two ends to neaten them then cut the log into 6 equal pieces, slicing at an angle so that each one is diamond shaped. Repeat the process to make a second batch of 6 biscuits, then arrange them over the lined tray. Bake for 15–17 minutes, or until they have slightly puffed up and the surface looks dry.
  4. Leave the biscuits cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. I recommend leaving them to dry out for a few hours (or, better, overnight) before coating them with chocolate.
  5. Put the chocolate and oil in a small bowl and microwave it for 1 minute, then stir well and keep microwaving in 10-second bursts, stirring it well between subsequent bursts until completely melted. Arrange the mostaccioli on a sheet of baking paper, then dip the tops in the melted chocolate. Allow the excess chocolate to drip back into the bowl then place the mostaccioli back on the baking paper to set. Mostaccioli keep for up to 2 weeks in a biscuit tin.

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