These biscuits were first made in Sicily during the Spanish rule in the 16th century. In fact, the Sicilian dialect name ‘Mpanatigghi derives from the Spanish word empanada.
If you are wondering how to pronounce this strange Sicilian word, imagine that you have stuffed your mouth with empanadas, and someone asks you what you are eating – your reply will be remarkably close to the correct pronunciation for ‘mpanatigghi. Both the Sicilian and Spanish words come from the verb meaning “to wrap or cover with bread dough.”
‘Mpanatigghi are half-moon shaped biscuits (or cookies) with a thin crust, and are stuffed with a mixture of sugar, chocolate, almonds, lemon peel, egg, cinnamon, and vanilla, plus a secret ingredient that is impossible to detect – minced beef. If anything could be more unusual, these biscuits originally contained wild game. In case you are breathing a sigh of relief that you are vegetarian, there is also another version that substitutes the meat with eggplant.
If these sound revolting, it is best to try them without knowing what you are eating, and in my experience everyone loves them- it’s only after being told what’s inside that people turn up their noses, which says something about food prejudices.
Also known as “traveler’s biscuits” as they are practically a meal in themselves, ‘mpanatigghi were a common staple when undertaking an arduous journey. Nowadays I find they are an excellent substitute for in-flight meals.