Migliaccio (Semolina Pie)

Migliaccio di semolino (Semolina Cake)

In Campania, dessert by Frank30 Comments

Migliaccio, a crustless Neapolitan Semolina Cake, is a traditional sweet dish for Carnevale, may be less well known than the more iconic Neapolitan Carnival treats like those fried dough ribbons called chiacchiere or the lasagna di Carnevale so dear to the hearts of so many Italian-Americans, but it’s well worth discovering.

Called migliaccio because it was originally made with millet, migilo in Italian, most modern recipes call for a rather rich batter of semolina simmered in milk, then mixed with ricotta, eggs, sugar and flavorings. This recipe, taken from Jeanne Caròla Francesconi’s La Cucina Napoletana, doesn’t call for ricotta. And rather than milk, the semolina is simmered in water before being mixed with the sugar and eggs, with just a few drops of milk to round out the batter. Francesconi’s recipe is rather more austere than the typical migliaccio but, particularly if you like the taste of semolina, quite appealing nonetheless. If you’re feeling extravagant, it can be fancied up with candied fruits, raisins or chocolate bits.

It’s the kind of thing I can imagine Angelina enjoying, even if I don’t recall her making ever making it. Besides as a sweet snack or dessert for a holiday dinner, I quite like migliaccio at breakfast with my morning coffee.

Ingredients

Makes one 20cm/8 inch cake, enough for 4-6 or more, depending on appetites

To cook the semolina:

  • 200g (7 oz) semolina
  • 700ml (3 cups) water
  • A tiny pinch of salt

To complete the batter: 

  • 100g (3-1/2 oz) granulated sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 egg whites
  • Zest of one lemon, grated
  • A few drops of vanilla extract
  • 100 ml (3-1/2 fl oz) milk

For baking and serving:

  • 1-2 Tbs butter to grease the springform pan
  • Powdered sugar

Optional:

  • Candied orange or citron
  • Raisins, soaked in rum
  • Dark chocolate bits

Directions

Bring the water, to which you’ve added a tiny pinch of salt, to a simmer. Slowly pour in the semolina, whisking all the time in a single direction, as if you were making polenta. Continue simmering over low heat for a few minutes, stirring often to prevent scorching.

Transfer the cooked semolina to a large mixing bowl and let it cool. Mix in the sugar, egg yolks and whites, lemon zest and vanilla extract, then thin out the batter a bit with the milk.

Grease a 20mm (8 inch) springform pan with the butter. Then pour in the batter, flattening out the top a bit with a spatula. Bake in a pre-heated 190C/375F oven for 60 minutes or so, until golden brown on top.

Remove the migliaccio from the oven and let it cool completely. Serve topped with powdered sugar.

Migliaccio (Semolina Pie)

Notes on Migliaccio

To make this dish you want semolina, often called “farina” here in the States: fairly coarsely milled durum wheat. The stuff you also use to make Roman Style Gnocchi. You do not want the finely ground durum wheat flour you would use to make pasta. This article ably describes the difference.

Apparently, the original migliaccio was made with millet and sugar mixed with pigs blood, making it a kind of baked version of sanguinaccio—a dish still made today, and one I’d love to feature on the blog if I can ever get my hands on the main ingredient. A more common modern recipe for migliaccio calls for simmering the semolina in a mixed of half milk, half water (or even all milk). In some recipes, you add butter as well. The cooked semolina is mixed with eggs, sugar, lemon zest and vanilla as in this recipe, but with the addition of ricotta cheese as well. Here is one such recipe, in Italian. The milk and ricotta make it a much richer dish, perhaps one that would appeal more to modern palates. I’ve found a few recipes calling for flavoring the batter with limoncello as well. Personally, Francesconi’s more humble recipe is sumptuous enough.

There are also savory versions of migliaccio, where the sugar is omitted (obviously!) and the cooked semolina (sometimes mixed with or replaced by polenta) is mixed with various bits of salami, pancetta or other cured pork and cheeses like scamorza or provolone, much in the style of a pizza rustica, but without the crust.

Migliaccio di semolino (Semolina Pie)

Migliaccio di semolino (Semolina Pie)

Ingredients

    To cook the semolina:
  • 200g (7 oz) semolina
  • 700ml (3 cups) water
  • A tiny pinch of salt
  • To complete the batter: 
  • 100g (3-1/2 oz) granulated sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 egg whites
  • Zest of one lemon, grated
  • A few drops of vanilla extract
  • 100 ml (3-1/2 fl oz) milk
  • For baking and serving:
  • 1-2 Tbs butter to grease the springform pan
  • Powdered sugar
  • Optional:
  • Candied orange or citron
  • Raisins, soaked in rum
  • Dark chocolate bits

Directions

  1. Bring the water, to which you've added a tiny pinch of salt, to a simmer. Slowly pour in the semolina, whisking all the time in a single direction, as if you were making polenta. Continue simmering over low heat for a few minutes, stirring often to prevent scorching.
  2. Transfer the cooked semolina to a large mixing bowl and let it cool. Mix in the sugar, egg yolks and whites, lemon zest and vanilla extract, then thin out the batter a bit with the milk.
  3. Grease a 20mm (8 inch) springform pan with the butter. Then pour in the batter, flattening out the top a bit with a spatula. Bake in a pre-heated 190C/375F oven for 60 minutes or so, until golden brown on top.
  4. Remove the migliaccio from the oven and let it cool completely. Serve topped with powdered sugar.
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Comments

  1. I am going to have to try this cake, I like that it is not too sweet. It would be great for breakfast or an afternoon snack with my homemade orange marmalade.

  2. Wondering where you can get some pig’s blood, eh? My grandma makes a traditional Polish soup that is made with duck’s blood, and she finds it at a Polish butcher. I wonder if there’s an ethnic butcher you could hit up? Anyway, this cake looks like a must-bake.

    1. Author

      I’ll give it a try. We have one Polish store around here. Not a proper butcher, but worth a try. That and some of the Asian markets, I’m thinking.

  3. I just love the simplicity of this traditional cake, it looks like it super moist. The colour is amazing too. I’d love to try this one day.

  4. I had never heard of migliaccio until last week, when Claudia from “Journey of An Italian Cook” posted a recipe. Then just yesterday, in watching RAI TV, they showed a recipe for it too. I guess it’s a message to make it. Your version looks luscious.

  5. I made this yesterday and added toasted pine nuts and dried cranberries. I served it with whipped cream and fresh strawberries, and it was divine. This recipe is going in my files.

  6. Fascinating. Had no idea it was originally made without ricotta. All the versions I saw, had it. I do like the non-sweetness of it. And its rustic qualities.

    1. Author

      I’m with you, Claudia. I’m not actually big on cakes, but when I do make one, I like them rustic and not too sweet. Just like this one. 🙂

  7. in questo periodo carnevalesco ho visto in rete tante ricette di migliaccio con la ricotta, questa tua è molto originale ,ho voglia di provare entrambe le versioni, con e senza ricotta e poi giudicare, grazie ! Buona domenica Frank !

  8. I had left an early message this morning that seems to have vanished- I try again and my apologies if u end have doubls

    …allora: migliaccio: delicious! Do people try it! My version from an old school pasticcere from Campania features actually ricotta and durum wheat flour! From what I have read about, one can use either semolino (as in Frank’s version) or semola (durum wheat flour) + my version is flavoured with orange blossom water, that unmistakeably neapolitan flavour

    Sanguinaccio: delicious, one of my fondest memory as a kid. now it is illegal to sell pig’s blood apparently, even if I am sure it can be obtained at a “personal level”,especially in the south of italy, where the winter slaughtering of pigs still happen
    Ciao

    1. Author

      I’m liking the idea of orange blossom water… what a lovely scent it lends! I’m going to try that next time, in the version with ricotta.

      I’m seeing conflicting things online on whether it’s legal to sell pigs blood here in the US. I’ve had dishes made with it in Chinese restaurants, and of course you can give blood sausages, so I figure it’s possible somehow.I figure Asian markets might be the best bet. And yet other sources say it is illegal unless you buy a whole pig.

  9. Hi Ellen:I do not think polenta would give the same texture, which is smooth, not gritty at all/possibly fine cornmeal cold work, even if the taste would be different

    I make migliaccio using durum wheat flour – there are many versions of this pudding, some using semolino some using semola rimacinata (the other name for durum wheat flour)
    Hope this helps

    1. Author

      And thank you for stopping by, John! Worth a try, for sure, especially if you like the taste of semolina. And you’re right, it’s sweet but not too sweet, perfect for grown up palates.

  10. I need to get my Carnavale game on, Frank! Both Mark and I are big fans of semolina cakes, much more so than those made with cornmeal. The sweetness of semolina is wonderful! It would be interesting to try this version and taste test against the richer, dairy-laden version.

  11. Interessante… I see similar cakes in Maghrebi (North African) shops nearby, around Jean-Talon market. I’d be inclined to try a Québec version with maple syrup or sugar. Have you tried making it with the original millet – easily found in natural food shops. The savoury version looks good as well. I don’t like desserts that are very sweet, so this looks like something my friends and I would appreciate.

  12. Can I use polenta or corn meal to make this cake? Or does it depend on the gluten in semolina? Thank you!

    1. Author

      Ellen, See Stefano’s comments, which I agree with. I guess the bottom line is that yes, it would probably work—as mentioned savory migliacci are sometimes made with polenta—but the result will be different. The texture of your typical polenta is rather rougher than semolina, so the cake may have a ‘gritty’ feel. Having said that, there are varieties of finely ground polenta called “fioretto” that might work nicely. If you try it, let us know what you think!

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