Saint Agatha's Breasts - Gastro Obscura


Saint Agatha's Breasts

This ricotta and marzipan pastry honors the Sicilian saint's most noteworthy body part.

What’s the first thing you think of when looking at these delectable pastries? Your mind isn’t in the gutter—it’s spot on. Nuns around the ancient port city of Catania, located on Sicily’s east coast, paid tribute to their patron saint by baking pastries shaped like her breasts. Today, bakers around the city carry on the tradition.

According to the story, not only did 15-year-old Saint Agatha of Sicily refuse to abandon her faith, she also rejected a Roman governor’s advances. As such, she was punished by having her breasts amputated, then died of her wounds in prison on February 5, 251 A.D. Frescoes of the mutilated martyr are easily recognizable. She’s often depicted holding her breasts on a platter.

Known as minne di Sant’ Agata in Italian, these sweet cheese and marzipan desserts are an edible reminder of Saint Agatha’s suffering. Bakers craft the perfectly round confections using a base of shortcrust pastry topped with ricotta. After adding in chocolate or a piece of boozy spongecake to accompany the filling, they blanket everything in pistachio marzipan and a thick, creamy glaze. A candied cherry on top completes the anatomically-correct aesthetic.

Each February, hundreds of thousands of people flock to Catania to honor Saint Agatha in a three-day celebration. The centuries-old festival features an all-night procession and delicious replicas of saintly, amputated breasts at every pastry shop.

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