Eat Local Magra Valley & Lunigiana

Panigacci and Testaroli: meanings and differences

Many food specialties in La Spezia area come from the inland. Two of them are Panigacci and Testaroli, with similar dough and slight differences in preparation and traditions.

“But what is the difference between panigacci and testaroli?” You ight wonder while you stay and try food between Deiva Marina and Lunigiana. It’s not easy  to give a definite and convincing answer and you might hear different and conflicting explanations.
The truth is that panigacci and testaroli are two typical dishes of the poor cuisine of Lunigiana that arise from a very similar mixture (that of panigacci is just more dense), but differ in terms of preparation and consumption (although it must be admitted that there is someone who loves making things more confusing, serving panigacci as it is traditionally done with testaroli).

The common dough

Both panigacci and testaroli are made from a simple batter:
Nothing more simple and really easy to prepare at home. In general the batter is a bit ‘more dense for the preparation of panigacci and a bit’ more fluid for testaroli, but the difference between the two dishes is not certain in this. The difference lies in the cooking, which requires – to prepare as usual – the wood oven and is what makes it difficult to replicate the recipe on home stoves.

Testaroli, cooked in cast iron

Between the two specialties, testaroli are what today has greater commercial success at a national level. It is therefore easier to find them in supermarkets, even outside of the La Spezia and Lunigiana area.
It’s a dish more precisely typical from Pontremoli, even if there is an original version of the Sarzana area and the lower Val di Magra (which differs from the first to be cooked on a cast iron testo and be very thin; another element of difference is that testaroli in the lower Val di Magra are not boiled).
Testaroli – those most known and popular – are thick disks of dough (in the market are in large plastic and vacuum bags), easy to fold, which owe their appearance to the cooking in large testi of cast iron.

Testaroli Pontremoli topped with pesto. Photo J.P. Lon
testaroli pontremolesi are quickly boiled in water and seasoned with olive oil and Parmesan cheese, and pesto sauce. Testaroli pontremolesi will be cut to pieces, while Sarzana will be smaller, full and round shape.

Panigacci, made from testi of clay pots

The panigacci are widespread in almost all of Liguria and Lunigiana, but there is no doubt that their home is the town of Podenzana. The difference with testaroli, however, is not only due to the common place of origin.
What makes panigacci panigacci is the cooking. The preparation provides that the batter is poured into small terracotta dishes calle testi  and with a small raised edge. After filling, the testi are stacked one above the other, so that the batter remains squeeezed in between. For the cooking, the testi are filled with batter and placed on the edge of the oven until tey get red hot, or stacked and filledafter getting red hot on a grate above the wood of the fireplace. It is the accumulated heat from the clay to bake panigacci.
The panigacci of podenzana, delicious to eat with cold hams and cheese spreads.
The panigacci of podenzana, delicious to eat with cold cuts and spread cheese.
So crushed, the batter bakes quickly. The tests pulled out of the oven, panigacci are detached from the cooking instrument and served still warm (often in small baskets) to eat with meats, cold hams and spread


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