Eating St. Agata’s sweet breasts

When teaching a language you do not only tackle the grammatical aspects of a language but also the culture. What is the use of knowing a language when you know nothing about the history,culture, gastronomy and life style of that particular country?

When teaching or maybe better narrating about Italian cuisine/gastronomy I always mention ‘le mammelle di Sant’Agata’ as part of Sicily’s gastronomy and I always have that one student that asks: ‘What does mammelle mean?’ and students are actually shocked when I say breasts.

Mammella Sant'Agata

What is the story behind le minne ( mammelle/breasts) di Sant’Agata?

They represent the story of a girl Agata who lived between the third and fourth centuries. She refuses the blandishments of the proconsul Quinziano, who falls in love with her. After several attempts of moral corruption and constant psychological pressure, made ​​of inducements and threats to subdue Agata, just fifteen,was ripped of  her breasts with a pincer and had also to walk on blazing coal. Sant’Agata is also the patron saint of Catania. They usually do these pastries on the fifth February


Here I have translated from Italian the recipe of LE MINNE DI SANT’AGATA from the book Il conto delle minne written by Giuseppina Torregrossa. Using these quantities you will be able to serve 8 minne.

Minne di Sant’Agata (serves 8 minne)


–  Flour, 600 grams

– Lard, 120 grams

– Icing sugar, 150 grams

-Vanilla Flavour

– Eggs, 2

Cut the lard into small cubes and work it through your fingers together with the flour. When the two ingredients are blended nice to add the icing sugar, stir in the eggs and vanilla. Mix quickly. When the mixture has a soft and supple texture, cover with a little cloth and leave.


– Icing Sugar, 350 grams

-Lemon juice, 2 tablespoons

– Egg whites, 2

Whip partially the egg whites with a pinch of salt. Add sugar, lemon juice and continue to stir until you obtain a white, glossy, foamy cream.


– Cottage cheese, 500 grams

– Candied fruit (pumpkin, citron and orange), 100 grams

– Slivers of dark chocolate, 100 grams

– Sugar, 80 grams

Mix the ricotta and sugar until they become creamy smooth, without lumps. Add the candies and chocolate. Put in refrigerator for approximately an hour. Grease and flour round stencils, because the cake is in the form of a breast. Roll out the pastry into a thin layer. Line the bottom of the moulds, fill with the cream and seal them with pastry discs. Turn them upside down on the plate greased and floured. Bake in oven at 180 ° for 25-35 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool on a rack.
Extracted gently every cassatina from its mould, pour above the glaze, in a uniform way because it will tend to solidify in a short time.
For the simple cassatelle to be transformed as if by magic in the minne (breasts), decorate these magnificent, white, fragrant rounded pastries with a candied red cherry.

Hope you try this out!


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