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Portuguese milk pudding, a traditional Italian dessert

Portuguese milk pudding, a traditional Italian dessert

What is a tradition? A habit, a repeated behavior?
Be careful not to confuse ritual and tradition.

Tradition has to do with the transmission of memories, knowledges, and patterns of behavior from one generation to the next.

The food, cooking it, serving it, sharing it is part of the tradition of family and social heritage that we pass on.

I am a home cook of tradition, which is not static and immutable. On the contrary, it is subject to constant change.

Change is functional to the very life of traditions. Traditions need it to adapt and survive.

Portuguese milk pudding, a traditional Italian dessert

Family traditions over time

Some rituals survive unchanged secula seculorum, but family traditions change and adapt over time.

In my family of origin, there was no custom of celebrating on Christmas Eve.
The religious aspect prevailed.

After a day of last preparations, dinner was frugal. We usually ate cappelletti “di magro” (without meat) or Christmas Eve spaghetti while waiting for midnight mass.

The feast would be the next day when we would have lunch with the extended family. It was a lunch that lasted for hours and slipped away among precious courses, chatter, laughter, and the final applause for the house women (“azdore”). It was a mystery how grandmother Sara ran the kitchen even while sitting at the table.

When I got married many years ago, I applied – without even realizing it – a typical patriarchal society rule.

I gave up Christmas lunch with my family of origin to attend my husband’s family lunch, which, by the way, followed an identical pattern. Relatives, sumptuous food, good humor.

Christmas menù

The menu was also similar.
Tortellini in broth followed by roasts and side dishes. Fruit and desserts.

Then Covid changed many things. Even family gatherings.
For the past two years, I haven’t been able to join my family for Christmas, even for Christmas Eve dinner, a new tradition established after my marriage.
So this year, after almost two decades, I am coming home for Christmas lunch.

And there is so much in this back to home. Love, joy, memories.
I’m already looking forward to the table, the nativity scene in the fireplace, the crazy Christmas tree of my mum.
And the menu, of course.

We decided to opt for a short version of the old menu when there were many people and, above all, great cooks to run the kitchen.

Tortellini in broth, cotechino with sweet and sour onions and baked potatoes, stuffed roast with peas, Russian salad, cheese flan. Two desserts (only).

When my mum and I decided on the dishes and divided up the tasks, I recognized the same joy in her eyes as I did.

As for me, I already know that it will be a special Christmas, and I won’t even have to close my eyes to see everyone again, to hear voices, laughter, and smells of past Christmases.
It will be a Christmas full of happy memories and the happiness of being with my family.

Portuguese milk pudding

My mum and I are already savoring flavors that we both remember well.
We are thrilled to be cooking our grandmother’s recipes and, for the first time, we will be cooking together for the most important meal of the year.

There was no doubt about the dishes we wanted to present and no uncertainty about the choice of desserts either.

When Christmas was still a “state affair”, many desserts were on the menu.
Croquembouche, Sara’s tiramisu (we had lost the recipe until a few weeks ago), chocolate pudding, and Portuguese milk pudding.

Each year one of the desserts on the menù could change, but the traditional fiordilatte pudding (fior-di-latte means flower of the milk), could not be missing because Grandma memorably executed this recipe.

The milk pudding, which she always called it, does not differ much from the recipe also presented by Pellegrino Artusi in his book.

This milk pudding is widespread in different parts of Europe. “Alla Portoghese” may come from the relationship between Genovese and Portugal merchants.

In Romagna, it is called Portuguese milk, while in Bologna, it is better known as fiordilatte.

It is a traditional country recipe. A few simple ingredients are mixed to make a masterpiece dessert.

The recipe is the same as for crème caramel. The only significant difference is that Latte alla Portoghese is never presented as a mono portion.

It is easy to make. Even so, I have simplified some steps. For example, Grandma would strain the milk and whip the yolks and egg whites separately. But these are two steps you can omit without compromising the result.

The coffee, a small but necessary amount, is more of an aftertaste than a flavor and is responsible for the slight amber color of the Portuguese milk pudding.

I am happy to share a recipe from my home. A recipe that has accompanied many events, family lunches, and the most important one of the year, Christmas lunch.

Buona cucina, Monica

Cook with me

Here is the recipe for tortellini in broth.

If you’re looking for inspiration for a good roast, look at the recipe for wrapped cotechino sausage.

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Latte alla Portoghese

Portuguese milk pudding recipe

serves 6-8
List of the Ingredients

6 yolks
2 egg whites
1 liter whole milk
1 teaspoon of coffee (also soluble)
5 tablespoons of sugar, about 100 g
zest of one lemon

for caramel sauce: 4 sugar tablespoons + 1 water tablespoon


Bring the milk with the lemon zest, coffee, and a tablespoon of sugar to the boil, then turn off the heat. If you are using instant coffee, put the powder directly into the saucepan of milk.

Whip the egg yolks and egg whites, then add the sugar.

When the milk has cooled, pour it over the eggs stirring with the whisk.

Prepare the caramel by melting the sugar in the water in a pan.
When the caramel takes on color, it is ready.

Carefully pour the caramel onto the bottom and sides of the mold (hold the mold with a thick or folded tea towel).

Pour in the mixture and bake in a bain-marie in a preheated oven (160 degrees, static) for about 3 hours. The water should be about halfway up the mold.

When ready, remove from the oven. Leave to cool before turning the cake out onto a serving plate.

Portuguese milk pudding recipe

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