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Rice cake (Torta di riso) is typical of Bologna. Once, it was called Torta degli Addobbi (Cake of the Decorations).
Its name comes from the religious Feast of Decorations. On that occasion, people traditionally made and served it.

Feast of Decorations

During the late and early medieval period, heretical theories flourished that questioned the role of the figure of Jesus in the Catholic liturgy. 

For that reason, the Church several times intervened by “dispensing” ex-communications and organizing festive occasions.

Pope Urban IV, in 1264, established the celebration of Corpus Domini (from the Latin Corpus Christi).

In Bologna, the celebration of Corpus Domini took the name of Feast of Decorations. The reason was that the streets involved in the procession had to be embellished (hence ‘addobbi‘).  

So, since the 15th century, people made rice cakes on that occasion and, from it, the name. 

In 1566, the Cardinal of Bologna, Gabriele Paleotti, reorganized the event.

I read some chronicles of the time and tried to imagine what Bologna had to be in those June days. 


Rice Cake of Bologna

A journey through time

The columns of the porticoes were covered with precious fabrics and laurel festoons, and the facades of the palaces embellished with drapes, wreaths, and flowers.

Large pieces of cloth were stretched from one side of the street to the other to protect the procession from the hot sun. At the same time, they create an intimate atmosphere. It seemed there was a continuum between house and porticoes. The wealthy families received on the street as if in their homes, and the houses were open to welcome guests and friends.

In the evening, the city lit up.
Candelabra and candles lighted all the balconies, terraces, and porticoes.

And if during the day the religious services marked the feast of the Addobbi, in the evening it was a feast for the population who crowded the streets drinking wine and eating rice cake bought from the stalls which, then as now, accompany fairs and religious events.

The poet and literate Giacomo Leopardi, who visited Bologna for the Feast of Decorations in 1826, described the event to his father in a letter on 3 July. Read what he wrote:


The weather was favorable to the feast of decorations, which to me, not being a lover of spectacles, seemed beautiful and worthy of being seen. Especially in the evening, when a whole long street, illuminated by day, with crystal lamps and mirrors, superbly decorated, adorned with paintings, full of hundreds of chairs all occupied by people dressed elegantly, seems transformed into a conversation room.

Rice cake or Torta degli Addobbi


Of the splendor of the Feast of Decorations, nothing comes to us except for the rice cake. But the cake of the Addobbi of the 15th century was very different from today.

For example, we would not have found amaretti cookies and almond liqueur, which today are considered two classic flavors of the traditional rice cake.

Once, it was an expensive cake that few could afford because of the sugar, almonds, and candied citron.
During the 20th century, the ingredients became less expensive, and the recipe became what we know today.
After World War II, the rice cake had already become the cake of the holidays (Christmas and Easter).

Today, you find it all year round in the city’s bakeries.

Ingredients of the Rice Cake of Bologna

Traditional Rice Cake of Bologna

Grandma left a few written notes of different versions (even one with raisins and another with very little cocoa powder).

The one I share on the blog is the super traditional one. It seemed to me the right thing to start from here.


Choose arborio rice, and when you put it to cook in the milk, remember it tends to stick to the pan. Stir often.

Some people cook the rice with sugar and lemon zest; some add almonds and amaretti biscuits at the beginning of the cook, and some start cooking just the milk and rice. The last option is mine, except for the lemon zest I add immediately.

The rice has to cook until it has absorbed almost all the milk. Or rather, when you turn off the heat, rice and milk should have a soft but not liquid, like a rice pudding consistency.

Then, I add sugar, chopped almonds, and crushed amaretti biscuits (separately).

Then, cut the candied citron into tiny pieces. During cooking, only a few small green crumbs will remain, here and there, visible when cut.

Let it cool. When it is warm, and in the eggs, one at a time, and incorporate stirring.

Bake it in a preheated oven.

Take it out from the oven and brush the surface with almond liqueur. So it will remain moist inside and in the days to come.

Yes, because the rice cake will be kept for several days (in the fridge).

I know that candied citron and almond liqueur (Disaronno if you’re wondering what to use) may turn your nose up at it. 

If you prefer the traditional version, here are the ingredients needed.

The recipe has changed over the centuries, but one thing has remained the same since the 15th century. Once cooled, cut rice cakes into rhomboid shape. But if you prefer, make squares or use a round mold and cut slices.

Finally, rice cake is considered a dessert.

Cook Bolognese cuisine and life will smile at you,


Typical sweets of Bologna

Another favorite classic of mine is the sweet Tagliatelle cake.

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Rice Cake of Bologna

Rice Cake of Bologna

Rice cake has been a traditional dessert in Bologna since the 1400s
Course Dessert
Cuisine Bolognese
Keyword #Bologna, Rice, Rice Cake
Prep Time 1 hour
Servings 8 servings


  • 1 square baking mold 21x21 cm


  • 100 g of amaretti cookies
  • 100 g of peeled almonds
  • 100 g of candied citron
  • 1 liter of whole milk
  • 200 g of arborio rice
  • grated rind of 1 lemon
  • 200 g of caster sugar
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 3 whole medium eggs
  • 50 g of almond liqueur like Disaronno
  • 20 g alchermes liqueur
  • 60 g almond liqueur to brush the surface of the cake
  • butter to taste


  • Chop the amaretti biscuits in the blender until they are like powder. Set aside.
  • Chop half of the almonds with a knife and the other half in the blender. Set aside.
  • Finely chop the candied citron with a knife. Set aside.
  • In a pot, pour milk, then add the rice and grated lemon zest. Stir.
  • Cook the rice in the milk for 30 minutes, stirring often and over low heat, or until it acquires the consistency of a slow pudding.
  • Turn off the rice, add the sugar, and stir.
  • Now add the minced amaretti biscuits as well and mix.
  • Then add almonds, candied citron, 20 g alchermes, 50 g almond liqueur, and a pinch of salt, and mix until creamy and smooth (as in the photo below the recipe).
  • Let the mixture rest for 15 minutes before adding the eggs one at a time, incorporating before introducing the next.
  • In the meantime, preheat the oven to 170C degrees (338F).
  • Grease the mold and pour in the mixture. Bake in preheated oven for one hour.
  • Take out the cake from the oven, and while the cake is still warm, prick the surface with a toothpick and brush the surface of the cake two times. Use 60 g of almond liqueur or, if you prefer, dilute the liqueur with water. The cake will remain more moist. And the almond flavor is more intense.
  • Let it rest in the refrigerator for a day or overnight before consuming.
  • Store the cake in the refrigerator for up to a week.


Rice and Milk


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