Maria Luigia of Habsburg-Lorraine, Duchess of the Duchy of Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla, second wife of Napoleon Bonaparte: the Duchess most loved by the people of Parma, still well-liked and fondly remembered today. Maria Luigia left her mark not only in the history, politics, art and architecture of the city but also in gastronomy and in the way of being at the table. There are numerous dishes loved by the Duchess that are still found today on the tables of the Parma citizens, as well as the culinary tributes to Maria Luigia and her tastes.
And, if, as a Parmesan proverb says, “only to the king Anolino the Duchess did the bow”, let’s discover together some dishes and products that remind us of our beloved Maria Luigia.
We can only start with the tortel dòls. It seems that the origins of this particular tortello with a sweet and sour filling made up of cooked wine, mustard and breadcrumbs date back to the period of the Duchy of Maria Luigia. Tradition says that the Duchess offered the boatmen who came to Sacca di Colorno this dish, the recipe of which today is protected by the Confraternity of Tortel Dòls.
The Duchess Maria Luigia was a great glutton for sweets. She brought pastry chefs and recipes of tradition and French inspiration with her to Parma. Among these, it is impossible not to mention the sweet green tortelli: a shortcrust pastry filled with spinach, chickpeas, candied orange and spices. A dessert with a particular and ancient flavor that few pastry shops in the city still offer.
In many pastry shops, on the other hand, you can find candied violets. Maria Luigia adored the Violet of Parma: she chose this flower as a symbol and as a color and supported the friars of the convent of the Annunziata in the creation of the perfume, which became her personal fragrance. Violets, candied with a simple sugar syrup, are delicious bonbons or elegant decorations for pastries and cakes.
The candied violet is often the decoration for one of the most iconic cakes of the Parmesan pastry: the Duchessa cake. There is no definite information on why the cake is named after Maria Luigia: it is said that it was called this way because it was created by a court pastry chef in honor of the Duchess but there are those who claim that it is called so precisely because it was the favorite dessert of Maria Luigia or that it was later named after her to unite the sweetness of the dessert to that of the beloved Duchess. It is a rich and slightly alcoholic dessert, suitable as a dessert for important events, has a tasty and elegant appearance and is present in all the best pastry shops that offer typical and traditional sweets, often also in miniature versions.
At the end of this ideal meal dedicated to the Duchess, the liqueur of Maria Luigia could not be missing. This liqueur based on lemon verbena (also called Luigia grass) has a fresh and sweet taste: hence the reference to the sweetness of the Duchess.
If we have intrigued you with these products in some way dedicated to our beloved Duchess Maria Luigia, you just have to come and visit us in Parma and discover the many historical, artistic and culinary traces of the Duchess that dot the city and beyond!