Some years ago, on a trip to north-west Italy with the Consorzio di Tutela del Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene – a consortium of 11 prosecco producers who represent vineyards granted the high-quality Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) status – I visited a restaurant called Le Beccherie, the birthplace of tiramisù.
Le Beccherie is a formal ristorante in a beautiful square in Treviso, a town in the Veneto region, about 40km north of Venice. The town is one you might imagine James Bond pottering about in; less tourist-clad than Venice, far more space, but still offering ample liquor and fresh seafood.
We had risotto, which was good, and lamb, which was fine, and then trumpets sounded and plates of tiramisù arrived together with an espresso and a small glass of water.
Each square was perfectly formed, a fluffy blanket of cacao on top of oozing coffee and cream. It was remarkable – the original sponge finger pudding: not too sweet, cream silky and light, coffee subtle but willing. And the layers were thin and considered to bring about a keener texture. Dolloped brazenly from a big bowl it was not.
The story goes that the late restaurateur Ado Campeol (he died in 2021) invented tiramisù at Le Beccherie in 1969. Apparently, it was a chance creation after some mascarpone cheese ended up in the egg and sugar mixture while he was making vanilla ice cream. Really, we have his wife to thank. Alba Di Pillo turned her husband’s happy accident into a proper recipe and it was added to the menu in 1972.
True fame hit in 1981 when Italian food writer Giuseppe Maffioli wrote about it in the regional magazine Veneto, though Maffioli credited the restaurant’s pastry chef (presumably because it was they who prepared and served it each day): “Recently, just a little more than a decade ago, in the city of Treviso, there emerged a new dessert: the tiramisù. It was proposed for the first time at the restaurant Le Beccherie by a certain pastry chef named Loli Linguanotto”.
Being Italy, countless others have claimed ownership over tiramisù. Its origins are often disputed among the regions of Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia, while chefs far beyond Italy have taken the recipe, adapted it, celebrated it, performed with it. Some swear booze should be added, others deem it unnecessary. In whatever form, it is one of Italy’s keystone desserts and guarded fiercely.
Not all Italians become upset with meddling. Davide Parato, executive chef at the pizza group Crust Bros, makes a fine tiramisù. He also makes a dish called “panettimisu,” where the dessert is mixed with panettone, a festive staple in Italy.
Pareto doesn’t specify what panettone to use. For this, I’d get to Aldi if I were you. The “specially selected” chocolate one is £3 and a humdinger.
140g egg yolks (approx. 7-8 eggs)
250g egg whites (approx. 7-8 eggs)
30g cocoa powder
500ml espresso coffee
Make the coffee and leave to cool it down. Add the pasteurised egg yolk and sugar in a bowl and start to whisk it. When the sugar has been incorporated into the yolks (it has to look like thick cream), add mascarpone cheese and keep whisking for another 3 minutes.
Put the egg whites in a bowl with the remaining sugar and whisk it for 5-6 minutes until they get a tough consistency. Add the egg whites into the yolk and mascarpone cream and, with a spatula, gently mix from the bottom to the top.
Cut the panettone into 5cm slices, and dip the slices into the coffee, on one side only.
Take a large, high-sided tray (approx. 30cm x 35cm), add a layer of coffee-dipped panettone, then a layer of cream on top of the panettone. Repeat this with another layer of panettone, then cream.
Put the tray of Panettimisu in the fridge and leave for at least 12 hours. Dust cocoa powder on top, and serve.