If you have ever been on holiday in Italy in wintertime, you must have come across one of the most scrumptious hot drinks we have: dark, dense, creamy and extremely comforting, Italian hot chocolate is a must during these long and cold winter afternoons.
It’s one of the winter treats that I can’t pass up, one that reminds me of home and coziness more than anything else. But also one of the Italian traditions that is easiest to recreate outside Italy.
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It can be bought in sachets from Italian delis as ready-to-prepare, just-pour-the-milk formula, but they are laden with additives and usually quite expensive for what they are.
However, it is very easy and quick to make at home, with just a few ingredients that we all have in our cupboards.
Here’s the recipe for this deliciously smooth Italian hot chocolate.
- 3 tsp cacao powder
- 3 tsp sugar
- Half tsp potato starch
- 150 ml milk
1. Mix all the dry ingredients and pass them through a fine sieve to eliminate lumps.
Put them in a small saucepan. Add a little milk, and stir well, with a wooden spoon, to make a thick paste. Add the rest of the milk little by little, making sure to stir well to get the milk absorbed before adding more.
2. Put the saucepan on medium heat. Stirring continuously, bring the milk to the boil. Lower the heat and let it bubble for a minute, stirring vigorously.
Serve in small teacups (not mugs).
You can drink your hot chocolate plain (it’s delicious as it is), it can be flavoured with a little cinnamon, you can add some whipped cream, or – my personal favourite – you can crush a couple of amaretto biscuits into crumbs and sprinkle them on top.
For best results use good-quality cacao powder: avoid Nesquick and other instant powders.
I find that potato starch is the best thickener for the hot chocolate because it’s very light and doesn’t leave an aftertaste, but plain flour or cornflour can also be used.
If you find the hot chocolate to be too thick, reduce the amount of starch to a quarter of a teaspoon.
Silvana Lanzetta. Photo: Private
Silvana Lanzetta was born into a family of pasta makers from Naples and spent 17 years as a part-time apprentice in her grandmother’s pasta factory. She specializes in making pasta entirely by hand and runs regular classes and workshops in London.