Why Giada De Laurentiis Thinks Panettone Should Be A Valentine's Day Food

For some Italians and Italian-Americans, enjoying a slice of panettone is a longstanding Christmas tradition. Even if you've never tasted this pastry, you've undoubtedly seen it, as it's hard to miss the tall red boxes of these sweet breads on display in grocery or specialty stores during the holiday season.

This semi-sweet, sponge-like cake is made from a cured dough and is traditionally flecked with raisins and candied orange and lemon rinds (via Taste Atlas), although other variations have evolved over the years, such as those with berry, chestnut, espresso cream, limoncello, or chocolate flavors, says Eataly. Many brands also come with a packet of powdered sugar included, so beautiful presentation is a snap after you take it out of the box. Italians often stock up on panettone as the holidays approach, too, sharing it as a hostess gift or serving it for family and friends who stop by for a visit. In general, the treat is regarded as an edible and heartfelt way to wish family and friends a happy holiday.

But, Giada De Laurentiis is adamant about wanting to adopt this long-standing Christmas tradition on Valentine's Day as well. And for good reason! It turns out that panettone has quite a romantic history, if you believe the legends that surround this sweet treat. On her website Giadzy, De Laurentiis shares the story of love and panettone. As she tells the tale, there was a Milanese nobleman named Ughetto who loved a woman named Adalgisa from afar. But, instead of using flowers or chocolates or poetry to woo the object of his affection, he gifted her with something even sweeter and ultimately won her love.

Two star-crossed lovers once united by panettone

As the story further goes, as related on the Giadzy website, Adalgisa was a peasant woman who worked tirelessly as a bread maker in her father's struggling bakery. To provide relief to the belabored woman he adored, Ughetto resolved to help her by posing as a peasant willing to work for no wages. As he worked, he had the idea to add eggs, butter, and sugar to her bread to make it more delicious and appealing. Since Adalgisa's family could never afford these ingredients, Ughetto purchased them on his own, and thus panettone was invented. With the bakery saved, Adalgisa fell in love with and married Ughetto. And just what did the couple serve at their wedding? Panettone, of course (via Taste Atlas). Given this story, we'd have to agree with Giada De Laurentiis that panettone should have been a Valentine's Day tradition all along! And her Instagram followers seem to agree too, with one who even said, "Yum, can eat it all year round."

While it can be difficult to find the dessert in American stores in the dead of winter, you might have luck at Italian specialty shops. Giada's blog post provides a link to order her personal pick for Valentine's Day panettone from Italian baker Giuseppe Gobino. She describes it as "incredibly rich [with a] perfectly sweet flavor and texture." Although a slice of panettone is delicious on its own, there are ways to make it even more special: Try serving it with fresh berries and ice cream, or whipped cream drizzled with chocolate sauce. You can also pair it with a sweet wine or hot chocolate (via Eataly). As a side note, leftover panettone makes a great French toast. Now that's amoré!