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Margherita of Savoy

Turin, 1851 – Bordighera, 1926

Life and History

Margherita di Savoia

Margherita, the wife of Umberto I, became the first queen of a united Italy on November 17, 1878. She was crowned queen in Naples and the Neapolitans welcomed her the excitement and celebration she deserved.

Margherita married her cousin Umberto at a young age in a civil marriage, typical in the ruling families at the time. She was not a very happy bride, nor was Umberto a happy groom. Umberto was actually in love with countess Litta and with whom, it is rumored, he fathered a child.

The young couple lived primarily in the royal palace of Monza, where Margherita won the favor of the people, much more so than Umberto. Some believe that her cultural awareness and wisdom did more for the unification of Italy than the politics of the men. She was an emblem for “Made in Italy,” thanks to her clothes, jewelry, food habits and ways of keeping-house based on national traditions.

After the death of her husband, she continued to be adored by the Italians. Her dignity, balance and wisdom made her the most loved and admired queen of Italy. In exchange for her affection, her name came to symbolize quality and was given to a number of products and special recipes.

The recipes

Pizza Margherita

It was created in honour of the queen and it bears witness of the affection she inspired in Neapolitan people, who saw her as a young bride ascend the throne in their city.

Ingredients (for one pizza)
  • 7 oz bread dough
  • 7 oz fresh tomatoes fillets
  • 1 mozzarella cheese
  • salt to taste
  • 4 leaves basil

25 minutes preparation + 20 minutes cooking

Roll out the dough giving it a round shape and place it onto an oiled baking tin; spread the tomatoes and mozzarella, thinly sliced, on top. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 400° F for 20 minutes. Serve garnished with basil leaves.

Margherita cake

It is the most popular cake named after the queen, even though many other cakes and desserts were dedicated to her, sometimes being modified versions of traditional recipes (for instance in the case of the Siena Panforte or the Stresa “Margheritine”) and sometimes being original creations.

Ingredients (serves 6)

5 oz sugar
  • 5 oz butter
  • 4 ½ oz potato starch
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 4 egg whites
  • 2 half cups Cognac liqueur
  • Preparation
    (25 minutes preparation + 40 minutes cooking)

    Whisk the butter and sugar into a bowl until fluffy. Gently fold in the egg yolks one by one; add also the lemon zest and the liqueur. Then gently fold in the egg whites whisked to firm peaks. Poor the mixture into a buttered oven tin and bake in a medium oven for about 35 – 40 minutes; once cooked, remove the cake from the tin and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

    Gastronomic Library
    M. RINALDI, La storia è servita: vizi e virtù nel piatto dei grandi della storia, Milano, Golosia & C., 1996.