The name of these biscuits is derived from the mosto cotto (must) traditionally used to sweeten them, although today most bakers use honey. They are popular in the south, although each region has a very distinct recipe.
For Christmas in Calabria (where they are also known as mastazzola, mustazzoli or nzudde) they make them in beautiful shapes and decorate them with colourful bits of tin foil. According to legend they were introduced by the Arabs, and became a speciality of the Dominicans in Soriano Calabro. Even so, the story goes that St Francis of Assisi asked for them on his death bed.
Another Calabrian version resembles resembles a soft loaf filled with almonds, chocolate and honey, baked and then sliced.
Other versions include the Neapolitan mostaccioli, made with chopped almonds, honey, oranges and cocoa, then dipped in chocolate. On Puglia's Salentine peninusla, they make another version, mustazzoli.
Images by: Dolciaria Alessandria, Soriano Calabro