Italian Word of the Day: Marmellata (jam / preserve / marmalade)

What is the first translation that comes to mind when you see the Italian word marmellata? If you said marmalade, you wouldn’t be wrong, but there is more to this sweet and sticky tale than meets the eye …


jam / preserve

/mar·mel·là·ta/ – [marmelˈlata]
italian word marmellata

According to the precise EU definition, marmellata must be crafted from specific citrus fruits such as orange, mandarin, lemon, citron, bergamot, and grapefruit, with a minimum fruit content of 20%. In other words, what we call marmalade in English!

Jams made from fruits outside this citrus category should technically be termed confettura, which necessitates a minimum fruit content of 35%.

However, the reality is that in everyday Italian, the terms marmellata and confettura are often used interchangeably. In fact, it is very common for Italians to use marmellata to refer more broadly to any kind of jam or preserve made from boiled fruit and sugar.

orange marmalade

According to Treccani, marmellata comes from the Portuguese marmelada, derived from the Latin melimelum, and the Greek μελίμηλον, meaning “quince grafted onto an apple tree.”

Here are some common types of marmellata that you’ve probably spread on a piece of toast at some point in your life!

  • marmellata di fragole = strawberry jam
  • marmellata di lamponi = raspberry jam
  • marmellata di arance = marmalade
  • marmellata di mirtilli = blueberry jam
  • marmellata di pesche = peace jam
  • marmellata di ciliegie = cherry jam
  • marmellata di albicocche = apricot jam
  • marmellata di fichi = fig jam
Grain slice of bread with jam heart shape.

Sto spalmando la marmellata su una fetta di pane tostato.

I’m spreading the jam on a piece of toast.

Yet another similar product is composta, which is known as compote or fruit preserve in English. It must have a fruit content of at least 65% and contains less sugar than either marmellata or confettura. (Source: Shop Piemonte)

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