Friday, December 17, 2010


 December 2010 230 These cookies are seriously addictive. They’re also seriously tedious to make, which is a good thing. Otherwise, I’d be eating them all year long. They are called “cartellate” and come from the southern Italy. They’re known by other names as well, including “crustoli” or “crostoli” which is how my mother referred to them. She was from Northern Italy, but since she moved to the U.S. as a young war bride after she married my father, much of her cooking reflected the southern Italian roots of her in-laws. 

The traditional topping is vincotto, which is a concentration of the grape must (or mosto). Other recipes call for a fig syrup or honey. Mosto is hard to come by here, and fig syrup isn’t readily available either. But it doesn’t matter because the honey (which is what my mom used) topped with walnuts is equally, if not more delicious.

My mother made these each year at Christmas time, then stored them in huge trays up in the cold attic. Fortunately for me, my bedroom was a few steps away from the attic. I wonder if my mother ever realized how many cartellate were snitched from those tempting trays before they ever made it to the Christmas table.

December 2010 232 To start with, make the dough and roll it through the next to last roller on your pasta machine. Cut it into strips about 6 to 8 inches long, then pinch the strips into little “pockets” about 1 inch apart:

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Take those little pockets and start making a circle, squeezing the sides of the little pockets against each other:

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Keep going until you’ve used up all the “pockets” and a rose-shape is formed. You may need to dab with a little water to get them to stick to each other.

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Place the little rosettes on a floured board or dishtowels. This recipe makes about 60 rosettes.

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Here’s a close-up before it gets fried. All those little pockets will hold the topping.

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Fry them in deep, hot oil:

December 2010 113 After you take them out of the hot oil, drain them with the pockets facing downward, to release the oil. Turn them over and they’re ready for the honey and nuts.

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Walnuts are the traditional topping, but if you want you can experiment with almonds, pecans, filberts or other nuts if you like. Some people smother them with just the honey and a sprinkling of cinnamon. Your call.

December 2010 132  Cartellate or “Crustoli”

Printable recipe here

  • 2 3/4 c. flour
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1/4 t. sugar
  • 1/4 c. shortening (crisco or butter)
  • 1 egg
  • 3 t. sherry or white wine
  • 1/2 c. warm water


  • honey
  • walnuts
  • cinnamon

Place all dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Add shortening, eggs, sherry or white wine, and water. Mix until it forms a ball. Knead for a few minutes until dough is smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest one hour.
Roll out dough with pasta machine to the next to thinnest level. Cut into strips about one to one and a 1/2 inches wide and about six or seven inches long.

Pinch one end of the strip and then pinch about 3/4 inch all along the strip, making little pockets. Bring the dough into a circular shape by crimping it together along the strip. Use water to crimp if necessary. Fry in hot oil and top with honey that has been warmed with chopped walnuts. and a dash of cinnamon.


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  1. Linda, my neighbors make these and we always get some in the sample plate she gives.

    Should I surprise her with my own batch? lol

  2. Oh my goodness, these really are a labor of love. They look so delicious and crispy. I love walnuts and know I couldn't leave them alone either.

  3. Fried pasta flowers w/ honey and walnuts?
    Count me in. They are gorgeous.

  4. I've never heard of those before. They look exquisite!



  5. And they're so pretty too!

  6. Oh that name sounds so familiar! My aunt made something like them without nuts just twisted,fried then with powdered sugar, I LOVE this version with the nuts! So tedious, I need to make these side by side with you teaching me! I'm so happy to see you back in the kitchen, you just made my weekend!

  7. Fried rosette dough, honey or vin cotto and walnuts - sounds like a yuletide greeting for the taste buds. If they weren't tedious to make, I'd could make them, bake then and eat them before anyone arrived home! When you go into the kitchen - you dazzle. So smiling. Now, about that tedious thing... I'm such a ne'er do well looking for the easy out - on one hand. On the other hand - you just introduced me to cartellate and I really should be polite and answer.

  8. So good to hear you are back and cooking. Happy Christmas to all.

  9. Ma li hai preparati benissssssimo Linda! sono davvero belli e fanno venire voglia di assaggiarne uno subito! e anche la ricetta spiegata passo-passo è chiarissima. Sei proprio brava! Un bacione e mille auguri

  10. These looks so yummy...labor intensive = love!

  11. That's a serious JOB to make them.
    They look amazing!
    Happy Holidays Linda.

  12. I have never seen nor heard of these before but that is not unusual when I visit your blog - wow this is just another exquisite dish presented with such beauty and grace.....

  13. What a great holiday tradtion. These look so yummy--they'd never last around here either! Merry Christmas

  14. These are certainly beautiful Linda. What a wonderful family tradition.

  15. You make me chuckle, just imagining you filching these from your bedroom near the attic. Great story! These do look like a labor of love. Walnuts and honey... what a lethal and addicting combo for my sugar addiction. I can almost imagine how great they taste. Merry Christmas.

  16. So glad to see you cooking! These look wonderful and I love the story of how you would sneak them from the attic.

  17. I would have sneaked into the attic for those too! What a delicious labor of love.

  18. Li avevo visti sulla tua pagina di face-book, rinnovo i miei complenti, sono bellissime e perfette. Ciao Daniela.

  19. They look so pretty, Linda! I love a honey and nut combination and I'm sure I'd be easily able to consume quite a large portion of these wonderful cookies!

  20. I'd file these under "gifts from the heart" not only for the effort involved but because they look so lovely! A large plate of these on the xmas table at my house would disappear in no time at all.

  21. Utterly gorgeous Linda. It's so tempting looking :)

    Have a wonderful Holiday Seasons.

  22. I see some similarities with traditional Lebanese pastries here; grape molasses was used extensively too. I love these! I would not be able to resist them either!

  23. These look totally amazing Linda...wish I could have a bite right now...I am seriously behind in the baking department!

  24. These look amazing Linda, remind me of something my Sicilian grandma made! Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a blessed new year.

  25. These are beautiful, Linda. I've been meaning to try Lidia's recipe, which is just the dough, cut and formed into bows, and fried, then dusted with powdered sugar. The filling, here, certainly adds another dimension. What a lovely Italian treasure! Buon Natale!

  26. My husband and I made these this morning. I have a recipe from my Grandmother which was from Italy. Our recipe is a little different and we sprinkle them with honey and sprinkles and then dust them with powdered sugar. It was great to see someone else makes them.

  27. These are so beautiful - each a mini work of art. :) I am so happy to 'hear' your voice again. Ti auguro un buon natale ed un felice anno nuovo. Grazie di tutto!

  28. What a nice post! I love the photos. I can see how it would be difficult to stop eating those flowers. I wish it were easier to find vincotto here. Happy Holidays!

  29. The only version I know is twisted and fried then dusted with icing sugar but these are amazing. As is typical with Italian sweets, they are truely a labour of love. How delicious! Wishing you a peaceful Christmas.

  30. My Mom and Mother-in-law made these for Christmas! They top them with colorful jimmies, but the walnuts look great too!

  31. wow. aren't you a crafty lil one. i wonder if i would have the patience for this? man those look so good!

  32. These look great. What a flavorful treat that is new and unique to me. Gorgeous!

  33. Our family calls them "Croost". Its a highly anticipated Christmas tradition. The Croost are topped with Honey and nuts. I was able to find Grape Must and the local oil and vinegar store and look forward to trying that version.

  34. My grandmother made trays and trays of these and everyone couldn't get enough. She was Calabrese and my grandfather was Barese. She said it is a Barese recipe. My great-grandmother used to make them with Olive Oil and my grandmother changed her recipe to Crisco. We also used to call them Wine Cakes because they were made with the Vincotto in Italy. My grandmother said they used to use boxes and boxes of raisins to make the syrup with here. Then, maybe in the 60's the price of raisins went high. My grandfather was frugal, growing up in the depression, so they experimented. My grandmother found that Prune Juice was a good replacement. She made a syrup of equal parts juice and sugar. EX-2 cups Prune juice to 2 cups sugar and boil till sugar was dissolved and then dip the Catadad-the dialect/slang way of saying it-upside down and then lift out with the holes catching the syrup. She would have the whole kitchen table and a 2 fold out 8 foot by 3 foot tables in the other room filled and drying. Great memories....

  35. PS-she never really put nuts on them, but maybe once in a while sprinkled whole almonds on the trays. She would dust with cinnamon or cinnamon/sugar. Totally addictive. She also said that in Italy they would eat it with rice cooked in Milk and you would scoop the rice onto it and take a bite. (Too many carbs-but then It's Christmas!!!!)

  36. we would make these at Christmas..with the women in my Sicilian family...we called them crostoli or crespelli but I see they are more correctly called cartellata...whatever you call them, they are scrumptious..we fried them til golden drained them and cooled them and then we filled the little pockets with high quality grated milk chocolate and finely chopped filberts then drizzled with very slightly diluted warm honey...they were the thing of which dreams are made.

    1. My grandmother was from Northern Italy and we made these every Christmas. I pockets were filled with honey and finely chopped walnuts. We made them 1 to 2 weeks prior to Christmas. We stored them in a big plastic container, the longer they sat the better they got.