Monday, September 26, 2011


When I received a copy of Cucina Povera, a new cookbook by Pamela Sheldon Johns, I couldn't stop turning the pages. Not because it has glossy pages with slick copy - it doesn't. I was drawn to it because of the rustic, matte feel of the paper, the jagged, deckle edges of each page and most of all, the beautiful photos, recipes and stories of the people whose very lives and traditions are outlined in this book.

For these people, cucina povera (peasant cooking) was a necessity. And even though most of us can afford to indulge in small culinary luxuries nowadays, that doesn't mean we shouldn't respect the bounty that's available or waste food either. Eating what's in season, making simple dishes from the freshest ingredients, and preserving foods for the lean days of winter are lessons we can all benefit from in order to live healthier lives and preserve resources.

Cucina Povera contains delicious recipes - from soups to pastas, meats and vegetables to desserts like this cookie called "sfratti," plural of the word "sfratto," which means eviction. These cookies are one of the old recipes from Pitigliano, a Tuscan town that once housed a large Jewish population. Sadly, many of the Jews were forced to flee during World War II, following Mussolini's racial laws. This recipe is a traditional Rosh Hashanah treat from Pitigliano's Jewish heritage.

Sfratti may be considered "cucina povera" but there's no feeling of deprivation once you've tried these. Here's a visual guide on how to make them, followed by the recipe.

After you've madethe filling, spread it out on the rolled-out dough.

Roll the dough over the filling.
Continue rolling until you have something that looks like a large cigar. The shape is meant to evoke the batons that officials used to bang on the doors of Jews to evict them.
Brush with beaten egg yolk and bake.
Sprinkle with confectioner's sugar.
Betcha' can't eat just one.


From Pamela Sheldon Johns' "Cucina Povera"

Printable Recipe Here


  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

  • 1 cup sugar

  • pinch of slat

  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • 2/3 cup sweet white wine

  • 1 cup honey

  • 4 cups walnuts, chopped

  • 2 tsps. grated orange zest

  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon

  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves

1 egg yolk, beaten

  1. For the pastry: In a large bowl, combine, the flour, sugar and salt. Stir with a whisk to blend. Stir in the olive oil and wine to make a smooth dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.

  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

  3. For the filling: In a medium saucepan, heat the honey over medium heat. Add the walnuts, orange zest, cinnamon and cloves, and cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes, or until thickened. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

  4. Divide the chilled dough into 8 pieces. On a lightly floured work surface, roll a piece of dough into a 4 x 10-inch rectangle. Spoon 1/2 cup of the filling along the center of the length of the dough and roll it up. Place on the prepared baking sheet, seam side down. Repeat with the remaining pastry and filling. Brush the pastry with the egg yolk, and bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

  5. Transfer the pastries from the pan to a wire rack to cool completely. To serve, cut each pastry into 1-inch thick slices and dust with confectioner's sugar. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

Makes about 6 dozen slices

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  1. Those rolled cookies look amazing! The filling is just marvelous.



  2. This books is really making quite a splash! Well, I just downloaded it--in ebook form, so I'll miss the quality of the paper but hopefully not the recipes! Gotta see what all the fuss is about. :)

  3. I have never heard of sfratti, they look a lot like ruggelach. Beautiful! I will have to pick up this book (another cookbook?). :>

  4. I love your dishes... my mom has some of the same ones! (I think our oil and vinegar bottles and salt and pepper shakers... but now I can't remember...)

  5. excellent recipe - I might be "borrowing" this for some cocktail parties I have coming up - Thanks!

  6. They do remind me a little of rugelach but the sweet wine in the dough really intrigues me. Since I am making a New Years dinner on Thursday I will give this a try. It's always fun to put something new on the table.

  7. I love all the stories behind the food like rolling them into batons and what that all meant. Would you believe my family dosen't like nuts in cookies! Whats wrong with them? This would be very dangerous for me to have around because I love nuts of all kinds. I'll make them during the holidays and share them with my friends they look amazing!

  8. Oh I've got to get a copy of this book. Love to read the stories behind delicious recipes like this one.

  9. my grandmother used to make these...i haven't had one in years! thank you for showcasing this recipe. i can't wait to make these for my mom!

  10. Love these desserts/treats with nuts, honey & spices...old world and they are still popular. I'll look out for the book.

  11. ooooooooh... how delicious! This look like a cookbook I need to have in my library!

  12. I first saw this cookbook on Marie's blog. It sounds like a treasure, Linda!

    Sfratti sound delicious/ They are the type of cookie I'd enjoy eating as I love nuts.

  13. What is there about peasant, rustic cooking that welcomes you home? This does. I "dislike" that I covet the book - and your pottery when really I am blessed enough - but I do.

  14. They look yummy and will add to my holiday baking. Sounds like an Italian take on Rugelach.

  15. che deliziosa ricetta Linda, anche le foto sono molto belle e mostrano chiaramente tutti i passaggi!Sei bravissima....Un abbraccio grande...

  16. These look wonderful Linda and I love the history behind them...
    They definitely look like a cousin to rugelach...everything all goes back to the same roots more than likely!
    Thank you for posting this...I need to look for this book.

  17. This rolled cookies look wonderful; the dough is similar to the one used for olive roulade in the middle-east and Greece I believe. Interesting book.

  18. That looks so delicous, Linda. And I love your Deruta coffee set! I found a little creamer like that in a consignment shop recently.

  19. Oh dear, I'm sure I would eat many more than one. I'm always looking for new recipes for my Christmas plates and I think this would be perfect. I love the stories that go along with your recipes, Linda.

  20. This look so good! I am thinking of all the other wonderful filling you could also roll into these. Great book too!

  21. These are such a unique dessert. I am sure that cookbook is amazing. I am sold!

    I am your newest follower :-) I love your blog and cannot wait to see what you post next.

  22. I made these today. I left the sugar out of the dough because the wine I was using was so sweet, and I like things less sweet overall. Used some almonds with the walnuts and a fash of vanilla extract in the filling. They came out fantastic! Thank you!