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.
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:
Take those little pockets and start making a circle, squeezing the sides of the little pockets against each other:
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.
Place the little rosettes on a floured board or dishtowels. This recipe makes about 60 rosettes.
Here’s a close-up before it gets fried. All those little pockets will hold the topping.
Fry them in deep, hot oil:
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.
- 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
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.