Cookies from Southern Italy
Dec 152009

Remington - Christmas Desserts

December is the month for desserts in Calabria. Every year the season starts on December 13 with the festa di Santa Lucia. This is the day that many cooks start the fritture, the annual frying of yeasted dough for desserts. In some towns people prepare la cuccia, which is cooked wheat berries with nuts, mosto cotto and spices. In the area of Calabria in which I grew up, Christmas meant grispelle, yeasted dough-and-potato fritters, shaped long and drizzled with honey, and cuddureddi, which are ring-shaped and served plain or with honey. Up in the Sila area, especially in the town of San Giovanni in Fiore, you find the traditional pitta ‘mpigliata, baked pastry rosettes filled with walnuts, almonds, raisins, cinnamon, cloves and drizzled with honey. Pitta 'mpigliata

Another Christmas dessert found in the Cosenza area are the scaliddi or scalille, meaning “little ladders”.  These are fritters made with a sweet dough, but shaped either to resemble a ladder, with two long parallel sides and shorter cross bars, or a long spiral made by wrapping a rope of dough around the handle of a wooden spoon and then dipping the spoon into hot oil.

My two favorite desserts at Christmas were always the cannariculi (or cicirata) and chinule.  The cannariculi are a sweet fried dough shaped like gnocchi, fried and drizzled with honey:


The cicirata is the same dough but cut in the size of a chick pea and fried and coated with honey. Those of you who are Neapolitan know them as struffoli. In some towns the cannariculi are coated with mosto cotto. They are also known as turdilli or crustoli. The chinule are shaped like  a ravioli or half-moon turnover and filled with a puree of chestnuts, raisins, chocolate, cocoa powder and spices and then are fried and drizzled with honey.

As you go further south in the boot you will find many other types of traditional desserts at Christmas time, like petrali, half-moon shaped cookie dough filled with dried figs, nuts, chocolate, mosto cotto and cinnamon, and then baked and covered with a glaze. And there’s the pignolata, tiny fritters covered with either a chocolate or lemon glaze.

I know that you are all waiting for the recipes for these desserts but unfortunately I can’t include them this year–all the ones that I mentioned are in my upcoming cookbook, and I am not allowed to give them out.  But I promise you that I will give them to you next Christmas!

All the photos in this post were taken by Sara Remington for my book. I will add more pictures to the blog as I begin my own fritture.

  48 Responses to “Traditional Christmas Desserts of Calabria”


    These look wonderful! I cannot wait to see your cookbook!!


    Thanks for sharing these. My family made most of them at Christmas time. We make the pitta ‘mpigliata but have always called it Christmas pizza.

    I look forward to seeing your book!


    ACK! Torture! Can’t wait for the book! I miss my Nana’s turdilli so much! It was my favorite!


    I just discovered your web site. Benissimo.
    Sono nato qui in America (San Jose, CA), ma i miei genitori sono stati di Calabria — una piccola paese — Donnici Superiore.
    I miss my nonna’s turdilli & scalille., what a surprise to find them on your site.
    Unfortunately there are few left in my family who make or know about these treats.
    We continue the tradition, however, of making the cuddureddi every Christmas.
    I will visit your site often to see what other discoveries I can make.

    Ottime Feste Natalizie e Buon Anno Nuovo!


    I am glad you found my blog. I am hoping that you will be able to recreate some of your nonna’s dishes when my cookbook comes out next year.
    Buon Natale e Felice Anno Nuovo


    Love our blog, reminds me of family dinners… Can’t wait for your cookbook! Can you add me to a notification list?



    I will definitely let you know when my book is published. It is scheduled for Fall 2010.


    What a treat to see the traditional cookies/small cakes my mother made each year!
    She was the only one in our Sicilian family who made the cannariculi and the chinule
    so now I know these cookies were a Calabrian tradition. My mother used white port wine in the cannariculi dough and covered the small cakes with Karo, probably a necessity during the war when honey was a luxury.


    Put me on your email list for the release of your new book.
    Thank you,



    I will let you know when it is released.


    Hi ! Please put me on your list – to send me a notice when your book is released…!
    Thanks – I love to cook.


    my mother, may god bless her always, made a donut shaped cookies baked them and than covered them with an harden egg white frosting, they were called I think the spelling or souds like “chumbrella” I would love to make them for my children but just don’t have a recipe, my sister does not know how to make them either.
    Please help



    please put me opn the list for your cook book


    Rosetta, I stumbled upon your site looking for the traditional Christmas sweet my Calabrian family calls ‘a pitta’ and I see the real name is pitta ‘mpigliata. Does your new book have a recipe for it? We do have our family recipe, which requires it be made 2 months ahead of Christmas and tied with cotton string…is this typical?
    Your photos have brought back a lot of wonderful memories…especially the stuffed baby eggplant.
    Has the book been released yet?
    Thank you,



    The book does have the recipe for Pitta ‘mipgliata. I am not aware of making it two months ahead of time but I know that they keep for a long time. The book is released on Nov.8th.
    You can order it online or through your local bookstore.


    is the cookbook now available?



    The book has been released this week and it available online. If you look at my blog or website it gives you the link to Amazon.


    Hi. Me and my cuzins have been unsuccessfully searching for a recipe our grandma make. They are a fried dought and she drizzled it with honey. But it was much larger than cannariculi. Wondering if she just made them larger. The family called them something like (phonetically) tuttidri but pictures of tuttidra look nothing like what we are looking for…any suggestions?


    So glad I found this website. Thank you.


    Received the book on Tuesday and my cousin and I made the pitta ‘mpigliatta yesterday….4 of them. Very slight differences in the flavors that our grandmother’s used…they added grated orange and lemon zests to the filling. But the house smelled like Christmas and we cannot wait for that wonderful day when we taste our beautiful pitta. Until then, we will refresh with honey as needed and keep tightly covered…..that is the main difference I think. The book is gorgeous and I can see it is going to be a ‘cooking’ winter!

    NOTE TO JOE MAGLIOCCO SR……I just saw a recipe for ‘ciambella’ a donut shaped cookie with a hard icing, listed in the new Martha Stewart HOLIDAY cookies magazine, out now.

    Thank you, Rosetta.


    Glad to hear that you made the pitta ‘mpigliata. The addition of the lemon zest sounds great. I kept the recipe as it was from the friend that shared it and she only used grated orange zest in the filling, but I think adding lemon zest would be great.
    As you know even with families there are variations in recipes. Enjoy it at Christmas.



    The turdilli are similar to the cannariculi ..sometime larger in size but they are like a large gnocchi. You might be thinking of scalidde which is different is shape and larger in size.
    Here is a picture of scalidde:
    Let me know if this is what you have been looking for.


    Reading these words almost made me cry! My family is from Cosenza and this time of year is probably the biggest and most important. I’ve never actually seen all the names written out! Everything looks delicious, what a great blog you have. Must get my hands on a copy of your book!


    In our Calabrese kitchens, we make the grispelle (minus the parmesan cheese that I’ve seen in some recipes) but we call them (and forgive photetical butchering) cudruiedri. Any proper way of pronouncing our version that you may have heard of? My family repeatedly tries to pronounce it and we just roll all over laughing because we all butcher it! My parents and aunts (Calabria natives) try to spell it, but back then, they didn’t spell it, they ATE it!! Thanks in advance!



    When shaped as a round ring they are called “Cuddurieddi”, now you know how to spell it.


    Rosetta I can’t wait for your new book of desserts. My mother passed this year and I have
    my dad here with us and it is so hard. My dad”s family is from SanGiavanni originally, but
    everyone has passed. Today I wanted to make Pitta Impigliata that was my dad’s favorite,
    but my mom’s receipe card says handfuls of flour, glass of whiskey, small glass of wine—–wow. I’m going to try but would like not to mess it up. The picture of the dessert on the
    right I have seen before 35 years ago and have been asking around for it for that long since
    I tasted it at a wedding I attended so I cant wait to see it in your book. Thank you and any
    correction to my ingredients is helpful, I just want to make my dad happy he misses my
    mother so much.



    I hope that you will make a pitta ‘mpigliata for your dad, the recipe is included in my book. Look on page 338 for the recipe.
    Buon Natale!


    My family comes from Reggio Calabria. I am searching for a recipe for what my aunts call “crispelle”, which I think are your “grispelle”. My father remembers eating them at Christmas in two variations, a sweet version stuffed with raisins, and a savory versions stuffed with anchovies.

    Are these Italian-American variations or are they traditional?

    Any help you can provide would be fantastic! Can’t wait to add these to my own Christmas traditions.



    The savory ones that are stuffed with anchovies is just plain yeasted dough (follow my recipe on page 37 for those, leave out the peppers that I have folded in our version). The sweet version is done with or without potatoes and again it is a yeasted dough and in many towns in Calabria they fold in raisins and shape them like “ciambelline” (ring shaped doughnut). They are both traditional dishes of Calabria.


    My parents and grand-parents were from Colosimi, Cosenza a region of Calabria. I remember eating all those wonderful sweets during the holidays. Now that my mom is gone so are most of her wonderful recepes. I would give anything to find a cook book with all of those wonderful -traditional sweets. Mom made grispelle with fried pizza or bread dough. Sometimes she would incorporate some anchovies in the dough before she fried it ( omitted the honey of course). One of my favorite was Pitta Inchiusa and Rosette.


    [...] Traditional Christmas Desserts of Calabria : Calabria from Scratch Dec 15, 2009 … Another Christmas dessert found in the Cosenza area are the …. Here is a picture of scalidde: … [...]


    My grandparents came to this country 100 years ago from Sersale, Calabria. My grandmother made an Italian Chicken Soup with an egg dumpling in it that for as long as I have lived (over 5o years) I have never met an Italian who has heard of it or ate it. My mother still makes the soup but we don’t have a name for it. They are made with eggs & flour and rolled into ropes then cut into little bite size bits and then fried in oil and set to drain on paper towels. They set for a day (dry out) and then are soaked in the Chicken Soup broth as they soup is heated for several hours. It is absolutely Delicious!! Would you happen to know the name of this soup and has anyone out there had it before??? I’d appreciate any info. Thanks



    There is such a recipe in Calabria and it is called “Mariola” or “Minestra in Brodo”. Your grandparents recipe might have a slight variation as each family tends to change them a little. But the basic recipe is egg, flour, grated cheese, parsley all mixed together shaped in a rope and cut in little pieces. The pieces are fried and then added to chicken broth or meat broth.

    I hope this helps you … you now know that this dish exists in Calabria and the name of it.


    My grandmother came over in 1910 from Calabria, Italy and at christmas time she would make what we would call the hard boiled egg doll. It was a hard boiled egg with dough wrapped around the egg and crossed at the neck of the hard boiled egg. It looked like a head in a bonnett. I have no idea what they are really called or how to make them. Do you have any suggestions?



    My aunt has been searching for some black anise seeds for many years. They are long, not round and dark. We have been told that they only grow wild in certain areas of Calabria. She uses them in squaratilli. I have seen a few other posts on the internet from others also looking for these hard to find seeds.

    Have you heard of them? Any suggetions on where I can find some?



    Hi there,

    My Nonna passed away 3 years a go now. And every Christmas she would make a pitta ‘mpigliata. We CAN’T FIND HER RECIPE :( I want to make it to for my Dad this Christmas. Can you please help me with the ingredients?


    So excited to find this! My grandmother made scalille, turdilli and chinules every Christmas. I learned to make chinules from her and have carried on the (very labor-intensive) tradition every year for the past 20 or so years. I’ve often googled the ingredients to see if anyone made something similar. Merry Christmas.


    Buone Feste,

    I just discovered your website and was hoping to get the recepe for the impigliolate, I can’t seem to find it.

    Can you sent it to me…please, please! I have asked all my relatives and no one knows how to make them and my mom is too old to remember.
    Mille Grazie



    The recipe for the pitta ‘mpigliata is in my cookbook “My Calabria” on page 338. If you don’t have my book let me know and I will send you a copy of the recipe.



    Dear Rosetta,

    I very much enjoyed reading about all the desserts and sweets from Calabria, which I recognize from my visits over there. My father is from Cutro, Calabria, but moved to Holland about 50 years ago. He doesn’t remember much of the cooking his mother did (since he was only 15 when he left), so he cannot really help me with the traditional recipes. Your cookbook will be a blessing for me/us! :-)
    I have one question though, and perhaps you can help me with that. My favorite sweet when we were over there was something called (phonetically) pasta competata. I can’t find a recipe anywhere, so I suspect I misspelled it. Do you know what it is that I am looking for? It was sort of a candybar made out of nuts, honey and probably some chopped up dough. And it was the best thing I ever ate!!!

    I hope you can help me!



    Dear Rosetta,
    My mother and all her relatives immigrated from Serra Pedace, Cosenza. Every Natale, Pasqua, and Thanksgiving, she made Calabrian Christmas bread she called “cuculli” and “turdilli”, which was a braided dough with a hard boiled egg in the center.
    Do you have any info on these Italian Sweet Bread recipes, and where can I find your cookbook?
    Linda —– S.F. to GA


    Hello there,
    My nonna Giuseppina made all of those that you have photographed. What is the name of the other one with the chocolate and almonds? I can not remember the name of it.

    Thank you ,


    Hi your page is just amazing brings me back to the days when I used to bake with my Mom. I still keep the tradition and am teaching my kids on how to make most of them. I am originally from Cosenza and just love all traditional Italian receipes. I would appreciate if you would be able to give me the receipe for the Pitta Mpigliata, I made it once and do not remember the receipe.


    love the recipies!!


    Found your website while searching for a recipe for pitta ‘nchuisa, and ordered your cookbook. My father-in-law and his sister, both in their 80s, have been longing for pitta like their mom used to make. Dad gave me a hand written list of what went into his mother’s recipe, but with no quantities indicated and no instructions on how to “assemble” the pitta other than a reference to tying it with string. Thanks for your cookbook… I did make pitta this week, which was well received, although Dad mentioned his mom used more nuts/less raisins, all of which were chopped a bit finer… each family does have its own version, but this is a fine starting point.
    Lots of new recipes to try from your lovely cookbook!


    Ciao Rosetta! Such a pleasure reading this post on traditional Christmas desserts of Calabria! I recently competed in CBS’s The American Baking Competition and made “pitte inspired tartlets” as one of my creations. It was a bold risk, but one that I am proud of to represent my close connection to and love for the Calabrese culture. Cordiali saluti!


    My mom and aunts who have all passed made a Christmas cookie called phonetically nipoteddi. What I know of the Calabrese dialect it is probably nipotelli “little nephews”. Round dough filled with a raisin, chocolate nut mixture then pinched closed at the top. My grandparents were from Catanzaro province. I note you cite no recipes from there. These particular cookies are very common at Christmas in Utica NY where I am from. Have you heard of these? I love them. They bring back memories of Natale in famiglia.



    I am very familiar with nepitelle. I included it in the original list of desserts in my first book “My Calabria”. I had nepitelle and petrali (similar cookie made in the province of Reggio Calabria), I had scaliddi (fried dough cookie) and many others but they were all cut from the book as the book would have had over 600 pages so the dessert section ended up being much smaller than the other sections.
    As for the nepitelle, the name comes from the Latin word ” nepitedum”, nepitedu in dialect, which means eyelids, the shape of these cookies is similar to a closed eye, in the local dialect they are also called nepiteddhi, nepite, or nepitelle (Italian word). I am happy to hear that you are making them at Christmas time and keeping our Calabrian traditions alive.

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