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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: December 2010 091 Take those little pockets and start making a circle, squeezing the sides of the little pockets against each other: December 2010 094 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. December 2010 102 Place the little rosettes on a floured board or dishtowels. This recipe makes about 60 rosettes. December 2010 108 Here’s a close-up before it gets fried. All those little pockets will hold the topping. December 2010 111 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. December 2010 116 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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This Post Has 43 Comments
  1. 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.

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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

  5. 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…..

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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!

  9. 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!

  10. 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.

  11. 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!

  12. 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!

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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….

  16. 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!!!!)

  17. This is nearly the exact same thing as what my grandmother made for us (and all of my family continues to make). Her parents came from Italy as well. But she called them rosettes.

    The recipe is pretty much the same except without the alcohol. The dough and the forming of the rosettes is the same, but along with the honey and the chopped walnuts we drizzle (dark) chocolate all over them.

    It is quite tedious, but well worth it. We will be working on these for New Years. Thanks again for the article.

  18. My great grandmother used to make these for us for every Christmas Eve get together, we pronounced them Cut-ta-la. Hers always had, chopped nuts, honey and shaved chocolate. MMmm, thanks for the recipe, I made them and it tastes just like I remember. She used to store them in brown paper bag, they last longer that way, if u can resist not eating them all at once!

  19. My Grandmom and Poppy (from Naples) made these!! We've always called them Gishpells (not sure of spelling, but that's how we pronounced it)… we spent the weekend before Christmas making them every single year growing up. The recipe has been lost for so long but we would fill them with a mixture of orange zest, dark chocolate shavings, crushed walnuts, sugar and honey. I am sooo excited to have found this recipe- thank you so much! I haven't had them in at least 10 years.

  20. This recipe brought back so many memories! My grandmother and my aunts made these every Christmas. I can just taste them right now! Thanks for the memories.

  21. I made these for many years, we called them Cartadad. my parents were from Monopoli, Bari.
    I made bows & knots, fried in oil, then dipped in warm honey. So much work, but so
    delicious, everyone’s favorite.

  22. […] Their look is exceptional and exquisite. They are simply the new labor of love. Additionally, they are crispy and very delicious but also easy to make. You can prepare them ahead of time, and they add the zest feeling to you after a meal, thus a perfect dessert for the Christmas holiday. You can try it and make your family feel loves with this recipe. […]

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