Italian Cookies Recipe Italian Dessert Italian Pastries


The quintessential pastry of Naples. Pronounced sfo-li-ya-tell, it translates to “many leaves or layers” and is a flakey shell shaped pastry filled with a citrus ricotta filling, traditionally lemon or candied orange.

Sfogliatelle means many leaves or layers and this crisp pastry’s texture resembles leaves stacked on each other. 

Sfogliatelle look like seashells when baked. 

The characteristic ridges form as the layers of dough separate during baking. 

The pastries are filled with a sweetened ricotta cream, semolina, and cinnamon mixture.  

Lemon zest or candied orange bits are also sometimes added.

We are providing you with a recipe for sfogliatelle pastry dough but you can substitute purchased puff pastry dough.

The recipe also calls for using lard, which gives a flakier consistency, but you may wish to use margarine in its place. 

Making sfogliatelle is a time-consuming process. If you are up for a challenge this is the recipe to try.

Makes about 32 Sfogliatelle


Pastry for Sfogliatelle

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup semolina flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup lard or margarine, melted

Note:  You may wish to substitute 1 (1 pound package of frozen puff pastry dough, thawed, for the above pastry recipe.

Sfogliatelle Filling

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup semolina flour
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon candied orange bits or grated orange zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamonConfectioners’ sugar for dusting


To make the dough:
In a large bowl, combine both flours, sugar and salt.
Using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour mixture.
Gradually add the water until a soft dough forms.
Form the dough into a disk, cover, and refrigerate for 2 hours.

To make the filling:
Put the milk in a saucepan over medium heat.  Bring to a boil.
Slowly add the semolina flour, stirring constantly to avoid lumps.
Simmer the mixture 3-4 minutes, until thick and smooth.
Transfer the mixture to a bowl and allow to cool about 5 minutes.
Press the ricotta cheese through a sieve to remove any lumps.
Add the ricotta, egg, sugar, candied fruit, and cinnamon to the semolina mixture. Beat well to blend and set aside.

Making the sfogliatelle:

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide it  into 2 equal pieces.

If you are using puff pastry, use 1 of the 2 pieces from the package.
On a lightly floured surface, roll one piece into a 16 x 22-inch rectangle.
The dough will be very, very thin. Starting at a short end, brush the first 1/3 of dough with some of the melted lard. Begin rolling the pastry up like a  jellyroll.
Brush the second 1/3 of dough with more lard, and continue rolling.
Finally, brush the last 1/3 with lard, and roll up completely.
Cut the roll into 1-inch pieces, which will resemble narrow rolls of ribbon.

Forming the sfogliatelle:

Place one of the slices in the palm of your hand.

Press the thumb of your other hand in the center of the pastry and push it down to form a small ribbed cup.

You do not want the ribs to separate. Now you will begin to stretch the dough.

Carefully work around the cup, pushing down with your thumbs and pulling up with your fingers.

Think of it an opening a collapsible travel cup. Form each piece into a cone, shaped 3 to 4 inches across the mouth and 1-inch at the tip.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Lightly grease or line 2-3 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Fill each pastry cone with 2 tablespoons of the filling. Gently press the open edges together to seal the pastry. 

Pull out the top ends to form a seashell shape. Place the sfogliatelle 1-inch apart on the baking sheets.

Repeat the procedure with the second piece of pastry dough.

Bake 15 minutes or until golden brown and crisp.

Allow the pastry to cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes.

Transfer the pastry to wire racks to cool completely.

To serve:
Sprinkle the sfogliatelle with confectioners’ sugar and serve.

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