Grandma would visit my granddad relatives in Melfi, a mid mountain town in Basilicata, in the South of Italy, about twice a year, in summer and shortly before Christmas. In summer I usually joined her and granddad, but I couldn’t skip school in December, so I would wait for her at home, dreaming about the bags of goodies she would bring back.
There was mozzarella, milky, flavourful, shaped in tiny knots, nothing even similar to the mozzarella you could buy here in stores. There was provolone piccante, a hard biting cheese I didn’t appreciate much as a child, but I loved the crescent shape of the slices she would bring us. There were scamorza and the thick salty bread with a yellowish breadcrumb and a dark crust lightly dusted with flour, there were bags of almonds and tiny jars of precious wild oregano.
Then there was what I was secretly waiting for, my favourite cookies ever, still my choice if I had to choose among shortcrust cookies, jam or marzipan cookies… there was a big bag of calzoncelli, tightly sealed with a string. She could either buy them in a bakery near my aunt’s house a few hours before leaving, or bring me the calzoncelli made by my granddad’s nieces. It was a feast, and I had to fight over those cookies, because they were not just my favourites, but my father’s, my mum’s and lately, when Claudia arrived, also her favourites!
A bag of calzoncelli would last a few days, no matter what the size of the bag was. One in the morning, just before breakfast, one after lunch, one in the afternoon with my usual cup of tea… well, not just one, let’s face it. One after dinner, or even two, watching a movie with my parents on the sofa. Then it would happen, you would tuck your hand into the bag, search desperately for the last calzoncello and find just a few crumbs left. Dad! you got the last one! And my dad, with guilty a look, really? oh I am sorry, I didn’t notice. Sometimes it was me to be so lucky – and quick – to win the last one, and I would answer with the same guilty voice: really? was it the last one? A shameless family we are when it comes to calzoncelli.
Luckily we’ve got a treasure, My Aunt Teresa! I’ve told you about her many times, she’s the best cook of the family, the one who brought the Southern recipes into out everyday meals. She began making calzoncelli a few years ago, and now she passed me a special book. I found the recipe to make calzoncelli in the book she gave me, Le ricette di Nicoletta, a complete collection of fresh and traditional recipes from Melfi.
But let’s hit the matter, what kind of cookies calzoncelli are? Small bites of chocolate and almond heaven, with a gentle hint of lemon peel. The outer shell, even if it has to be as thin as you can make it, almost transparent, has an important role in the taste balance, because it is made with olive oil and white wine, becomes brittle and golden when baked, preserving a moist filling. Since they are home made it happens that they are one different from the other, and I’ve always loved the biggest ones, chubby and less baked. Be careful, they are addictive!
Calzoncelli are an ideal Christmas gift: you can keep them for weeks in a tin box or in an airtight container – I’m still munching on the calzoncelli I made two weeks ago and they are still brittle and fresh – and even if it takes a few hours to make them tiny, clean and nice, they have this fun parcel shape that is so perfect for Christmas. After all, what are you saying with ad edible gift? here’s my time, here’s my love, here’s my thoughts for you.
Calzoncelli, my edible gift for the Italian Table Talk
For the dough
- 600 g of flour
- A pinch of salt
- 100 g of sugar
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 100 g of extra virgin olive oil
- 200 ml of white wine
For the filling
- 400 g of peeled and toasted almonds
- 250 g of sugar
- Grated zest of one organic lemon
- 200 g of dark chocolate
- Make the dough for the outer shell. Pour the flour on a wooden board, make a well in the centre, add a pinch of salt, sugar and the lightly beaten eggs. Start kneading and add olive oil and wine little by little. Keep kneading until soft, elastic and not sticking. Wrap in cling film and let rest at room temperature for at least one hour.
- Make the filling. Mix all the ingredients and blend until you get a smooth paste. Let it cool down completely and shape with your hands the chocolate paste into long 1 cm thick cylinders, then cut into 1,5 cm long pieces.
- Make calzoncelli. Roll out the pasta as thin as you can, place the filling pieces on the sheet of pasta at 2 cm distance one from the other, then wrap the pasta around the filling and cut it with a fluted pasta cutter wheel. It will look like a tiny raviolo.
- Heat oven to 180°C and bake calzoncelli in batches for about 15 - 20 minutes, until golden. You can keep them for weeks in a tin box or in airtight container.
Not to lose a single post by the Italian Table talk girls, these are our Social Accounts:
- Emiko, her blog is Emikodavies.com, @emikodavies on Twitter, and her Pinterest
- Valeria, her blog is Life Love Food, @valerianecchio on Twitter, her FB Page and her Pinterest
- Jasmine, her blog is Labna.it, @labna on Twitter, her FB page and her Pinterest
- Juls, my Twitter @Julskitchen, FB page and Pinterest