Food

Calzoncelli (Chocolate and Almond Christmas Cookies From Basilicata)

TIMEDecember 16, 2021

Along with cavallucci, calzoncelli are another fixture of our Christmas at home. They originate in Melfi, a southern town in Basilicata, my grandfather’s hometown. A bag of calzoncelli, no matter the size, never lasted longer than a couple days at home.

Calzoncelli are small parcels with a paper-thin, brittle shell and a moist chocolate and almond filling, perfumed with a gentle and festive hint of citrus zest. Since they are homemade, each one turns out a little different from the others, and I’ve always loved the biggest ones, chubby and slightly underbaked. 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, and even if it takes some time and practice to make them, they come in a fun parcel shape that is so perfect for Christmas.

Makes enough cookies to last through the holidays

For the Dough

  • 4 3/4 cups (600 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine

For the Filling

  • 12 ounces almonds, peeled and toasted
  • 1 1/4 cup (250 grams) sugar
  • Zest of 1 organic lemon
  • 7 ounces dark chocolate, chopped

Make the dough: Pour the flour onto a wooden working surface and shape it into a mound with a large well in the center. Add the eggs, sugar, and salt to the well, then pour in the olive oil. Using a fork, stir slowly, starting from the center of the eggs and gradually picking up more flour from the edges, whisking as if you are beating eggs for an omelet. Gradually add the wine, too.

When the dough turns crumbly, switch to kneading with your hands. Continue kneading the ball of dough until smooth, silky, and no longer sticky. Wrap it in plastic wrap and rest for 1 hour at room temperature before using.

Make the filling: Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until you get a smooth paste.

Roll the filling into 1/3-inch-thick logs, then cut them into 1/2-inch pieces.

Make the calzoncelli: Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Roll out the dough into long, thin sheets, working in batches as needed. You can use a classic rolling pin on a flat working surface or a pasta machine. Either way, the most important thing is to keep rolling and flipping and rolling and flipping until the dough is paper-thin. Cut the dough into long, 1 1/2-inch-wide sheets.

Place the filling pieces on one half of each sheet of dough, 3/4 inch apart. Fold the other half of the sheet over, press gently to seal the dough around the fillings, then use a fluted pastry/pasta cutter wheel (or a sharp knife) to cut between the filling pieces. The small calzoncelli will look like tiny ravioli. Arrange the calzoncelli on the prepared baking sheet.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Bake the calzoncelli for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden. Remove from the oven and let them cool completely.

Calzoncelli will keep for weeks in a tin box or other airtight container.

Giulia Scarpaleggia is a Tuscan-born and bred food writer, food photographer, and author of five cookbooks, including “From the Markets of Tuscany.” She is currently working on her sixth cookbook. Find her online at her blog, JulsKitchen.com