These small cakes are a traditional pastry for Christmas from Bologna southward. Known by many different names, they have a history in almost every region, especially southern Italy and Sicily. Though there are subtle variations on name and ingredients, the idea remains the same — a thin dough pocket enclosing a chestnut or chick-pea filling flavored with chocolate and raisins or candied fruit. They may be dusted with confectioners’ sugar, as in this recipe, or drizzled with warmed honey or Vino Cotto before serving.
For the dough, combine the dry ingredients in a bowl and stir to mix. Whisk the oil, eggs, and rum or brandy together and stir into the dough with a fork. Continue stirring until the dough masses together, then scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Fold the dough over on itself several times, flour it well, wrap in plastic, and chill 1 hour.
For the filling, cut an X in the flat end of each chestnut and cook them in boiling salted water for about 20 minutes. Drain and peel the chestnuts. Place them in a food processor fitted with the metal blade and puree them. Add the apricot preserves and chocolate and puree again. Stir in the spices, rum, and raisins.
To form the tortelli, flour the dough and roll it out to a
Arrange the 4 strips of dough on a work surface and place the filling on the dough by teaspoonfuls at
Arrange the tortelli on lightly floured pans and allow to rest at room temperature for about 2 hours. Heat the oil to 350 degrees and fry the tortelli about 6 at a time until they are a deep golden color, about 5 minutes, stirring them gently with a slotted spoon while they are frying.
Drain the tortelli on paper towels and cool.
Before serving, dust lightly with the confectioners’ sugar.
Confectioners’ sugar for finishing
© 1990 Nick Malgieri. All rights reserved.