Home Italy Revisited Bookshelf Plays About Mary Melfi Contact Us
Cookies with Nuts
Taratuffo (with prune jam, wine grape marmalade and cocoa powder)
Originated from: Casacalenda, Molise, Italy
Occasion: Weddings (in Italy); holidays (in North America)
Contributed by: Mrs. Rosina Melfi

Printer Friendly Version


For the Dough

10-12 eggs
3 cups sugar
1 box of Crisco or Tenderflake [454 g lard]
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
9 teaspoons baking powder
4 pounds flour

For the Filling

4 jars home-made prune jam
4 jars home-made wine grape marmalade
1 cup cocoa powder
1 cup chocolate powder
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
Juice and zest of 1 orange
2 oz liquor (e.g. rum)
1 cup espresso coffee
1 tablespoon cinnamon
about 1/4 cup home-made (or plain) breadcrumbs [optional]
2 cups roasted almonds, finely chopped

For Sprinkling
about 1/2 cup coarse sugar


To Make the Dough

1. Combine all the dough ingredients and work into a fine dough.

2. Divide the dough in half, and form two balls of dough.

3. Place the balls of dough in containers and cover with clear plastic wrap.

4. Let the dough rest for an hour or so at room temperature.

To make the filling

1. Combine all the filling ingredients except for the breadcrumbs and almonds.

2. Place the mixture in a non-stick cooking pan and cook for a few minutes. If the mixture is too liquidy, simmer and reduce it. Breadcrumbs can be added to thicken it, but this should not be necessary.

3. Place the mixture in a jar and keep in fridge until needed.

To Prepare the dough

1. Preheat oven to 350 F degrees.

2. Roll out the dough until it is very thin (about 1/8 inch thick). Most cooks use a rolling pin, but some (if the dough is the right consistency) use a paster maker.

3. Cut out a pastry sheet -- about 14 inches long and 8 inches wide.

4. Add the roasted almonds to the jam mixture.

5. Spread the jam on the pastry sheet, avoiding the edges.

6. Roll up the pastry sheet so that the end result is a log of about 14 inches long [length is not important as the log will end up being cut after it is cooked] and 1 1/2 inches wide. The log should resemble a biscotti log.

7. Continue making pastry sheets and turning them into jam-filled logs until all the dough is processed.

8. Sprinkle coarse sugar on top of the logs.

9. Place the jam-filled logs on a cookie sheet.

10. Bake in a pre-heated 350 F degree oven for about 35 minutes.

11. Remove and cool.

12. Cut the jam-filled logs into thin slices -- about 1/2 inch thick each.

13. Serve at room temperature.


The Italian names for this strudel-like dessert (Hard to say if it's a cake, a pastry, a cookie or a pie?) differs from town to town in the region of Molise. In some areas this dessert is called a "taratuffo" and in other areas "pastarelle con marmallata." The word, "pastarelle," is a generic term for cookie in Molisani dialect, I believe. In any case, this strudel-like dessert is challenging. It's difficult to make, but it is worth doing. The taste is quite unique. There is nothing quite like it available in the shops (Not in North America anyway!). The combination of cinnamon and orange zest give this dessert a Middle Eastern flavor -- a flavor some will take to, and some will not. It's definitely exotic, in a strange but beautiful way. Prior to World War II this dessert was generally only made for weddings, and that was it. When Italians immigrated to North America in the 1950s they often did this dessert for the Christmas and Easter holidays. In the 1970s they made it any old time. Nowadays, few second generation Italian-Canadians prepare this dessert. Many simply aren't familiar with it, and those who are familiar with it, find it too much trouble. That's a real pity. 'Cause for time-starved individuals or lazy cooks (I myself might be one) this recipe can easily be modified and/or simplified. For example -- I didn't have prune jam, so I simply didn't include it. For the filling I used: 1 cup home-made wine grape marmalade, 1/4 cup Nestle chocolate powder, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, the juice and zest of 1/2 of a lemon and an orange, 1/4 cup American drip coffee, 2 teaspoons rum and 1/2 cup coarsely chopped roasted almonds. Putting the mixture together didn't take much time (As it was not "liquidy" I did not need to reduce it). For the dough I followed my aunt's recipe in a round-about way, using what she told me to use, but as I made 1/4 of the recipe, I have no idea how much of what I used (The touchy-feelie method of cooking has its disadvantages). Nonetheless, whatever I did worked, as those who ate my taratuffo liked it (a lot!). The point being is that this traditional (ancient?) recipe can be fun to do. It doesn't have to be a chore. And then if it's not a chore the chances of the recipe actually being done goes up. And when that happens, tradition lives on (And that's a good thing!).... N.B. There are as many variations for this recipe in Molise as there are jam-filled sweets. In some areas of Molise the "traditional" recipe might call for pine nuts instead of roasted almonds, in other areas, more sugar etc. Actually, even within the little town of Casacalenda where my parents and aunts grew up (in the 1930s) dozens of variations can be found. So anything goes (Well, almost anything)........ A visitor to this website, Ronald Ciarlo, noted that his paternal grandmother who was from Ribatottoni, Molise stuffed her taratuffo with cooked prunes, maraschino cherries, walnuts and a touch of sugar.... Photo: Mary Melfi

Back to main list