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The Sfogliatella is a typical sweet pastry of Campania and is available in two main variants: can be curly, if made with puff pastry, or pastry, if prepared with the pastry.
Ingredients: Flour, ricotta cheese, sugar, mixed candied fruit, eggs and butter
One of the most famous pastries of Naples, the sfogliatella is a delicacy celebrated by locals and visitors alike. As the old saying goes, “A Napoli tre cose sono belle: ’o mare, ’o vesuvio, e sfogliatelle” (In Naples there are three beautiful things: the sea, Mount Vesuvius, and sfogliatelle), and when you visit Naples and many cities in the region of Campania, you will quickly discover the passion and appreciation this small seashell-shaped pastry has garnered.
In cafés and pasticcerie, Italy’s tempting pastry shops, you will find sfogliatelle tempting you as the perfect snack or accompaniment for an espresso. The sfogliatella comes in two traditional varieties, both filled with a sweet, often cinnamon-infused, ricotta cheese mixed with candied fruit. The most popular are the riccia (curly), made with a puff pastry that when baked forms a crispy shell of paper-thin layers of delicate pastry. The classic riccia with accordion-like layers gave the sfogliatella its name, which means “little layers.” The frolla, often ordered simply as “pasta frolla,” is a softer, doughy version of the sfogliatella prepared with short crust pastry and often round in shape. Both are dusted with a powdered sugar that makes them a delight – and challenge to eat neatly as well!
After you decide if you prefer your sfogliatella “riccia or frolla,” you can set off on your next adventure – to uncover the origins of the sfogliatella. First you must track down a sfogliatella santarosa. Slightly larger than a traditional sfogliatella, it is filled instead with a crema pasticcera and garnished with a bit of crema di amarene (sour black cherry). This creamy pastry holds the key to how the sfogliatella as we know it today was born.
As it turns out, this luxurious and rich dessert was created in a monastery. If we go back to the 1600s, to the Monastery of Santa Rosa tucked high up in the mountains in the small village of Conca dei Marini on the Amalfi Coast, we find a story of a nun working away in the kitchen one day. By chance she created a pastry that became well-known in the surrounding community as la Santarosa, named after the monastery. The cloistered nuns retained this special recipe, and it wasn’t until the 1800s that a man by the name of Pasquale Pintauro in Naples got his hands on one of these pastries from Conca dei Marini. He created his own version filled with a rich fruit and cinnamon-infused ricotta mixture, and the sfogliatella as we know it today was born.
While undoubtedly a symbol of Naples, the sfogliatella has become a traditional pastry throughout the region of Campania, including the Sorrentine Peninsula and the Province of Salerno. For the people of Conca dei Marini on the Amalfi Coast, there remains a special connection with the sfogliatella. They celebrate their famous pastry and their city’s important role in its history during the annual Festa della Sfogliatella di Santa Rosa on the first Sunday in August. Much like other sagre, or food festivals, throughout Italy, this event is an excellent opportunity to enjoy a festive and fun taste of the Amalfi Coast and an excuse to sample some of the country’s best sfogliatelle.
Whether you prefer to order a sfogliatella riccia instead of a pasta frolla – or simply cannot resist the creamy sfogliatella santarosa – what is certain is that experiencing these Neapolitan delicacies you will return again and again to discover all the other gems that are awaiting you in the region of Campania.