- The Premier Italian American Newspaper Since 1931 -
Potato Zeppole with Jam

3 Delicious Christmas Treat Recipes from Southern Italy

During this Christmas Season we will present holiday recipes from the regions of Italy. This week features delicious treats from southern Italy.

Pitelli – Christmas Fruit Tarts

These truly sensational tartina alla frutta are sure to impress. Passionately created by the women in the villages of southern Italy for generations, these delightful treats are well worth the time and effort.


Makes 60 tarts

For the mince filling

  • 2 lbs almonds, freshly roasted, coarsely chopped
  • 2 lbs walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 2 lbs sultanas, coarsely chopped, washed
  • 2 lbs dried figs, stem removed, cut into thin strips
  • 2 x 250ml bottles of Vino Cotto Original
  • 2 tbsp liqueur (such as Frangelico)
  • 1 cup honey
  • 6 cups coffee brewed strong
  • 6 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp cloves
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp sweet chocolate powder (drinking chocolate)
  • a few strips of Mandarin orange peels


Brew the coffee and add 6 teaspoons of sugar to lightly sweeten the coffee. Allow to cool. For the fruit, mince is best made in advance to allow the flavors to combine. In a large heavy pot, add the sultanas, 1 bottle of Vino Cotto, figs, liqueur, honey, coffee, cloves, cinnamon, chocolate powder and Mandarin peels and cook over a low heat. Stir to mix ingredients. Gradually add the second bottle of Vino Cotto. Cook for 40 minutes over a low heat, stirring frequently. Add the walnuts to the pot, stir and cook for 5 minutes. Add the almonds to the pot, stir and cook for 5 minutes. Taste for sweetness and flavor. Add more Vino Cotto if required. Remember, the fruit will soak up some of the liquid. Cook for a further 1½ hour, stirring frequently. Let the fruit mixture cool in the pot. Remove Mandarin peel. Once mixture has cooled, pour into sterilized glass jars if it will be stored.

For the sweet pastry

  • 8 eggs yolks
  • 2 cups superfine sugar
  • 2 cups olive oil
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp Frangelico
  • finely grated rind of 2 lemons
  • 1 lb self-rising flour
  • 1 lb plain flour


Sift flours together and place in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, add eggs and sugar and whisk until the sugar dissolves. Add olive oil to egg mixture and whisk. Add the milk, vanilla extract, Frangelico and lemon rind. Whisk until fluffy. Gradually add in the flour, mixing well with each addition forming a dough. Using a lightly floured surface, knead the dough well until it has the consistency of pasta dough. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let the dough rest at room temperature for 45 minutes. Knead the dough lightly and cut into small logs. Cover the remaining dough. Using either a pasta making machine (recommended) or a rolling pin, work the dough into thin sheets about 2 ½ inches wide and one eighth of an inch high. If you are using a rolling pin, place the dough between two sheets of baking paper, when rolling out. Shape tarts according to your preference.

If using a muffin tin, grease the holes with non-stick spray. Cut the rounds of dough using a cookie cutter and press dough into each hole. Fill each to the top with fruit mixture, being careful not to get any fruit on the sides of tin. Re-knead the dough scraps and cut into small stars or ribbon strips. Place on top of fruit and brush with milk. Bake at 350°F for 20-25 minutes or until the pastry is golden. Leave to cool completely in the pans before attempting to remove. Decorate with a dusting of icing when ready to serve.

Potato Zeppole with Jam

Zeppoles with a cherry jam filling makes for a delicious and festive sweet that is perfect for Christmas.


  • 1 lb potatoes, peeled and boiled
  • 1 lb 00 flour
  • 3 tbsp sugar, plus extra to serve
  • ½ lemon zest
  • 2 oz of yeast
  • 2 oz of butter, softened
  • 4 eggs
  • 6 oz cherry jam
  • pinch of salt
  • oil, for deep frying


Lightly break up the potatoes. Mix the flour, sugar, lemon zest, yeast, butter, potato and salt in a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook. Gradually beat in the eggs, one at a time. Knead vigorously, adding the flour until you obtain a smooth and consistent dough. Allow the dough to rest in the refrigerator for about an hour, then knead again and shape the dough into balls. Allow the dough balls to sit for 30 minutes. Preheat the deep fryer to 350°F. Deep fry the balls until golden brown, then drain on kitchen paper. Place the cherry jam in a piping bag. Make a small hole with a sharp knife in the side of each zeppole then insert the piping bag into the holes and fill with jam. Roll in sugar and serve warm.

Cannoli Cheesecake

This recipe from Sicily will delight family and guests alike.


  • 1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 7 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 lbs ricotta cheese
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp orange zest
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 3-4 candied orange slices


Preheat oven to 350°F. Wrap the outside and bottom of a 9”x 3” or 10”x 2 ½” spring form pan securely with two sheets of foil. Combine the graham cracker crumbs, 2 tablespoons sugar and the stick of melted butter and mix until uniform. Evenly press the crust mixture across the bottom of the pan and about ½” up the sides of the pan. Place the pan into the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the remaining sugar with the ricotta and blend until smooth. Add the flour, vanilla and orange peel and fold into the mixture. Add the eggs and gently blend into the mixture. Pour the mixture into the pan and add the chocolate chip on top. Place the pan into a large baking pan and add 1” of hot water to the pan.

Bake for 65-75 minutes until the center is lightly set. Remove the pan from oven and lift out spring form pan and place on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Remove aluminum foil. Run a sharp knife around edge of the pan to loosen. Allow the cheesecake to cool an hour and remove sides of the springform. Garnish with candied oranges slices.