Cassatelle are ricotta-filled turnovers common in the eastern part of Sicily, and Mario, Executive Chef of the Anna Tasca Lanza cooking school, attributes their origins to the Arab and Spanish flavors and techniques. The dough uses semolina flour and feels like fresh pasta. Wine in the dough provides both flavor (a bit of sweetness) and texture, helping with the formation of bubbles in the pasties as they fry; dry Marsala works well. The recipe calls for a pasta machine to help knead the dough and roll it out to a uniform thickness. Alternatively separate the dough into five pieces and roll each out into a 9-by-9 square before cutting out circles. These pastries are best fresh, but you can freeze the filled turnovers and then thaw and fry them up when you’re ready to eat.
Makes about 20
½ cup white wine (or dry Marsala)
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2–4 tablespoons water
2 cups semolina flour
Pinch fine sea salt
1½ cups whole-milk ricotta, preferably sheep’s milk
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus more for garnish
Vegetable oil for frying (several cups, depending on size of pan)
Powdered sugar, for garnish
1) Warm. Combine the wine and oil in a small saucepan and heat until just warm (not hot). You can also use a microwave.
2) Knead. Mound the flour on a work surface or in a very large bowl (the latter is my preference), and make a well in the center. Add the wine-oil mixture and salt to the well, and with a fork, carefully incorporate it into the flour. Knead the dough with your hands, adding drops of water until smooth and elastic, about 8–10 minutes. The dough should slowly spring back when you poke it with your finger.
3) Rest. Roll the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic and rest for 30 minutes on the counter.
4) Mix. In a small bowl, stir together the ricotta, granulated sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.
5) Roll. Set a pasta machine to the widest setting. Run a piece of dough through the machine about 5 times at this setting, folding the dough in half each time before rolling it again. When the dough is very even, move the dial to the next setting and roll it through 2 to 3 times more, folding it each time. Move the dial to the third setting and roll it through 2 or 3 more times.
6) Cut. Lay out the dough on a floured work surface, and cut out circles with a 4-inch round cookie cutter.
7) Fill. Place a spoonful of ricotta just off-center, then moisten the edges of the dough with water and fold over. Pinch or use a fork to seal. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.
8) Fry. Heat 2 inches of oil in a large, heavy skillet or Dutch oven (higher sides will limit splattering). Drop in a scrap of dough — the oil is hot enough when the dough floats and oil rapidly bubbles around it. Add the cassatelle in batches and fry, flipping occasionally, until deep golden, about 3 minutes. With a slotted spoon or skimmer, transfer to paper towels to drain.
9) Serve. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and cinnamon. Serve warm.
Adapted from Fabrizia Lanza’s “Coming Home to Sicily.”
Gayle Squires is a food writer, recipe developer and photographer. Her path to the culinary world is paved with tap shoes, a medical degree, business consulting and travel. She has a knack for convincing chefs to give up their secret recipes. Her blog is KosherCamembert