How to Make Sfogliatelle | Authentic Italian Sfogliatella Pastry Recipe
Updated: May 4
Sfogliatelle are one of the most delicious Italian sweets imaginable. With a stuffing made from semolina, ricotta and candied fruit surrounded by a shell of dough, these Neapolitan treats are truly magnificent. They're usually served for breakfast in Naples!
Sfogliatelle “Lisce” vs. “Ricce”
There are two types of sfogliatelle, and knowing which is which makes the difference between an easy recipe and literally the MOST difficult Italian pastry.
“Sfogliatelle Ricce” have a crispy exterior made from a thousand tiny layers of dough (think a croissant but way more tasty and about a million times more difficult to make). This style of sfogliatella is very impressive but also very challenging to make at home.
The other style is “Sfogliatelle Lisce.” These have a smooth outer shell, made from a dough similar to pie crust. They are just as delicious as ricce (many people prefer them, because they tend to hold more of the delicious filling) but are much more manageable for the home cook. For obvious reasons, the recipe below is for the lisce style.
Tips for Making Perfect Sfogliatelle
It’s best to make the filling the day before, as this will allow the flavors to really “get to know each other.” But before we even get to making the filling, we first need to get as much water as possible out of the ricotta, which involves draining overnight. For this reason, we recommend doing the prep over the course of three days. You’ll be rewarded for your patience in the end!
Watch the Pasta Grammar video where we try sfogliatelle in Naples here:
SFOGLIATELLA LISCIA RECIPE
Makes: 10-12 pastries
Cook Time: 2.5 hours, best done over the course of 3 days
For this recipe, you will need:
1 1/8 cup (250g) ricotta
1 tsp (5g) salt, plus a little extra for the egg wash
3/4 cup (90g) semolina flour
1 3/4 cups (350g) white granulated sugar
2/3 cup (80g) candied orange peel and/or citron, chopped
Grated zest of 1 orange
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp cinnamon, or to taste
1/2 tsp orange blossom or vanilla extract
7 tbsp (100g) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
Powdered sugar for topping
Fine mesh sieve
Round cutter (3.5 inch diameter)
1-2 large baking sheets
Two days before cooking, use a spatula to press the ricotta through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl. Place the ricotta back into the sifter and suspend it over the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let the ricotta drain in the fridge overnight.
The following day, make the filling by bringing 1 cup (235ml) of water and 1 tsp of salt to a boil in a saucepan. Gradually whisk in the semolina flour as soon as it starts boiling, mixing well to avoid clumps. The mixture should form into a thick roux. Turn off the heat and transfer the dough onto a plate. Use your palm to flatten it into a pancake and let it cool down to room temperature.
Take the ricotta out of the fridge and discard any excess water. In a mixing bowl, thoroughly combine the ricotta with the semolina roux by hand, ensuring there are no clumps. If you have a stand mixer, it can be used instead of mixing by hand. Then add 1 1/4 cup (250g) of sugar and mix it in with a spatula.
To ensure a smooth texture, pass the mixture through a fine mesh sieve, similar to what you did with the ricotta. After that, add the candied fruit, orange or lemon zest, cinnamon, and either orange blossom or vanilla extract to finish the filling. Mix everything well, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate the filling overnight.
Begin by making the dough the following day. Combine the butter and 1/2 cup (100g) sugar in a mixing bowl and mix them by hand or with a wooden spoon. It's okay if the sugar is still slightly grainy in the butter, as long as it's evenly incorporated. Add one egg and mix it in thoroughly.
Next, add the all-purpose flour all at once. Mix until a consistent dough forms. Gather the dough into a ball and knead it on a clean work surface for about 2 minutes. Then, wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate it for at least an hour.
Preheat an oven to 385 degrees F (195 C).
Take the dough out of the fridge, unwrap it, and roll it under your palms into a thick sausage. It should have a consistent diameter of about 2 1/2 inches (6.5cm). Cut this into 7 equally-sized pieces. Keep any portions you’re currently not working on in the fridge.
Roll out one piece of dough on a floured surface into an approximate 7x5 inch (18x13cm) oval shape using a rolling pin. Don't worry about being exact with the size, and the edges of the oval can be slightly uneven.
Take about 1/4 cup of filling and place it on one side of the oval, leaving the edges of the dough clear. Fold the empty side in half over the filling, making sure to press the edges shut firmly and remove any excess air.
Trim the edges of the pastry using a round cutter or the rim of a cup, with a diameter of about 3 1/2 inches (9cm). This will result in a half-circle shaped pastry. Use your fingers to seal the edges well, and place the sfogliatella on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Any remaining scraps of dough can be gathered and kept in the fridge for later.
You can make 6 more sfogliatelle by repeating the process with the remaining portions of dough. Remember to leave enough space on the baking sheets for them to expand while baking. You may need to use multiple sheets to accommodate all the sfogliatelle.
Shape the remaining dough scraps into a new log and divide into portions that are the same size as the original pieces. Repeat the previous steps to make additional sfogliatelle until you have 10-12 pastries in total.
Beat the remaining egg with a pinch of salt and apply it on top of the sfogliatelle using a brush. Bake the pastries until they turn golden brown on top, for about 25 minutes. Even if they puff up and the dough breaks a little during baking, it's okay, as they will settle as they cool down.
Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes. Preferably serve warm and fresh, although cold is also delicious. Try to consume within one day for best results. Top with a dusting of powdered sugar before serving.
In order to have a true sfogliatella experience, you need to start with REAL ricotta. Store-bought doesn't come close, so check out our recipe for how to make your own! Looking for more Neapolitan food? How about trying a Parmigiana di Melanzane?