Livia’s crostoli

Mamma’s crostoli are quite unlike those made by anyone else. They are lighter and crispier than others I have eaten and retain that freshness for weeks. I made crostoli for the first time last week for the celebration of the life of my father, who passed away on 4 March 2012.

Crostoli are known by many other names (galani, sfrappole, bugie) in Italy, depending on what region of Italy you are in. They are also called angel’s wings and a version is cooked in other countries such as Hungary, Poland and the Ukraine. In Italy, they are a speciality of Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia, which is where my family is from. They are essentially sweet fried pastries twisted into ribbons or bows, hence they look like the wings of angels. Mamma remembers making them with her aunt during the the 1940s and she has perfected her recipe over the years. The major difference between my mother’s recipe and other recipes is that she adds no butter or lard to the dough. Every other recipe I have seen has one or the other or both. They also have a good slosh of grappa added and citrus zest. This results in a pastry that is light, crispy and not as rich as others (often resulting in greater quantities being eaten in one sitting!). My father used to say “uno tira l’altro” in dialect (meaning…one pulls another one in).

Mamma said that making them the way her zia ‘Rica did takes time. She would stretch the pastry by hand next to the fogoler (stove), the heat making it easier to get the pastry to be so thin that you could almost see through it. A far simpler way is to use a pasta making machine to stretch the pastry. It is a bit like making sweet fried pasta. Here is the recipe my mamma Livia gave me. Crostoli are perfect with a glass of sweet wine such as a Moscato but are also lovely with a bubbly such as Prosecco, which we had on the day of the celebration of my father’s life.

Livia's Crostoli

  • Servings: makes at least 80 crostoli
  • Print
3 cups plain flour
6 tablespoons caster sugar (add a bit more if you like them sweeter)
pinch salt
2 whole small eggs and 1 egg yolk
3 tablespoons grappa (or brandy or marsala)
finely grated zest of a large lemon (or an orange if you prefer)
1 tablespoon of white vinegar
1/4 cup water (more if needed)
sunflower or peanut oil for frying
icing sugar for dusting

Place all the ingredients in a food processor and process until a ball of dough forms (or you can mix this by hand). Empty onto a floured surface and knead for a few minutes to ensure it is homogeneous and smooth. It should be like a rather hard pasta dough. Add more flour or water if needed to get the right consistency whilst you are kneading the dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and allow to rest for at least 30 minutes.

Cut off a quarter of the pastry ball, leaving the remainder in plastic wrap. Roll it flat with a rolling pin into a rectangular shape that will pass through the widest setting of a pasta machine. Roll through the machine, making it thinner at each roll, adding a bit more flour if it is sticks to the bench. It should be rolled through to the thinnest setting of your pasta machine three times. Cut each long strip with a fluted pastry cutter so you have 3 long thin strips. Cut each of the long strips into 8 to 10 cm (3 inch) pieces. Make an incision in the centre of each piece of dough and thread one end through the incision to make a bow (you don’t have to make the bow but it looks prettier). Repeat with the remaining dough. If you have someone helping you, one person can start cooking the crostoli whilst the other continues rolling and cutting.

To cook, heat vegetable oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan. As crostoli are deep fried, you need the oil to be 5 to 7 cm high in the saucepan. Once the oil is hot, drop in 3 or 4 crostoli (or more depending on the diameter of the saucepan). They take about 30 seconds to cook on each side so you need to work quickly and turn them as soon as the edges start to colour. They should be a sandy colour when cooked. If they are brown, you have burnt them. Once cooked on both sides, remove them with tongs and drain them on absorbent paper. If they take longer than 30 seconds on each side to cook, your oil is not hot enough and they will absorb too much oil. The secret of light crostoli is in the short time they take to cook.

You can eat them warm but I like them at room temperature. Before eating, sprinkle icing sugar over them. I don’t put the icing sugar on until I am ready to serve. I find that this ensures they remain crisp and last in an airtight container for weeks (though you will eat them sooner than that!) .

 

40 Comments

  • Gabe says:

    These look awesome Paola!

    • My mother is from Arzignano, she used to make them every Natale, I can only vaguely remember what she used. I have not been able to replicate them. She took the recipe to the grave. I have never had better. She was considered the neighborhood authority on crostoli. Why couldn’t I have paid more attention.?

      • alas I hear these stories so often – we think our mothers or nonne will be there forever when we are young. I am so happy I got mamma’s recipe from her when i did because she most likely wouldn’t remember all of it now. If you decide to make these I hope they are a bit like the ones your mamma used to make

  • Hi Paula, I have just recently started reading your food blog and have become an instant fan – Seb put me onto it ! Thanks for sharing your love of food, family and recipes. I look forward to being inspired and meeting you one day. Kind regards, Amira PS here is my blog http://www.dolci-damira.blogspot.com.au/

    • Dear Amira, thanks for your comment, I really appreciate you taking the time to write. I would love to meet you too one day, isn’t it amazing how food can connect people?
      I can’t wait to look at your blog (which I will do right now). P

  • Fiona says:

    Wow you are quite the fox!

    Yummmm! We make a similar version called Diples (Greeks have a weird d/th hybrid letter so it’s pronounced THEE-pless), fried and then drizzled with honey, cinnamon and crushed walnuts.

    I love cooking my mum and grandmother’s recipes, I find family very trying at times but cooking their food I find relaxing, pleasing and nostalgic!

    I’m sure your father would be rapt to know you keep the traditions of the family!

    • I LOVE the sound of those sweets Fiona.
      It is great that you also find cooking traditional food relaxing, those are my sentiments exactly. It feels home like and very comforting

  • […] (as well as a good dose of alcohol). Regular readers of this blog will know that I add grappa to crostoli as well as to ricotta cake. I also have it in my coffee on weekends (caffe coretto – or […]

  • Wayne says:

    Thanks for the recipe – your father would be proud!
    I love crostoli – will try it.

  • Grazie for your story and recipe!

  • this is why I found your blog – looking for a recipe of these because my Polish sister-in-law made some and I wanted to see what recipes were out there. My grandmother used to make them but the recipe she gave me was missing something. These look perfect and love that picture of you and your dad! very sweet.

    • I am getting lots of hits from the USA from my crostoli post, my dear mamma is so excited that her recipe is being found by people around the globe. I hope these contain that missing ingredient from your grandmother’s recipe!

  • […] Other recipes by my mother Livia on this blog: Carciofi ripieni (stuffed artichokes) Kiffel- little crescent shaped biscotti Apple strudel Crostoli […]

  • Santo says:

    I havnt tried yours yet, but untill I do, I believe the Crostoli King Brand to be the lightest and crispiest around, they are very hard to put down once you start… where can i get yours from?

    • I have never bought crostoli so I don’t know that brand. Well mine are in my pantry at home, sorry! Yes they are hard to put down. As we say in italian, “uno tira l’altro” (one draws the next one in!)

  • Cheryl says:

    Thank you for this recipe. I also stumbled upon your blog by looking for a crostoli recipe. I am a member of the Murer House (Murer House.org) in Folsom, California. Folsom’s sister city is Crespano Del Grappa in the Veneto. I will try your recipe and display it in the historic home’s kitchen for the annual Christmas Tour. Thanks again!

    • Glad you found me Cheryl, I am sure my mother would be so excited to have her recipe displayed! That is just wonderful, thank you. I hope your recipe turns out well

  • […] (1) Crostoli – mamma is very proud of her crostoli. She used to make huge quantities for family celebrations (the photo below is from her 80th birthday a few years back). You will need a pasta rolling machine to get the pastry thin (unless you want to roll it by hand). if you have only ever eaten store bought crostoli, you will love these – they are crispy and only slightly sweet. They are also known as angel’s wings. The link is here. […]

  • […] With coffee – Crostoli. An Easter celebration would not be complete without mamma’s crostoli. They are crisp, light and delicious. She used to bring a giant bag of them to family celebrations, and the grandchildren couldn’t wait for her to lay them out and dust them with icing sugar. Now that she has given me her pasta machine, it is up to me to make them for family celebrations. Her recipe is here […]

  • Ines Basiaco says:

    I have tried your recipe,but I’m not having any success,I don’t know what I’m doing wrong,
    They are soggy when fried,I have tried 3 different recipes with the same result,
    Please help

    • Dear Ines, sounds like the oil is not hot enough. They should cook very quickly and not have enough time in the oil to become soggy. They should be crisp and not at all greasy or soggy . Good luck with it! Paola

  • Janet says:

    Please help!
    I found your mamma’s recipe when I was looking at crostoli recipes while trying to find one that was similar to the one I remember my grandmother (she was from San Marino) making. I am trying to teach my son how to make crustily as part of a school project and he has to take the crustily that he will make to school for his classmates to try. Will your mamma’s recipe turn out well if I don’t include the grappa? Do I still need to put the vinegar in if I don’t put the grappa in? Is there a liquid that is not alcohol that I should use to replace the grappa that I don’t put in?
    I would very much appreciate any help or tips that you could give me! Thank you so much!!

  • Janet says:

    I apologize for spelling crostoli wrong! My autocorrect changed my typing and I didn’t catch it before I posted 🙂

    • Hi Janet, the alcohol is actually cooked off when you fry them but I understand why you might not want to use grappa. You can try a dry white wine (which I know still has alcohol but less than half of it compared to grappa) or perhaps some Verjuice, which is a grape juice that tastes like wine minus the alcohol. I have only used grappa so cannot vouch for the taste of using anything else but in terms of consistency, any liquid should work (even water). I trust that helps and good luck!

  • Janet says:

    Thank you so much for your reply.
    Do you think that unsweetened white grape juice might be an adequate substitution for the grappa? Also, what kind of vegetable oil do you think is best for frying the crostoli? I think I remember my grandmother frying them in olive oil or I could use canola oil.
    I appreciate your help very much. Thanks, again!

    • hi again Janet, white grape juice would be ok as long as it is not super sweet. You may need to do a taste test. My mother also cooks them in a very light olive oil (not extra virgin), so that is an alternative but I like vegetable oil as it does not impart a strong taste to the pastry. I don’t use Canola at all sorry so I can’t comment on its use.

  • Janet says:

    Thanks, again, for your reply. What type of vegetable oil do you use?

  • Janet says:

    Thank you very much for all of your help 🙂

  • Lisa says:

    Thank-you for sharing this recipe. My husbands family migrated to Australia (which is where i”m from) from Poland after fleeing during WW2. He speaks of his Mother making Crostoli when he was young and now my daughter (11) wants me to make them for her School stall – “European food”. Hence how I found your site when Googling for recipes. I love it when families share recipes, I’ve never understood people that keep recipes secret. I don’t have a pasta machine, so lets hope muscle power can make the dough thin enough. So a big thank you for sharing, it’s made my life easier and lets hope my daughters school stall is a success.

    • thanks for sharing your story – I hope you are able to roll them thin. So am sure it will be lots of fun for your daughter and bring back memories for your husband.

  • […] This online recipe is very similiar to my Nonna’s. After watching Nonna make crostoli my whole life, I was honoured to have her teach me how to make them, passing on the family tradition. I found the dish lots of fun to make and not too tricky, apart from frying the dough which was quite fast-paced! I was very pleased that they tasted just like I’d remembered; a crunchy pastry complimented with the sweetness of icing sugar. My Nonna helped me layer the crostoli into a plastic container to serve to my classmates. […]

  • SILVIA FERNANDEZ says:

    Dear Livia~
    I was born and raised in a Western Oil driven town in Venezuela where there was a lot of Italian immigrants back in the 60’s. Every year around Christmas an Italian couple that lived in the compound where we lived, will give as Christmas presents a huge tray full of CROSTOLIS. I remember I could not wait for Christmas to arrive to get this fabulous tray from the Puglielli Family. Time passed by, we grew and moved away . I still have contact with the lady (husband passed) but she lives too far away. I once asked her for the recipe and I remember I wrote it down in my recipe book. She use to knead the dough with Marsala Wine. Most of the recipes I have read on the Internet, calls for Grappa. I cannot wait to try your recipe. You just got a new subscriber for your blog.

    • Hi Silvia
      Thanks for taking the time to write this lovely message on my blog.What a lovely crostoli memory you have. There are lots of versions with different types of wines or spirits in the dough, you can substitute one for the other. I hope you enjoy making the crostoli
      Paola (PS. my elderly mother is Livia – this is her recipe)

  • Jess says:

    Hi Paola

    Thanks for posting this recipe! My nonna would make crostoli every Christmas and other occasions, if we were lucky. I was only given the responsibility of cutting the dough so unfortunately I didn’t learn her recipe.

    I’m going to a Christmas dinner on Friday and am thinking of attempting to make crostoli. I don’t have a food processor or a pasta machine. Do you think it’s possible to mix the dough by hand and use a rolling pin until it’s thin enough?

    • You do not need a food processor – I make them by hand. And the generations before my mamma did not have a pasta machine so rolled it by hand. You need to make sure you roll the dough to the same thickness though for all of them so all the crostoli are approximately the same. I would start with a half portion of the recipe though as it makes A LOT of crostoli. Good luck and Buon Natale!

  • Ekenor says:

    Hi Livia I am going to make them tonight. How do I store them? I would like to serve them at Christmas Eve. Will they keep crisp in the fridge?

    • Hi there, you store them in an airtight container – they will keep for a week or so. No need for the fridge (I have never put them in there). And my elderly mother is Livia – I am Paola.
      All the best for the festive season

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