Making Celli Ripieni in Vasto

Making Celli Ripieni in Vasto


The “simpaticissima” Mamma Anna Maria – photo by Italia Sweet Italia – Experience Breaks

Before I left for Italy, I shared the above photo on my Facebook page, with the caption,”Doesn’t Mamma Anna Maria look like someone with whom you’d love to spend time in the kitchen? I hope I get to meet her in Vasto!” A few weeks later, my family and I spent a wonderful day on Abruzzo’s unspoiled southern Adriatic coast with Fabrizio Lucci, owner of the Abruzzo-based tour company, Italia Sweet Italia Experience Breaks, which included a seafood cookery class and lunch on a fabled trabocco fishing platform (more on that experience in a later post including a recipe for the BEST stuffed mussels I’ve ever had). Our day was scheduled to conclude with dinner at a seaside resort, but Fabrizio announced there had been a change to our itinerary and we were instead dining at an undisclosed “surprise” location. We followed Fabrizio into the lush Vasto countryside, which is blessed with a view of the crystalline sea, and pulled into the wide driveway of a charming “casa di campagna.” When I got out of the car, I spotted a smiling woman seated on a woven chair, her eyes welcoming us as we walked up the path to the house. With a twinkle in his eyes, Fabrizio turned to me and said, “You said you wanted to meet her.”

Mamma Anna Maria and me

Mamma Anna Maria and me

That evening, our group, which consisted of my family of five, as well as my friend, food writer and cookbook author, Domenica Marchetti, and her husband and two teenagers, was joined not only by Mamma Anna Maria, but also by Fabrizio’s father, Angelo, his aunt and uncle, Zia Maria and Zio Gino, and his godmother, Rosa. We toured Zio Gino’s property, home to an enormous orto, rows of vigneti, a sizable wine cantina as well as donkeys, goats and chickens. Fabrizio spent every summer of his childhood in this country oasis and he and his family now welcome his clients here with open arms.

Before dinner, Anna Maria and Rosa taught Domenica and I how to make Celli Ripieni (also known as Tarallucci Olio e Vino), a traditional cookie from Abruzzo with a somewhat savory dough (it contains no sugar) and naturally sweet filling. The dough consists of flour, extra virgin olive oil and white wine, and the filling – known as “mostarda” – contains a thick homemade grape jam (called scurchjiata in the Abruzzese dialect), toasted almonds, cocoa powder and instant espresso. They are sweet enough for dessert, but also pair perfectly with morning coffee.

Celli ripieni

Celli ripieni

Rosa teaching us how to prepare the celli ripieni

Rosa teaching us how to prepare the celli ripieni

After our cooking lesson, we were treated to a dinner of nearly a dozen different types of pizza (I’ll publish my son Mikey’s favorite, the focaccia filled with fresh figs, in a later post), including pizza dotted with artichokes and ventricina, Vasto’s typical spicy cured sausage, and another stuffed with sweet onions and salty anchovies. As we all lingered around the large al fresco table – eating, drinking, chatting and gesticulating (!) – I could see why Fabrizio’s guests tell him that cooking and dining with this warm and lovely famiglia is their favorite part of their Abruzzo holiday.

Dinner in vasto

Dinner under an olive tree with our new Vasto family

For more information about Italia Sweet Italia – Experience Breaks, go to

Celli Ripieni (also known as Tarallucci Olio e Vino)

Recipe adapted from Italia Sweet Italia – Experience Breaks

Celli finished

Makes 12 cookies, about 2½ inches in diameter

For the dough:

  • 1½ cups Tipo “00” flour, plus more for kneading and surface
  • Pinch of salt
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup dry white wine

For the “mostarda” filling:

  • ½ cup good-quality grape jam
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • 2 tablespoons toasted almonds, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped bittersweet chocolate

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees, with a rack positioned in the center. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone liner.

Prepare the dough:

To a large bowl, add the oil and wine and stir to combine. Gradually, add the flour a little bit at a time, mixing constantly with a fork in a circular motion until the mixture becomes a soft and sticky dough that is just firm enough to handle. Turn the mixture onto a lightly floured work surface and begin to knead. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour, a pinch at a time until you’re able to handle it. Knead for 3-5 minutes, until the dough is smooth, shiny and contains no lumps. Set aside while you prepare the filling.

Prepare the filling:

To a small bowl, add the ingredients for the filling and stir to combine.

The dense "ripieno" or filling

The dense “ripieno” or filling

Shape and bake the cookies:

Break off a piece of dough that is slightly larger than a walnut. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough into a thin oval approximately 4 inches long and 2 inches wide. It is important that the rolled-out dough contains no holes. To the center of the dough, leaving approximately an inch on each of the short sides, add a scant teaspoon of filling in a thin layer along the width of the dough. Fold the top edge of the dough over the filling and press firmly into the bottom edge. . Make sure the dough is sealed well so that no filling oozes out. Using a fluted pastry wheel, cut the excess dough along the sealed edge and then bring the two ends together and pinch together into a basket shape. (Add the excess that you cut with the pastry wheel back to the ball of dough.) Transfer each cookie onto the prepared baking sheet as you form the remainder. Repeat until there is no more dough or filling remaining.

My hands

Rosa’s expert hands guiding mine

Me with Celli

Proudly showing off my first cookie

Celli ripieni ready for the oven!

Celli ripieni ready for the oven!

Bake for 15-20 minutes until the cookies are slightly colored. Remove and allow to cool slightly. Sprinkle generously with confectioner’s sugar. Serve warm or at room temperature. Buon appetito!

Generously dust celli ripieni with powdered sugar

Generously dust celli ripieni with powdered sugar

Extra Two Cents: Although the recipe above is traditional, Mamma Anna Maria told us that some people add (or substitute) Nutella and toasted hazelnuts to the filling. Some variations also include orange zest.

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14 Responses to Making Celli Ripieni in Vasto

  1. Antonette July 30, 2013 at 2:30 pm #

    We make almost the same type of dessert, except my mom makes them like “raviolis” at Christmas!! You are having some wonderful experiences…have to remember this place next time I am in Italy and definitely visiting Abruzzo!!! Buon divertimento!

    • Majella Home Cooking July 31, 2013 at 7:59 am #

      Ciao Antonette, We also make these at Christmas with a different filling that includes chick peas – called “calcionetti.” This is such a versatile dough – I look forward to experimenting with different types of filling. And yes, you certainly must pay a visit to Vasto when you’re here again. You’ll love it!

  2. ciaochowlinda July 30, 2013 at 5:50 pm #

    Oh my but did you ever hit the mother lode here (pun intended). Fabrizio is fabulous and it’s easy to see why with a mother like that. Mamma Anna Maria is a gem. Lucky you and Domenica and your families to have had such a wonderful experience. And thanks for the recipe for the tarallucci. They look luscious.

    • Fabrizio July 31, 2013 at 5:14 am #

      Ciao Michelle,

      it was really a pleasure to share with you our culture, food, traditions and especially to meet people! Grazie mille for this great post!

      • Majella Home Cooking July 31, 2013 at 7:50 am #

        Fabrizio, the pleasure was entirely ours. I look forward to our next meeting!

    • Fabrizio July 31, 2013 at 5:16 am #

      Thanks a lot Linda for your nice words! The next time you’ll be around Vasto you’ll be welcome to meet my family. Ciaoooo

    • Majella Home Cooking July 31, 2013 at 7:56 am #

      Ciao Linda, They are truly a lovely, warm family and fabulous cooks! They invited us into their home and to their table with open arms. I’m waiting for Fabrizio to send me a photo of his elderly Zia Maria sporting my son’s little Yankees cap! Un abbraccio, Michelle

  3. Domenica Marchetti July 30, 2013 at 6:06 pm #

    Bella Michelle! Reading this brings me right back to that glorious day we spent together in Vasto cooking and eating (mostly eating!). I brought a jar of grape jam back with me and can’t wait to make Rosa’s celli ripeni. That dough! Enjoy the rest of your vacation. Un abbraccio, D.

    • Fabrizio July 31, 2013 at 5:18 am #

      Grazie mille Domenica! Keep us informed about your celli ripieni! A presto

    • Majella Home Cooking July 31, 2013 at 7:54 am #

      It truly was a wonderful day, Domenica! When I tested the celli ripieni recipe in order to convert it into US measurements, I only had “00” flour in our house here in Salle (and no rolling pin, pastry cutter, etc – a glass, knife and fork sufficed just fine!) and not cake flour, as directed by the original recipe. The resulting dough was still light and flaky, but I’m curious to try them with cake flour. A presto! Un abbraccio a tutti, M.

  4. thepaddingtonfoodie July 30, 2013 at 7:14 pm #

    I’d love to spend a day in the kitchen with Anna Maria and Rosa too. What a wonderful experience for your families.

    • Majella Home Cooking July 31, 2013 at 7:51 am #

      I promise you that if you ever have the chance to cook with these two remarkable women and cooks, and be hosted by Fabrizio, it will be an experience to remember!

  5. Pat Reynolds July 31, 2013 at 8:55 am #

    Wow what a fab experience and I’m definitely giving the celli ripieni a go!

    • Majella Home Cooking July 31, 2013 at 9:22 am #

      They are wonderful, Pat and even better for you who have continuous access to the wonderful artisanal jams in Abruzzo!

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