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These traditional sweets vary from region to region and are known in a variety of names such as, cenci (rags), modi (knots), sfrappole (bits and pieces)

chiacchiere (gossips) and so on and so on. My Little Nonna, born in Tuscany in the 1800’s, made them for us and so we call them Cenci. We usually enjoyed them then, as we do now, with a glass of wine or Vin Santo. Whether Carnevale, Easter, Christmas or any special get together in between, Cenci is on the table with the other pastries.

1 LB FLOUR – plus extra for dusting


1 OZ BUTTER – softened

3 EGGS – lightly beaten




ICING SUGAR – for sprinkling 

Sift the flour into a bowl, make a well in the center and add sugar, butter, eggs, Marsala or Cognac and vanilla.  Mix well to form a dough. Turn out and knead on a floured surface until smoother.  If you have a pasta machine it comes in handy here as you want to get the dough as thin as possible.  A rolling pin is fine, too. Cut the dough in to strips and twit into different shapes, tie in a loose bow or pinch the edges with the tines of a fork.

Heat oil in a frying pan with deep sides.  When the oil is hot, fry a few strips at a time until golden.  Remove with a slotted spoon and drain for a short while on paper toweling or kitchen paper.  When ready to serve, sprinkle with icing sugar or powdered sugar.




(Definitely a Sicilian Christmas Cookie)


2 Cups Shortening

2 Lbs Flour – and extra if needed

3 Tbs Baking Powder

3 Eggs – well beaten

1 Pinch Salt

2 Cups Sugar

8 Oz Beer


Combine shortening, four, salt, sugar and mix well.  Take beaten eggs and beer and add to the dry ingredients. Mix well as you would a pie dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and let rest.


1 Box Golden Raisins

1 Lb Dried Figs

1 Lb Almonds

½ Lb Walnuts

½ Lb Pecans

2 tsps Vanilla

3 Tbs Cinnamon

½ tsp Nutmeg

12 Oz Jar of Orange Marmalade

2 tsps Whiskey – your favoite

½ Cup Sugar – adding water to make this into a thick syrup

Bake nuts in a 325° oven until brown. Cool completely and mix with raisins a figs. Grind all together. Add the remaining ingredients and let sit in the refrigerator overnight or even a day or two.

Preheat oven to 350º

Take the filling out of the refrigerator and let it sit for a while so that it becomes pliable and easy to work with. Roll the dough about 1/8” Thick and cut into rectangles about 2” by 4”. Place a teaspoon of filling in the center and close the pastry. When all are rolled, place on cookie sheets, seam side down. Bake in a 350° oven for 12 to 15 minutes until browned. When cooled, glaze with your favorite icing mixture and, if desired, top with colored sprinkles.







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