Nocino (Italian liqueur)

The nocino is a liqueur that is typical from Emilia-Romagna, the Italian region where I come from. It is made from walnuts (“noci” in Italian); hence the name “nocino”.

The ancient tradition says that it should be made from walnuts collected by barefoot witches (some say, by barefoot virgins) during the night of Saint John (that is, June 24th), stealing them from the trees of some neighbours. None of these prescriptions still survives nowdays, except for the date of June 24th, which is quite accurate: 7-10 days before the 24th, one starts collecting some nuts and checking if they’re ready for the nocino: there should be very little water in them, but at the same time they should be still soft enough in order to be cut in 4. In general the final date it’s June 24th plus or minus a couple of days at most.

You need to prepare the nocino in a big glass carboy (10 liters). All the doses are listed below for such a carboy (which is the typical carboy that you can find in shops in my village).


95 – 130 green walnuts (95 if they are very large, 130 if they are small – with the trees of my garden you need around 120 walnuts)
3,2 kg of white sugar
4 liters of pure alcohol (95%)

Technical instruments:

1 10 liters glass carboy
1 winepress
a large bowl (it should contain all the walnuts and the sugar, and you should be able to mix everything without problems – see below)
possibly, a wooden barrel (for the aging of the liqueur)

The green walnuts are harvested around June 24th. Around June 16th you have to start collecting 1-2 walnuts per day. You cut them in order to see if they are ready for the preparation. They are ok if they are still soft enough to be cut with a knife, but at the same time they should have very little water inside. Once you cut them, if there are more than a few drops of water, then it is better to wait for some more days.

It’s always better to collect more walnuts than the number listed above: sometimes some nuts are buggy (and you have to discard them), but you realize this only when you cut them. This is the typical situation that happens when you don’t treat the trees with insecticides and similar stuff. Walnuts with small skin defects, however, can be used without problems. The walnut should be prepared immediately after harvesting; at best, you can postpone the preparation of 1 day or 1 day and a half.


Once you harvest the nuts, you put all the sugar in the large bowl. Then you start cutting the walnuts and putting them into the bowl. Each walnut has to be cut into 4 parts (the cuts should be “vertical” with respect to the walnut).

Both the harvesting and the cutting should be done with a pair of kitchen gloves. Otherwise your hands and fingers become black almost immediately. Despite the gloves, however, some color always passes to the fingers (and it remains there for 1-2 weeks, in spite of any product you use in order to clean them).

From time to time, you mix the walnuts and the sugar with a ladle. The walnuts that are already cut should not be exposed directly to the air (otherwise they oxidize), so they should always be covered by some sugar.


When you have cut all the nuts, mix again and wait.


Stir once every hour for 4-5 hours. During this time, wthe walnuts secrete their liquid, hence they melt all the sugar (or, at least, most of it).


Add all the nuts, the liquid and any unmelted sugar in the 10 lites glass carboy. Pour the first liter of alcohol inside the bowl in order to remove the sugar attached to the walls (with the help of a ladle), then pour the mix of alcohol and sugar it into the carboy. Repeat the procedure with the second liter of alcohol.

Then add the third liter of alcohol directly into the carboy and stir well with a wooden spoon. Add the quarter liter of alcohol, mix again and close the cover.

Place outdoors in a spot that is sunny throughout all the day (especially, from noon until evening). Every evening, mix thoroughly for 5-10 minutes with a ladle.


After 40 days (end of July), put the carboy inside the house, in a dark spot. Around December, the liqueur is ready to be removed from the carboy. With the help of a ladle and of a pasta strainer, you strain the liquid in a large bowl. Both the alcohol and the nuts are now very black (this is the same color that gives you problems when you cut them).

nocino-7The liquer that you get is already good enough, but actually the best (and most alcoholic) part of it is still in the walnuts. Therefore, you need to use a winepress in order to squeeze them.

The liqueur obtained by pressing the walnuts is held apart from the rest; you only add it partially and gradually to the “first” liquer, until you get a taste you are satisfied with. This depends a lot on the quality of the nuts, on how much water they had, etc.

The liqueur obtained by squeezing is preserved in a bottle. You will use it in order to “correct” the taste in the years when the nuts are not very good. Part of it is also used if you want to age the nocino in the wooden barrels (see below).

The liqueur already mixed is put in large glass bottles (at least, 2 liters). In all the previous passages, you don’t filter the liqueur. Therefore in the bottles you will have some ground of impurities. When you take the liqueur from the bottle, this is not a problem as long as there is enough liquid (provided you do not move the bottle too much). When there is little liqueur in the bottle, it is better to use a metal strainer for filtering impurities.

If you want an even bettern nocino, you can use wooden barrels (oak or linden), where the liqueur has to age for 1 year or 1 year and a half.


Each barrel has to be cleaned and sterilized before use. In particular, new barrels have always lots of  wood chips inside, partially still attached to the borders.

In order to clean the barrel, first of all you need to prepare a mixture of boiling water (the same amount of the capacity of the barrel) and salt (10-15% of the weight of the water). Add the boiling mixture to the barrel and wait about 1-2 days (as long as the water does not become cold).


Then you remove the salty water and you rinse the barrel with (white) vinegar. Then you remove the vinegar and you fill the barrel with a mixture of wine and alcohol (95%). This mixture should be left about 1 year in the barrel. This sterilizes the barrel; moreover it allows you to check if there are no leaks from the barrel.

After one year, the wine and alcohol mixture is transferred into a carboy: you can use it in order to sterilize other barrels in the future. At this point the barrel is ready for containing the liqueur. Therefore, you should prepare it at least 6 months before the preparation of the liqueur, let’s say around the beginning of January.

The nocino has to age in the barrel between 1 year and 1 year and a half. Part of the water and of the alcohol in it evaporates, so twice per year you have to remove the cap, and fill it with part of the liqueur obtained by the squeezing.

After the aging, you remove the nocino from the barrel with a barrel pipe. The barrel should never be empty (otherwise the wood can start deforming, hence leaking). Therefore, in a week period you should remove the old nocino, and put the new nocino (that has to age in the barrel). You only leave between half a liter and a liter of the old nocino on the bottom, then you add the new liquer (somehow, you “average” between good years and bad years).

The old nocino is ready to be used or given as a gift to relatives and friends 🙂


Tortelloni with ricotta cheese

Tortelloni with ricotta cheese

Ingredients (for a sfoglia with 6 eggs – for around 6-8 people)

7 eggs (6 for the sfoglia, 1 for the stuffing)
600 gr. of flour
200 gr. of ricotta cheese from sheep
200 gr. of cheese cheese from cow
80 gr. of grated Parmesan cheese
1 clove of garlic
some sprigs of parsley

Create a dough with 2 eggs and 200 gr. of flour (see the recipe for the sfoglia here) and put it on the refrigerator. Do the same other 2 times with the remaining 4 eggs and 400 gr. of flour.

Finely chop together the parsley and garlic. Take the last remaining egg and divide the yolk and the albumen. Beat only the yolk in a bowl (you are not going to use the albumen).

In a large bowl mix together the ricotta cheese, the garlic, parsely, parmesan and half of the egg yolk. If necessary, add also the remaining egg yolk. Adjust with salt.

Take out of the refrigerator one of the 3 doughs and roll it out (see again the recipe of the sfoglia). When the dough is thin enough, cut into squares with a sharp knife, fill with the stuffing and close the tortelloni. This work should be done by two people because the dough dries out quickly, making it impossible to close the tortelloni.

Once closed, if you do not cook them immediately, the tortelloni may be frozen in the freezer taking care to put them on trays fairly spaced from each other. Once frozen, you can put in freezer bags and store them safely a few months.

Once cooked, serve with butter and sage.

Thanks to mom Carla.

Recipe in Italian here.



This is a traditional sweet for Carnival in Italy: in my region (Emilia Romagna) they are named “sfrappole”, but you can find it almost everywhere in Italy with different names: frappe, bugie, chiacchiere, lattughe, crostoli, rosoni, etc

Ingredients (for 2 people) for the dough:

1 egg
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 knob of butter
1 pound of flour (and at least another 30 grams to roll out the dough)
1 tablespoon of brandy (Old Romagna)
1 lemon (possibly not treated with pesticides)

Ingredients (for 2 up to 4 people) for frying:

1 liter of sunflower seed oil

Mix all the ingredients for the dough in a bowl. Leave about 20 minutes in the refrigerator in a bowl covered with a cloth.

Roll out until you obtaining a thin sheet (the final diameter should be about 50 cm.). Cut with a washer or a sharp knife; the strips should be 3-4 cm. wide and 20-25 cm. wide.

In a pan of about 20-25 cm in diameter and very high (at least 5-6 cm.) put the sunflower seed oil and put it on the heat.

To check if the oil has reached the right temperature, put in it one of the edges that remained after cutting the dough. If this resurfaces almost immediately, then the oil is ready.

Put one piece of dough at a time in the oil, leave 5-10 seconds and turn it on the other side inside the oil. The sfrappole should be just golden, this is enough to be cooked.

Drain on paper towels. Never put two sfrappole already fried one above the other.

Move sfrappole on another paper towel and wait 10-20 minutes. Then, sprinkle them with icing sugar one at a time and stack in a serving dish.

While frying change the oil with new one if it darkens too much.

If you want to double the dose of sfrappole, it is good to do two separate doughs. You can also do only one dough and then split it into two parts. Anyway, you cannot roll out the entire dough at the same time because it would become too large.

Thanks to grandma Iris.

Recipe in Italian here.

Cookies with jam

Cookies with jam

100 gr. of sugar
250 gr. of flour
1 egg
50 gr. of butter
1 lemon (possibly not treated with pesticides)
half dose of baking powder (8 gr.)
jam (the best for this recipe are those made of cherries, peaches or plums)

In a bowl mix together all the ingredients except the milk and the jam. If the dough is too dry, add a few tablespoons of milk.

You have to get a soft dough, but such that it does not stick to your hands. Then divide it into 2 or 3 pieces. Use a rolling pin in order to have every piece thick a few millimeters.

With a cup of coffee (5-6 cm. of diameter) make many disks of dough, trying to use at best the pastry.  You can remix the remaining parts of the dough, and proceed as before.

In half of the disks, drill a hole in the center with a thimble, if you have one at home, or with any other object with a diameter of around 1.5 cm.

On each whole disk, put a tablespoon of jam in the center and put a disk with a hole over it.

Press along the edges in order to glue the two layers of dough and place on a baking tray covered with baking paper.

Brush each cookie with some milk and bake at 180 degrees for 20-30 minutes.

Thanks to grandma Iris (and Elisa, who helped me …)

Recipe in Italian here.

Pasta with pumpkin and sausage

Pasta with pumpkin and sausage

Ingredients (for 4 people):
400 gr. of pasta
200-300 gr. of sausage
500 gr. of pumpkin
1 large onion
white or red wine (1-2 glasses)
sunflower seed oil

Cut the pumpkin in small cubes.

Finely chop the onion and fry it in sunflower seed oil.

When the onion is golden, add the pumpkin and leave frying over a medium heat. Meanwhile, cook the pasta.

When the pumpkin is just al dente, add to pumpkin and onion also the sausage (cut in small pieces) and one or two glasses of wine.

Bake at high heat in order to evaporate most of the wine. The pumpkin should not overcook, but remain quite compact.

Drain the pasta. Add both the pasta and the sauce into a baking pan.

Bake 5 minutes in the oven at 200 degrees until the pasta is golden.

Serve with parmesan cheese shavings.

Thanks to mom Carla.

Recipe in Italian here.

Apple cake


1 kg of apples (pippin or golden)
2 eggs
150 gr. of brown sugar
50 gr. of butter
180 gr. of flour
100 gr. of milk
a lemon (possibly not treated with pesticides)
1 packet of baking powder (16 gr.)

Whip up the eggs with the sugar. Add the grated lemon zest, the milk and the melted butter.

Stir in the flour and the yeast. Leave the dough rising for 30 minutes.

In the meantime, peel the apples, cut them into cubes. Incorporate them into the dough. Take a baking pan, grease it with some butter and sprinkle with the breadcrumbs.

Add the dough in the baking pan. Bake for 40 minutes at 180 degrees.

Thanks to Giulia (and Gianfranco Vissani for the original recipe).

Recipe in Italian here.

Cantucci with nuts and chocolate


500 gr. of flour
250 gr. of sugar
250 gr. of nuts
100 gr. of dark chocolate in blocks
1/4 of a glass of white martini
50 gr. of butter
3 small eggs
1 packet of  baking powder (16 gr.)
10 gr. of “ammonia for sweet” (see here for some info)
1 lemon (possibly not treated with pesticides)

Chop half of the nuts coarsely and set them aside. Break up the chocolate and put it aside. In a bowl put together the flour, the baking powder, the ammonia, the sugar, the butter (softened but not melted), the eggs, the grated lemon zest and the martini.

Knead for several minutes first in the the bowl and then on a cutting board until you obtain a compact mixture. Add some flour if necessary.

Roll out the dough (up to a diameter of about 25 cm) and add above it the chopped chocolate, both the whole and the chopped nuts (if you want, add first the chopped nuts, knead and then add the whole nuts). Knead for a long time, adding flour if necessary.

Divide the dough into 10 pieces. Turn each of them into a loaf that is nearly two fingers wide and 1 finger thick.

Bake at 180 degrees in a convection oven for 25 minutes in pans covered with parchment paper. In the oven the loaves inflate quite a lot, so you have to put them very distant from one another and from the walls of the pan.

In the oven the ammonia evaporates, so you have to be careful when you open the oven: wait around 10 seconds before breathing and protect your eyes.

Remove from the oven, allow to cool 10 minutes. Using a sharp knife cut the loaves into slices that should be as wide as a finger. Bake again for 10-15 minutes in order to make them crispy.

Serve accompanied with vin santo.

Thanks to mom Carla.

Recipe in Italian here.

Homemade sfoglia


Ingredients for a sfoglia for 2-3 people:

  • 2 eggs
  • 200 gr. of flour

On a very large cutting board create a “fountain” with the flour. The fountain should be wide enough and with high walls. Add to the eggs inside.

At the beginning knead very fast with a fork seal, always in the same direction, incorporating the flour from the walls from time to time.

When the mixture reaches a good consistency, continue to knead by hand. At this stage, if the mixture is too wet, you can add 20-30 gr. of flour. The mixture must be knead by hand for around 10 minutes. The correct movement is done as follows: first compress with the left palm, then take a flap with the right hand and put it above the mixture. Then compress again with the left hand and rotate the mixture (in order to obtain a better homogeneity).

Leave in a cool place or in the refrigerator for 5-10 minutes in a large bowl covered with a kitchen towel.

Begin to roll out the mixture by hand, in order to obtain a shape as circular as possible. Then start rolling with a rolling pin. Use the rolling pin especially on the edges of the sfoglia (otherwise it will remain too thick on the edges). Once every 2-3 rollings, wind up the sfoglia on the rolling pin an unwind it on the other side on the cutting board. At first, you can do this also by hand, then you have to wind the sfoglia up using the rolling pin.


Depending on the consistency and the humidity of the sfoglia, if necessary you can sprinkle it with a handful of flour. In any case, do not add too much flour, because otherwise you can no more roll out the sfoglia.

With two eggs the sfoglia should be sufficiently thin when it reaches 40-45 cm. in diameter (for tagliatelle and tortelloni) or 50-55 cm. (if you want to prepare tortellini with it).

You can make sfoglia with more or less eggs: the ratio is always one egg every 100 gr. of flour. With more than 3 eggs you can knead the flour and the eggs together but then you are forced to roll out 2 pieces separetely (when you are rolling out the first one, leave the second one in the fridge).

Thanks to dad Moreno and grandma Lucia.

Recipe in Italian here.




  • 2 eggs
  • 200 grams of sugar

Preheat the oven at 170 degrees.

With an electric mixer whip-up the eggs’ whites incorporating the sugar slowly, until it dissolves completely in the mixture.

Continue to whip-up until the mixture takes a good consistency. The batter should be such that it casts very slowly if it is put on a spoon. If necessary, in order to obtain a less liquid batter, you can still add 20-30 gr. of sugar.

Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread over the dough by spoonfuls, keeping well away from one another.

Bake in a convection oven for about 15 minutes, then remove the pan, remove the meringues from the parchment paper and put again in the oven for another 5-10 minutes.

Recipe in Italian here.

Soft cake with double cream

Torta soffice con panna liquida


  • 250 gr. of double cream (for cakes)
  • 250 gr. of sugar
  • 250 gr. of flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 lemon (possibly not treated with pesticides)
  • 2 tablespoons of rum or Marsala
  • 1 packet of  baking powder (16 gr.)
  • butter to grease the baking pan

With an electric mixer whip-up the sugar, the eggs and the grated lemon zest.

Slowly add the double cream and the rum and whit-up again.

Continuing to whitting-up, slowly add the flour (through a sieve if possible) and the baking powder.

Take a round baking pan, grease with butter and cover in flour. Add the mixture in the baking pan.

Bake at 180 degrees in a convection oven for about 45-50 minutes.

Allow to cool in the open oven for half an hour.

Recipe by my grandma Iris.

Recipe in Italian here.