Dicembre Dolce: Q & A with Rosetta Costantino and a Cookbook Giveaway

Cost_Southern Italian Desserts

UPDATE: AND THE WINNER OF SOUTHERN ITALIAN DESSERTS, CHOSEN BY THE MAGIC HAND OF MY 17-YEAR-OLD, IS DONNA! Congratulations ~ you will enjoy this book. Many thanks to all who read and who commented. I love hearing from you. Stay tuned for a new Dicembre Dolce post coming up this week.

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Welcome to the third annual Dicembre Dolce (Sweet December), in which I post recipes for my favorite Italian sweets. We’re kicking things off in style, with an interview with Rosetta Costantino, author of the newly released Southern Italian Desserts: Rediscovering the Sweet Traditions of Calabria, Campania, Basilicata, Puglia, and Sicily (co-written with Jennie Schacht and published by Ten Speed Press), plus a recipe for her Torta di Pistacchio (pistachio cake). I’m also giving away a copy of Rosetta’s new book (see below for rules).

Rosetta and I met a couple of years ago at a conference hosted by the National Italian American Foundation. We started talking about the food traditions of our respective regions (Calabria in her case, Abruzzo in mine) and we discovered that while the cuisines are different in many ways, they also have much in common, including a love for chili peppers (peperoncini). Costantino_Rosetta I loved Rosetta’s first book, My Calabria, and I can already tell I’m going to enjoy Southern Italian Desserts just as much. Recipes range from a three-ingredient nut cookie to a beautiful and elaborate layered torte of ricotta mousse and pistachio dacquoise.

Rosetta was born in Verbicaro, a small hill town near the Tyrrhenian Sea. She moved with her parents to California at age 14 to join her mother’s brothers, who had emigrated years before. She was once upon a time a Silicon Valley chemical engineer. She began to teach cooking classes as a hobby and the classes blossomed into a second career. Nowadays Roestta’s life toggles between Calabria, where she guides culinary tours, and California, where she continues to teach.

DM: Before we talk about your new book, let’s start with Calabria itself. It remains one of the lesser-known regions of Italy, in terms of U.S. tourism, travel and cuisine. Can you share a few defining characteristics of the place?

RC: I think the geography of Calabria defines its characteristics.  It is a very narrow peninsula covered mainly by mountains, as you know the Apennines are the spine of Italy but when you get to Calabria being so narrow all you have are mountains. There are places along the Tyrrhenian coast that have dramatic cliffs, mountains that drop straight into the sea. Because of this terrain you have varied climate and agriculture. You go up to La Sila, that resembles Switzerland, you climb up to 4000 feet and then it is flat and they have cows (the only place to find cows and cheese made with cow’s milk like Caciocavallo Silano and butirro). Here you find snow and ski resorts. You go further south towards Sicily and it is always warm. Calabria has the longest coastline in Italy and you can still find pristine untouched beaches.

DM: In Southern Italian Desserts You focus on five regions: Calabria, Campania, Basilicata, Puglia, and Sicily. What do these regions share in common when it comes to desserts? What sets them apart?

RC: What I found as I was researching this book is that the traditional desserts, especially for Christmas, are very similar throughout the area. We all make a sweet dough and shape it in different ways and call it something else. It is pignolata in Sicily, cicirata in Calabria and struffoli in Campania, and purcidduzzi in Puglia but it is basically all the same ~ tiny little balls fried and coated with honey or most cotto (grape must syrup). I think this goes back to the days when Southern Italy was part of Magna Grecia and they all made this dessert, as I am sure we got it from the Greeks that settled in the area. A lot of the cookies are similar, as they all are simple and dry so they could be made and stored without refrigeration. If you look at the entire area being a poor area they used what they had: nuts, honey, mosto cotto, dried fruit, flour. Many traditional desserts use strutto (rendered pork fat) as butter didn’t exist in the South until later on.

What sets them apart? I guess in cities like Naples, Palermo or Lecce, where you had the influence of the aristocrats, you find the elaborate desserts. But the rest of the areas have a lot more in common.

Africano ~ chocolate-hazelnut cake roll from Sicily (photo by Sara Remington)

Africano ~ chocolate-hazelnut cake roll from Sicily (photo by Sara Remington)

DM: Southern Italian desserts have a history that stretches back centuries. Can you tell us a bit about some of the ancient influences?

RC: I guess we go back to the Greeks and a lot of desserts that are still found in the area date back to the Greeks, especially at Christmas time as I mentioned earlier with the sweet fried dough coated with honey. There was the influence of the Spanish bringing chocolate to the area. The Arabs get the credit for bringing sugar to Sicily and of course the citrus, pistachio and spices such as cinnamon and cloves. I think that’s the reason Sicilians have such a sweet tooth compared to the other regions of Southern Italy ~ they had sugar from the beginning.

DM: I was surprised to learn that a wave of Swiss immigrants settled in southern Italy in the late 1800s. How did they influence or change the types of desserts and the way they were made?

RC: They were the ones that brought the butter and the cream to the South, along with their fancy desserts. Prior to this, nuns made the fancy desserts or you made the simple cookies or Christmas desserts if you were a peasant. All the fancy tartlets and puff pastries that you find in the pastry shops were introduced by the Swiss. If you go to Palermo you will still find signs that say “Pasticceria Svizzera”  all over town.

SIDE Torta Ricotta e Pere image p 76

Torta Ricotta e Pere ~ ricotta and pear cake from Campania (photo by Sara Remington)

DM: You mention the nuns. That’s another fascinating tradition  ~ the elaborate confections created by nuns in convents. How did that tradition develop? Are there still convents that specialize in making sweets?

RC: This tradition started in the convents (as Mary Tyler Simeti told me ) by the nuns as a means to raise money. The young ladies who were in the convents were already familiar with fancy desserts, as they tended to be the second daughters of aristocrats (most families could only afford to marry off the first daughter and pass on the land; if they married off more daughters they would have to split the land and would lose their holdings). To please their priests and higher ups, the nuns would outdo each other in competitions, and that is also the reason their recipes would be kept as a secret. The nuns also had the time to make fancy desserts, like the Martorana (marzipan shaped like fruit, named after La Martorana convent in Palermo). There are still some convents that make and sell desserts but most of them are closed. In Puglia, I have been told that there is a convent in Lecce that still makes a traditional Christmas and Easter dessert (shaped like a fish for Christmas and a lamb for Easter) filled with faldacchiera (a mixture of cream and preserved pears).

DM: Your book contains recipes for lavish desserts, some of them complicated. But it also has recipes for simple, rustic desserts. Tell us about one of your favorite fancy desserts and one of your favorite rustic desserts.

RC: One of the fancy desserts would be the Torta Gattopardo (ricotta and pistachio mousse cake) or Torta Ricotta e Pere (ricotta and pear cake). Rustic, I would have say the simplest cookie in the book, Dolci di Noci (walnut cookies).  They are simple but addictive.  

DM: So…I want to try to make the Sfogliatelle Ricce (traditional Neapolitan fan-shaped pastries made with homemade puff pastry) in your book. Am I crazy?

RC: You are not crazy but it takes practice to learn how to shape them. Once you learn the technique they are not that difficult. You can’t buy anything like them. Even the ones they sell in Naples are so commercialized that they don’t taste like the ones I included in the book. You can find amazing ones in Naples but you have to look for them.

DM: Many thanks Rosetta. Buon Natale!

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FOR THE GIVEAWAY: I’m giving away a copy of Rosetta’s book to one lucky reader. To enter, simply leave a comment in the comments section below telling me what your favorite Italian dessert is and why you love it. Be sure to include your email address (which will not be posted) so I can contact you if you are the winner. A winner will be chosen at random (and by that I mean I will write all entrants’ names on slips of papers, put them into a hat, blindfold one of my kids and let him or her retrieve the winning name). The winner will be announced on the blog on Monday, December 9, 2013, so check this post for an update.

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There are plenty of recipes from Southern Italian Desserts that I hope to get around to making sooner or later (as my friend Adri did recently), but facing a number of deadlines, I chose one of the simpler ones that caught my eye ~ Torta di Pistacchio, from the Sicily chapter. It’s made from finely ground pistachios, eggs, salt, sugar, and grated lemon zest. Just the sort of cake I love. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it, too. pistachio cake 4 A note about pistachios: I had a tough time finding the raw pistachios called for in the recipe–roasted in the shell or dry roasted were the only kinds I could find in the grocery stores and gourmet shops near my house. I finally found them online at Gustiamo, a New York-based purveyor of high-quality Italian food products. Gustiamo stocks vacuum sealed pistachios from Bronte, Sicily. The trees grow in the volcanic soil near Mt. Etna and are not fertilized or irrigated. Their yield is low, which is why they are expensive, and nuts are harvested every other year between August and September (2013 was a harvest year). If you love pistachios as much as I do, it is worth the occasional splurge to buy these precious nuts from Sicily. When peeled, the nuts are bright green, and their flavor is rich and robust.

Rosetta suggests slicing the cake in half and filling it with crema di pistacchio (pistachio cream). This, too, is expensive so instead I whipped up some ricotta cream. It complemented the delicate flavor and simplicity of the cake nicely.

Makes 8 servings

Torta di Pistacchio {Pistachio Cake}

This simple dessert is essentially a pistachio pan di spagna (sponge cake). Rosetta Costantino suggests cutting the cake in half and filling it with crema di pistacchio (pistachio cream). If you are unable to find pistachio cream (or unwilling to pay the steep price ~ it's from Sicily and expensive!) consider filling the cake with ricotta cream, as I did here. You can also make this cake with hazelnuts or walnuts in place of the pistachios. Although the recipe doesn't call for it, next time I make this I will take the extra step of peeling the thin red skin off the pistachios (see NOTE at the end of the recipe) to bring out the nuts' vibrant green color and remove any intrusive bitter bits of skin. (Cake recipe from Southern Italian Desserts, by Rosetta Constantino, with Jennie Schact; 2013 Ten Speed Press)


  • For the cake
  • 1 2/3 cups raw shelled pistachios (see NOTE)
  • 6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
  • Pinch of kosher or sea salt
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

  • For the ricotta cream
  • 1 packed cup well-drained whole milk ricotta, patted dry
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone (optional; add 1/2 cup more ricotta if not using)
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste or pure vanilla extract


Make the cake

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F with a rack in the center. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan with at least 2 3/4-inch-high sides.

Process the pistachios in a food processor in two batches until they are the texture of fine cornmeal, with only a few slightly larger pieces. Set aside. [My note: take care to process them finely and not coarsely, as coarsely ground nuts will affect the delicate texture of the cake.]

Using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and salt at low speed to break them up, then raise the speed to medium and beat until they hold soft peaks. Increase the speed to medium-high and gradually add 6 tablespoons of the granulated sugar, then continue to beat until medium-firm peaks form that are not at all dry. (Alternatively, use a handheld mixer.) Set aside.

In a separate bowl, beat the yolks with the remaining 6 tablespoons granulated sugar at medium speed until they are thick and pale, about 4 minutes. Mix in the lemon zest. Use a large spatula to gently fold the egg yolk mixture into the whites. Gently fold in the ground pistachios in three additions, folding each time just until the nuts are incorporated.

Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan. Bake until the cake is golden and firm to the touch and pulls away from the sides of the pan, about 40 minutes. A toothpick inserted near the center should come out clean. Cool the cam in the pan or on a wire rack for 20 minutes, then remove the sides of the pan and let cool completely. Transfer the cooled cake on its base to a serving platter, or carefully run an angled metal spatula under the cake and slide it directly onto the platter.

Make the ricotta cream

Using a handheld mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, briefly beat the ricotta on medium speed until creamy. Add the heavy cream, mascarpone, 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar, and vanilla paste (or extract) and beat briefly on low to combine the ingredients. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the mixture begins to thicken. Taste and add the rest of the confectioners' sugar, if you like. Beat until just stiff.

Assemble the cake

Using a serrated bread knife, slice the cake horizontally into two layers and set aside the top layer. Spread the ricotta cream over the bottom layer. Place the top layer over the filling. Dust with confectioners' sugar and serve.

NOTE To peel the shelled pistachios, place them in a heatproof bowl and pour 2 cups boiling water over them. Let sit for 2 minutes, then drain. Wrap the nuts up in a clean kitchen towel and rub vigorously to loosen the skins. You'll still have to peel some of the skins off with your fingers. This is tedious work but (if you have the time and the patience) well worth it to expose the nuts' beautiful green color and get rid of any bitter bits of skin. The pistachios tend to soften in the boiling water so don't let them sit for longer than 2 minutes. If you like, you can dry them out briefly in a 300 degree oven, but don't let them brown.

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89 Responses to Dicembre Dolce: Q & A with Rosetta Costantino and a Cookbook Giveaway

  1. Adri December 1, 2013 at 11:55 am #

    What a terrific opener for Dicembre Dolce. I always enjoy your series of Winter treats. What a terrific intro to this wonderful book. I made this cake, and I filled it with crema di pistacchio. It is out of this world, a wonderful Christmas treat. I too encountered difficulty finding raw pistachios. Finally I found them here in Los Angeles at a market chain called Jons. They cater to many different cultures, Armenian and Arab among them. I bet that’s why I got lucky.

    Thank you for the shout-out. I had a ball cooking from this book. Everything I tried, and it is upwards of fifteen recipes by now, has worked beautifully. Please don’t include me in the pool for your drawing, since I’ve already got a copy. The winner will not be disappointed. Un abbraccio forte, amica!

    • Domenica Marchetti December 1, 2013 at 12:08 pm #

      So funny. I just left a comment on your blog. I can’t believe how many recipes you’ve already made. What in the world did you do with all those delectable treats?! What do you think about peeling the pistachios for this cake next time? It’s a tedious task but I think it would really make a difference.

      • Adri December 1, 2013 at 12:37 pm #

        Yes, I went to town with this one. Luckily we’ve had a couple of get-togethers, so I brought some of the desserts to share, As for the pistachios, you are right. It is tedious indeed, but worth the effort. I always am amazed as I peel off the thin membrane and the vivid green is revealed.

  2. Paola December 1, 2013 at 3:32 pm #

    Hi Domenica,
    I love the look of this cake. I buy pistachios from a grower at our local Farmer’s Market – lucky they are easy to find but so pricey. A great start to Dicembre Dolce.
    Re my fave dessert/cake- there are so many amazing Italian desserts – it is hard to pick a favorite. However I think it has to be a crostata with fresh fruit (whatever is in season) with a bit of the corresponding jam on the base. At the moment in Australia this means apricot crostata. I love how you can adapt it to each season and it is easy enough to bake after a long day at the office.

    • Domenica Marchetti December 1, 2013 at 3:42 pm #

      Paola, I agree it is hard to pick. But you’re right; it’s tough to beat the simplicity of a good homemade crostata. I saw the IG pic of your apricot crostata ~ gorgeous. Apricots may just be my favorite fruit. Many thanks for stopping by. D

  3. Ginger December 1, 2013 at 4:01 pm #

    … my favorite dessert, Cannoli but am thinking that the Africano could take its place!

    • Domenica Marchetti December 1, 2013 at 5:11 pm #

      Ginger, the Africano is on my must-make list. In looks they remind me of Yodels (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yodels) but in actuality they are, of course, completely different.The filling is semisweet chocolate and hazelnut paste. But then again, I wouldn’t say no to a good cannolo either. Many thanks for reading and for your comment.

  4. JoAnn Cola December 1, 2013 at 4:07 pm #

    Excellent book, and there are indeed recipes similar to those made in Abruzzo. I’ve made several recipes from it already, and they’ve turned out really well.

    • Domenica Marchetti December 1, 2013 at 5:12 pm #

      JoAnn I’d love to know what you’ve made. That Torta Gattopardo is definitely on my list. And the pear and ricotta torte. Others, too. Thanks for reading.

  5. Leonardo December 1, 2013 at 4:08 pm #

    Ciao Domenica!
    Devi provare a fare anche la torta ricotta e pere. Io l’adoro.
    Abbracci dall’Italia

    • Domenica Marchetti December 1, 2013 at 5:14 pm #

      Salve Leonardo, grazie per il tuo commento. Si, senz’altro la proverò. Un abbraccio da DC ~ spero di tornare presto in Italia 🙂

  6. Ken┃hungry rabbit December 1, 2013 at 4:34 pm #

    I was eyeing this book last week and wanted to get it as a gift to myself. Hopefully I’ll be your lucky reader. I love the simplicity of an Italian Almond Cake, the perfect touch of sweetness to end the meal.

    • Domenica Marchetti December 1, 2013 at 5:15 pm #

      Mmm. You’ve picked one of my favorites, Ken. I know what a great baker you are. You would love this book. Many thanks for stopping by! xo

  7. elisa December 1, 2013 at 4:51 pm #

    OMG, I have to try the pistachio cake! Thank you for another wonderful post.

    something interesting about pistachios from Bronte:


    • Domenica Marchetti December 1, 2013 at 5:17 pm #

      Lots of great information on Bronte pistachios in that link. Grazie mille, Elisa.

    • Domenica Marchetti December 2, 2013 at 11:26 am #

      Elisa ~ I forgot to mention in my reply that if you make the pistachio cake, it’s worth the time and effort to peel those pistachios.

  8. ciaochowlinda December 1, 2013 at 4:58 pm #

    Domenica – Really great interview and wonderful recipe, that I’m sure to try. I was already hooked when I read Adri’s review, and I have her other cookbook on Calabria, so I know she’s a terrific cookbook writer. I can’t wait to get this latest dessert cookbook.

    • Domenica Marchetti December 1, 2013 at 5:19 pm #

      Thanks Linda. Yes, I really like My Calabria as well. Very well researched, as is this book. And I’m familiar with her co-author, Jennie Schacht, who is an accomplished food writer. Cheers and thanks for reading

  9. Caroline December 1, 2013 at 5:04 pm #

    I don’t have a favorite Italian dessert. When we still lived in Europe we went to Italy on vacation almost every year. The food is simply terrific and incomparable (in my eyes 🙂 ). I cannot choose one dessert because they’re all delicious!

    • Domenica Marchetti December 1, 2013 at 7:58 pm #

      Caroline, it’s an understandable dilemma. In all honesty, I’m not sure I would be able to choose either. I’d love to know where you went on vacation in Italy. Thanks for reading!

  10. Adele December 1, 2013 at 5:23 pm #

    I really not sure I can decide but the Italian Cream Cake is amongst my favorites. I also have a strong weakness for a good real tiramisu.

    • Domenica Marchetti December 1, 2013 at 8:07 pm #

      Adele, your mention of Italian cream cake reminds me that I need to do some research on this. I’ve never seen anything like it in Italy, though Italian food is so regional that this is not unusual. It appears to be an American rendition of Zuppa Inglese (trifle made with sponge cake and liqueur) but now you’ve made me curious to find out more. As for tiramisu, you’re right ~ good and real are the operative words. If I can get my act together I’ll post the tiramisu I made last year for a party. It was a big hit. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  11. Bronwen Pritchard December 1, 2013 at 5:35 pm #

    Hi Domenica,
    Thanks for the very interesting interview. It definitely whets my appetite for Southern
    Italian desserts.
    One of my favourite Italian desserts is Zuccotto. It is wonderful for a party as it can be made
    quite huge to serve a crowd and it offers a lot of flexibility as to flavours and layers. As long
    as it includes marsala, chocolate, and hazelnuts it will be delicious.
    B. P.

    • Domenica Marchetti December 1, 2013 at 8:11 pm #

      Zuccotto!! That word brings back many memories for me, Bronwen. My mother loves zuccotto and made it often for dinner parties. When I was little I didn’t much like it, but I’m sure I’d feel differently now. I think I need to hit my mom up for her recipe! Thanks for your comment.

  12. Wendy Read December 1, 2013 at 6:05 pm #

    This book looks out of this world! Fabulous interview, I learned so much, I so appreciate learning about the backgrounds, especially about the nuns…amazing. I am so looking forward to this book!

    • Domenica Marchetti December 1, 2013 at 8:12 pm #

      Thanks for your kind words Wendy. I love talking to other cookbook authors about their work. It gives me a chance to be the newspaper reporter I was once upon a time. Cheers, D.

  13. Barb | Creative Culinary December 1, 2013 at 6:40 pm #

    I love so many Italian desserts but I think a simple panna cotta is my favorite; they are so versatile. This book looks gorgeous!

    • Domenica Marchetti December 1, 2013 at 8:14 pm #

      So true Barb, there is much to be said for the simplicity of panna cotta. Thanks for reading, my friend.

  14. Donna December 1, 2013 at 8:27 pm #

    Cassata, but so hard to choose!

  15. paninigirl December 1, 2013 at 8:47 pm #

    My favorite Italian dessert is a toss up-either a simple apple cake or a ricotta cheesecake and of course panna cotta too! I would love to bake my way through this wonderful book!

  16. Miranda December 2, 2013 at 12:16 am #

    Great interview Domenica. The pear ricotta cake looks amazing. My favourite Italian Dessert is any kind of fruit crostata. Do not include me in your give -away. I live in Aussie land.

    • Domenica Marchetti December 2, 2013 at 11:27 am #

      I’m happy to send to the book Down Under ~ so let me know if you change your mind. And I love fruit crostata too.

  17. Jenny Hartin December 2, 2013 at 3:02 am #

    I love pignoli cookies. They are simple but delicious. Icywit at gmail dot com

    • Domenica Marchetti December 2, 2013 at 11:29 am #

      Jenny, I love them too, but haven’t had one in years. My mom and sister used to make pignoli cookies every Christmas ~ until we found out my daughter is deathly allergic to pine nuts. This was years ago when she was a toddler. Such an odd allergy. All other nuts are fine. So we’ve had to ban all things pine nuts, including pesto, which I now make with almonds or pistachios.

  18. Kerrey Reyes December 2, 2013 at 10:48 am #

    This book was already on my wish list, but your post is pushing it up several notches! My favorite Italian dessert is a good strong tiramisu. I’m addicted, but can’t wait to break my rut with new desserts from thiis book!

    • Domenica Marchetti December 2, 2013 at 11:31 am #

      Kerrey, this book will definitely pull you out of that rut. There are many beautiful desserts . You’ll have a are time choosing, but you’ll also have lots of fun. Cheers and thanks for your comment.

  19. dani December 2, 2013 at 12:50 pm #

    Fig and almond biscotti!

  20. Smith Bites December 2, 2013 at 3:10 pm #

    Domenica ~ this gorgeous dessert caught my eye because I fell head over heels in love w/a Torta similar to this one found in Lucca; and while all the Italian bakeries make beautiful desserts, this particular bakery will make tortas gluten-free. My Italian friend knows I LOVE that particular torta (made w/chard and candied lemon peel) so she always orders one for me when we’re headed over. Not kidding – swoon. I’m still trying to find the recipe so I can make it here at home and I’m betting there will be something in this beautiful book that might work. And I might also mention – Calabria is where my mother’s family is from – so yes, I’d love to win a copy of this one!

    • Domenica Marchetti December 2, 2013 at 7:22 pm #

      Wow Deb ~ chard and candied lemon peel. Sounds awesome. Italians have a way of incorporating unlikely vegetables into desserts. There’s a recipe in Rosetta’s book for an eggplant torte with chocolate and ricotta. I’ve seen similar dessert recipes in southern Italian cooking that use eggplant or greens. So interesting. But this simple pistachio cake is really lovely ~ and yes, GF too! And I’m happy to know you’re a fellow paesana! Calabrian cuisine is like Abruzzese in that we love our chili peppers. Thanks for reading.

  21. Joe Coppola December 2, 2013 at 3:33 pm #

    I think that my favorite was a rum and ricotta cake we called a cassata or a similar Christmas version we called a Yule Log with chocolate butter cream frosting.

    • Domenica Marchetti December 2, 2013 at 7:29 pm #

      Hi Joe ~ thanks for your comment. Both of those sound good. Rosetta’s book has two versions of cassata ~ one is a filled sponge cake decorated with marzipan, and the other is a baked ricotta tart. Sounds like yours was probably closer to the cake version. Cheers, D

  22. Rosetta Costantino December 2, 2013 at 7:18 pm #

    Hi Domenica, Thank you so much for featuring my new cookbook in your Dicembre Dolce. I was surprised to find out that raw unsalted pistachios are not easy to find. I buy them in bulk here in the Bay Area, we have amazing pistachios that are grown in California. Probably the best places to find them is in Middle Eastern stores or buy them online. Thanks again for such a great post!

    • Domenica Marchetti December 2, 2013 at 7:40 pm #

      Ciao Rosetta ~ thank you. I’m enjoying the book immensely and can’t wait to make more ~ that Torta Gattopardo is numero uno on my list. I was surprised about the pistachios, too. I guess it makes sense that they would be readily available in California but it seems to me it should be easier to get raw ones on this coast as well. Who knows ~ it may just be a matter of demand. At any rate, I ended up with the best ~ Bronte pistachios straight from Sicily. Thanks again for participating in the Q&A.

  23. Jill Lucas December 3, 2013 at 12:13 am #

    I adore panna cotta. My couisin is co-author of this impressive collection.

    • Domenica Marchetti December 3, 2013 at 7:47 am #

      Jill, I didn’t know you and Jennie are cousins. How wonderful! Thanks for stopping by.

  24. Taste Trekkers (@TasteTrekkers) December 3, 2013 at 12:20 pm #

    Great post! We had the opportunity to talk to Rosetta Costantino about where to eat if you go to SOuthern Italy. You can hear the interview here: http://youtu.be/JXgGlCAQc1s

  25. Stephanie Castellano December 3, 2013 at 6:14 pm #

    I really enjoyed this post…I love learning about the history behind the food we associate with a certain region. My paternal grandfather is Sicilian, and my nanna makes something she calls “biscotti regina”…it’s a simple, lightly-sweet cookie with orange zest mixed into the dough, which is then shaped into small logs, dipped in milk, and rolled in sesame seeds. I think that’s my favorite, because it’s always reliably on the dessert table.

    • Domenica Marchetti December 3, 2013 at 10:27 pm #

      Stephanie ~ welcome and thanks for reading. Rosetta’s book has a recipe for biscotti Regina that also includes orange zest and sesame seeds. I’ll have to make them. Cheers, D

  26. Candela December 4, 2013 at 7:17 am #

    Ciao Domenica!
    Difficilissimo scegliere un dolce!! Direi, torta alla ricotta, alle mandorle…la scelta è infinita per me che mi piace fargli e mangiargli! Un abbraccio dalla Toscana, seguo il blog da tanto tempo, grazie per il tuo lavoro , il blog è bellissimo, sei una ispirazione.
    Grazie! 😉

    • Domenica Marchetti December 4, 2013 at 8:56 am #

      Candela, ti ringrazio di cuore. Mi rende felice sapere che ti piace il mio lavoro e che leggi il mio blog dalla Toscana! Amo la torta alle mandorle. Un abbraccio, D

  27. rozpaige December 4, 2013 at 9:41 pm #

    Oh Domenica, my mouth is watering with all of these heavenly desserts from Rosetta’s new book! Fabulous interview too! In answer to your question, I do love gelato, but I’ve got a super special weakness for Italian torte! Grazie for the opportunity for this lovely giveaway!

    • Domenica Marchetti December 4, 2013 at 11:52 pm #

      Roz ~ I believe you’re the first one to mention gelato! I love it, too. Thanks for stopping by here on the blog. Cheers, D

  28. Jessica @ Burlap and Butter Knives December 5, 2013 at 11:07 am #

    Oh I SO need to win this!! One, my Grandparents are from Calabria, and I have always wanted to learn more about their desserts and the desserts of southern Italy! Two, I am pregnant, and that cake on the cover and everything else looks and sounds amazing!! Three, my favorite Italian dessert, I really have to pick just one? Hmmmmmm I would have to say Pignoli, the way they are crunchy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside, they MELT in my mouth!!!!! Now I will be craving them all day, totally your fault!! 😉

    • Domenica Marchetti December 5, 2013 at 4:27 pm #

      Jessica ~ first, congrats! You definitely have the sentimental advantage 😉 Another vote for pignoli. I love those, too, even though my daughter’s weird pine nut allergy means no pine nuts in our house. Thanks for reading.

  29. John Dahlgren December 5, 2013 at 11:58 am #

    Gelato as well. Love the stuff.


    • Domenica Marchetti December 5, 2013 at 4:30 pm #

      John, do you have a favorite flavor? Mine was gianduja for many years, but last summer I had some nocciola that was out of this world, and some amazing fig gelato, too.

  30. Cathy December 5, 2013 at 12:11 pm #

    This book looks gorgeous! It’s hard to say what my favorite Italian dessert is… My nana used to make these anise cookies but she spoke Italian slang so I never know the proper name for them; they are definitely my favorite though.

    • Domenica Marchetti December 5, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

      Cathy, I know not everyone is an anise lover, but I am. I make biscotti with anise seed and they are among my favorites.

  31. Liz December 5, 2013 at 12:34 pm #

    I would love it if you wrote an Italian desserts cookbook. Is that a possibility? And if so, may I be a tester?!

  32. Felice/All That's Left Are The Crumbs December 5, 2013 at 4:26 pm #

    I grew up in an Italian neighborhood, and my favorite would have to be cannoli, with an Italian Cream Cake as a very close second. I don’t know the name of the cake, but I would always request it for my birthday. This books look beautiful and maybe the cake is in the book?

    • Domenica Marchetti December 6, 2013 at 10:32 am #

      Welcome Felice (great name!) ~ You’re the second person to mention Italian Cream Cake, which I am familiar with only as a dessert found in Italian-American pastry shops. I’m sure its origins are somewhere in Italy, maybe even Sicily, but I’m not sure. There is a recipe in Rosetta’s book for something called Scazzetta del Cardinale. It’s a sponge cake filled with chantilly cream (pastry cream mixed with whipped cream) and decorated with strawberries and pink glaze. It’s named for the scarlet skull cap worn by Catholic cardinals. There’s also a recipe for cannoli that sounds darn good. My mother used to make the most wonderful cannoli. She is Abruzzese, not Sicilian, but I’ve never had any better. Rosetta’s sound pretty similar.

  33. Linda Smith December 5, 2013 at 5:29 pm #

    I don’t know if you’d call it a dessert, but pistachio biscottti with a dark chocolate drizzle makes my morning coffee a dessert occasion.

    • Domenica Marchetti December 6, 2013 at 10:33 am #

      Linda ~ having just handed in the manuscript for a biscotti book (due out next year) I have a new appreciation for them. The combination of pistachios and dark chocolate can’t be beat. Thanks for writing!

  34. Mary Ann December 5, 2013 at 6:56 pm #

    I love Ricotta Cheesecake. I hope “your kid” picks me. I miss having young kids during the holidays.

    • Domenica Marchetti December 6, 2013 at 10:35 am #

      Mary Ann ~ ricotta cheesecake was my mom’s signature dessert for Thanksgiving. Thanks for reminding me about this classic. Alas, my kids aren’t so young anymore (15 and 17). But, happily, still young enough to be swept up by the magic of Christmas. Cheers, D

  35. Michelle - Majella Home Cooking December 5, 2013 at 8:58 pm #

    It really is a gorgeous cookbook. It’s been sitting on my shelf for a few weeks now – I need to get cracking. The Africani are so intriguing! My favorite Italian dessert has to be my Sicilian grandmother’s pasticciotti di crema. she was a truly gifted baker – her pastry dough was as delicate as any I’ve ever had and her custard was silky and luscious. My mom makes them now, and they’re great – but they aren’t Nani’s. I think every Italian has a dish from her family that she feels can never quite be recreated. Terrific post and conversation. Un abbraccio, Michelle

    • Domenica Marchetti December 6, 2013 at 10:39 am #

      Michelle, those pasticiotti sound like a dream. You are so lucky to have had a Sicilian grandmother. They are the best bakers. There’s something intangible and unique that every baker (and cook) brings to a recipe. Although yours are bound to be different from your grandmother’s I’m sure they’re delicious. Thanks for chiming in!

  36. Patience Vasil December 6, 2013 at 10:23 am #

    A crostata is my favorite Italian dessert to make. We have apple and pear trees and it is such a treat to have for breakfast and after dinner. Thank you for this give away. Looks delicious!

    • Domenica Marchetti December 6, 2013 at 10:46 am #

      Patience, I agree. A simple fruit or jam crostata is not to be underestimated. I made a pear and apple crostata for Thanksgiving and I like it much better apple pie. Thanks for reading!

  37. Jevyn Nelms December 6, 2013 at 10:52 am #

    When I discovered Tiramisu, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Every single time I ate out, I ordered it, for years. One day I’ll make it…

    • Domenica Marchetti December 6, 2013 at 10:30 pm #

      Jevyn, I’m hoping to post a tiramisu recipe this month as part of Dicembre Dolce. I just need to make it (again) so I can photograph it. Stay tuned…

  38. Laura T (@TheSpicedLife) December 6, 2013 at 12:56 pm #

    I hate to be so predictable, but tiramisu. It’s funny, when I do a side by side tasting of mascarpone versus our cream cheese, the cream cheese always wins. But every single Italian dessert I have had with mascarpone blows my mind.

    • Domenica Marchetti December 6, 2013 at 10:35 pm #

      It’s true, Laura. I whipped a little mascarpone into the ricotta cream that I used to fill the pistachio cake. Makes a difference.

  39. Diane Peak December 7, 2013 at 1:01 am #

    Domenica, It’s really hard to choose one desert, but I would probably have to say tiramisu is my all time favorite!

    • Chiara December 8, 2013 at 3:31 am #

      come si fa a scegliere, sono tutti golosi e bellissimi !Adoro i dolci del sud probabilmente è il mio dna (sono per metà del nord e per metà del sud) che si fa sentire ! Buona giornata Domenica, a presto !

      • Domenica Marchetti December 9, 2013 at 12:53 pm #

        Anch’io adoro i dolci del sud Chiara. Grazie per il commento e buona settimana!

    • Domenica Marchetti December 9, 2013 at 12:53 pm #

      Another vote for tiramisu. I love it too Diane.

  40. Antoinette Galea February 13, 2014 at 7:55 am #

    Wow! what an amazing book. My mother is from Catanzaro and I was brought up in the kitchen cooking the Calabrese way. I have had a passion all my life cooking and making the traditional Calabrese desserts. My specialty is tiramisu which has now become very famous amongst family, friends, festive occasions and cafes. The secret to a well balanced, silky and moist tiramisu is the quality of the mascarpone as my mother taught me.

    • Domenica Marchetti February 13, 2014 at 10:20 am #

      Welcome Antoinette, and thanks for your comment. You’re right ~ the quality of ingredients is what matters most in Italian cooking and baking. Do you have a brand of mascarpone that you especially like? Cheers, D

  41. Judit February 12, 2015 at 6:24 pm #

    What is the name of the desert on Rosetta’s cookbook?

    • Domenica Marchetti February 16, 2015 at 10:51 am #

      Hi Judit, the photo on the cover of the book is Crostata al Gelo di Melone ~ watermelon pudding tart.

      • Judit February 17, 2015 at 10:25 pm #

        Thank you so much, I made the Italian Apple. Pie,it was a big hit, I love to bake and bake a lot,

  42. carob April 26, 2017 at 4:12 pm #

    Great post! Thank you for sharing your experience with us!


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