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Sweet tortelli of Saint Lazarus, a typical Lenten cookie

Tortelli dolci di San Lazzaro

The sweet tortelli di San Lazzaro are typical cookies of Lent and the city of Faenza, a small town in Romagna that I frequented for a long time with my family.

Faenza was the destination of many Sunday walks with my family.
I remember the walks in Bucci public garden and merenda with fried crescentine bought hot at the piadine kiosk after visiting the zoo (which no longer exists).

Sweet tortelli cookies

Faenza, a beautiful Emilia-Romagna city

A city of art famous for its ceramics, it was for many years the destination of my family’s Sunday outings.

I was born and raised in Imola, a border town between Emilia and Romagna. We frequently visited Bologna, but my family often opted also for small villages of Romagna.

With the arrival of warm weather until the first Sundays of autumn, my parents chose one of the villages of Tuscan Romagna. Marradi, Bagno di Romagna, Firenzuola, Modigliana, and Santa Sofia are some of the villages in the Romagna-Tuscan Apennines where festivals, walks, friends, and lunches filled my childhood Sundays with memories.

When autumn began to resemble winter, we opted for a different destination, the nearby city of Faenza.

After visiting the zoo, we would snack on fried crescentina bought at the piadina kiosk.

It was round, large, thin, and with crispy edges. Wrapped in the sheet of greaseproof paper, I held it tightly in my hands so as not to risk dropping it. And I savored the flavor and smell at the same time. I was grateful for that hot fried bread I have always loved.

Bologna and Romagna share the tradition of crescentine, the typical fried bread of the area you find with different names in other cities in Emilia-Romagna.

On the other hand, I cannot forget the beautiful Bucci Park. It was nice to stroll along the tree-lined streets, admire the large lawns, pick leaves, cross the piers observing the life of fish and swans, and finally end the visit by playing on the large locomotive of shiny black enamel with red and yellow colored trim.

On colder days, my parents preferred a walk among the streets of downtown and a hot chocolate. And then there was the appointment with the carnival in Borgo Durbecco and the sweet tortelli of San Lazzaro.

The filling of sweet tortelli

Sweet tortelli of Saint Lazarus

Sweet tortelli of Saint Lazarus

These are cookies typical of the only city of Faenza and, like Bolognese raviole, are filled. Over time, they changed, but originally they were made with a few simple ingredients, and the filling was based on savor, a Romagna jam made from mixed fruits and cooked must.
A filling reminiscent, not surprisingly, of sweet Bolognese mustard, typical of raviole.

On the fifth Sunday of Lent, the people of Faenza used to bring this dessert to the Church of San Lazzaro, where there was a lepers lazaretto. Borgo Durbecco, where the church is, is the center of a festival that hosts a kind of Carnival that interrupts the abstention not from meat but from sweet things, which are tortelli.

The sweet tortelli, with the closure resembling an ear of wheat, recall the shroud in which Lazarus was wrapped before his resurrection.

For the same reason, for some, the closure recalls that of the swaddling bands that wrapped newborn babies. Finally, it could call back even the shroud of St. Pier Damiani, dear to the city of Faenza and where his mortal remains rest.

Traditionally, sweet tortelli should have been eaten soaked in saba, a sweet, thick, dark sauce made from cooked must.

The filling knows family variations. My recipe is from Mrs. Anna, a friend of my mom’s since her days in specialty school in Florence.

Get ready to taste a richly flavored cookie.

Buona cucina, Monica

Look at the video for closing sweet tortelli here.

Sweet tortelli

Sweet tortelli

Sweet tortelli of Saint Lazarus

about 50 cookies
List of the Ingredients

Shortcrust pastry

flour, 500 g
butter, 100 g
1/2 packet baking powder
milk, 50 g
sugar, 150 g
3 eggs
grated zest of one natural lemon
salt, a pinch


dried chestnuts, 150 g
dark chocolate, 100 g
zest of 1/2 orange and 1/2 lemon
salt, a pinch
candied citron or orange, 50 g
plum or orange jam, 60 g
rum, 2 tablespoons


Shortcrust pastry

In a bowl, stir all the dry ingredients.
Then add eggs, grated zest, milk, and knead. Wrap in plastic wrap, and put in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.


Soak the chestnuts for one day and night in water, changing it often.

Cook the chestnuts in lightly salted water with the lemon and orange peels for about 1 hour.

Drain, discard the peels and let cool for a few minutes before finely chopping with a knife.

Finely chop candied fruit and chocolate.

In a bowl, mix all the ingredients listed for the filling. Refrigerate for an hour or overnight.

Sweet tortelli

Roll out the dough, one piece at a time, to a thickness of about 3-4 mm, cut out disks about 6 cm in diameter, and place a teaspoon of filling in the center of each round.

Close forming an ear, fold one flap of dough from right to center and then the other way around. After doing this, press the ends together slightly to seal the cookie.

Arrange the tortelli on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and bake in a preheated oven at 180C degrees until lightly browned.

Let cool before serving.

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