Italian hands make frittelle: traditional fry-bread (and pizza dough)

frittelle: traditional Italian fry-bread - recipe and how-to via - sugar, cinnamon and sugar and cheese

This is my one of my favorite recipe posts of all time. Here, I document my mom making one of my all-time favorite Italian treats, typically enjoyed on Christmas Eve and on special occasions: frittelle.

frittelle: traditional Italian fry-bread - recipe and how-to via - sugar, cinnamon and sugar and cheese

There are many versions of frittelle. Most of them found and scattered all over Italy are small and served as a donut or a fritter. This is the original. The tiny town of Tricarico, Italy, where my mom was born and raised, is known for inventing this food which is a fry-bread and peasant-food, made as the best that could be done to celebrate on Christmas Eve for many families. It was so delicious that it caught on and neighboring towns would develop their own takes on the treat. Generations of Italians have made their own versions of frittelle, based on where and how their family was raised.

frittelle: traditional Italian fry-bread - recipe and how-to via - sugar, cinnamon and sugar and cheese

Traditionally, most everyone would enjoy them filled with a dried/cured Provolone cheese (the convenience of refrigeration was not always around) that was cut into cubes and would melt while being fried. This is how my Nonna made them. Frittelles are also commonly served without any filling. Having them as a sweet-dessert was not really an option. In my mom’s hometown, many years ago, sugar was considered a luxury-item to most families. Because of my grandmother’s profession as a doctor, my mom’s family of eight was fortunate to have enjoyed sugar. I am proud to tell you that they shared their sugar and everything else that they had.

frittelle: traditional Italian fry-bread - recipe and how-to via - sugar, cinnamon and sugar and cheese

We are not going to miss out on the opportunity to make some dessert-frittelles! We have modified a few details for our recipe-options, substituting the dried Provolone for shredded Mozzarella cheese. Unfilled will always be an amazing option. And then there are the dessert versions, with freshly-fried frittelles, dipped into sugar or cinnamon-sugar.

Obviously, some details of how to make this recipe have been updated and simplified, so that you are able to conveniently heat the water for the dough preparation with the use of a microwave, and use the many other convenient tools, available in our modern kitchens.

frittelle: traditional Italian fry-bread - recipe and how-to via - sugar, cinnamon and sugar and cheese

The air in the dough and the texture of the bread makes it taste like a delicious, fluffy, warm pillow. There is no way to not be satisfied with such a generous serving of fried-deliciousness. Every time I see them, smell them or pull one apart, it takes me back to some of the happiest days and memories of my childhood.  It is a very good thing!

frittelle: traditional Italian fry-bread - recipe and how-to via - sugar, cinnamon and sugar and cheese

The recipe is actually very simple, but it will take some time for me to master bread dough the way my mom has. The way she prepares it blows my mind! Her hands are so fast, that my camera could barely keep up. I had to write down her notes quickly too. When hands have mastered a craft and are this skilled, there is no measuring or referring to recipes. Therefore, if I don’t write down her work, it might one day, be lost.

With that, I hope you can save and share this recipe!

Nonna’s Traditional Frittelle Recipe by Mili’s Sweets

(We also use this recipe to make pizza dough)

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 and 3/4 cup water, heated

4 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup of flour, reserved for dusting

2 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon sugar

1 cup water, heated

1 packet dry active yeast, or 2 and 1/4 teaspoons of dry active yeast

canola oil for frying

optional ingredients: shredded mozzarella cheese, granulated sugar, or a cinnamon-sugar mixture

Here’s what you’ll do:

First, prepare the 1 and 3/4 cup of water by heating it in the microwave for 2 minutes. Set aside.

Next, prepare the yeast.

frittelle: traditional Italian fry-bread - recipe and how-to via - sugar, cinnamon and sugar and cheese

How to prepare yeast for making bread-recipes:

In a glass container, measure one cup of water. Heat in the microwave for 40 seconds. Stir in the dry active yeast and the 1 tablespoon of sugar. Cover for 10 minutes. The yeast will have activated and will be ready to use.

frittelle: traditional Italian fry-bread - recipe and how-to via - sugar, cinnamon and sugar and cheese

Now it is time to get to work and knead the dough by-hand. In a large bowl, place the 4 cups of flour and create a well in the center. Pour in the activated yeast-water mixture and pour on the salt.

Watch my mom’s hands. I had to really edit down the photos so that you can see how she puts it together. After the well is filled, she brings her hands around to edge to let flour into the center. She moves her one hand in and out to get more flour into the center, a little at a time. Once all of the flour is combined into the moisture, she uses a little of the 1 and 3/4 cup of water that was heated and set aside, to dip in her hand and add the moisture. Next, she uses both hands. Her hands move up and down and “squish and squash” in the dough. It is sticky. She lifts the dough ball and takes a scoop of water with her hand, to grab the flour that is at the bottom of the bowl. With that, she works-in all of the dough together.

frittelle: traditional Italian fry-bread - recipe and how-to via - sugar, cinnamon and sugar and cheese

She takes the access dough from her hands and then gets a sprinkling of flour from the reserve that was set aside for dusting. She dries her hands with the flour as well. As tradition, she says a prayer over the dough and makes a sign-of-the-cross over the kneaded dough –  just the way her mother did and generations before her have done. It is beautiful.

frittelle: traditional Italian fry-bread - recipe and how-to via - sugar, cinnamon and sugar and cheese

Now it is time to cover the dough and allow it to rise.

She covers the dough with a homemade blanket that she always uses. You can use a large dishcloth. Completely cover the bowl and keep in a dry, warm place. Allow to sit, untouched for one hour. Please set a timer so that you don’t forget.

rittelle: traditional Italian fry-bread - recipe and how-to via - sugar, cinnamon and sugar and cheese

When the one hour is up, you will have a beautifully-risen bread dough that is ready to use.

frittelle: traditional Italian fry-bread - recipe and how-to via - sugar, cinnamon and sugar and cheese

If you are ready to go, it’s time to prepare frittelle! Make a prep-area on a table to work on the individual servings of dough. We put down some parchment paper. Cut the dough into small pieces, that fit into the palm of your hand.

frittelle: traditional Italian fry-bread - recipe and how-to via - sugar, cinnamon and sugar and cheese

Take the piece and stretch it so that it’s a nice and flat, with no holes but a good amount of light coming in without breaking.

While this process is happening, you will want to prepare the oil in a pan so that it can get hot enough to properly fry the bread. In a pan, heat the oil. We use canola oil. The amount of oil you need, will depend on the size of pan you use. Our oil goes up to the little knobs in the pan. I’d say between 1/2″ and 1″ up, depending on the mood we are in. You will know what is best for you. When you are frying most any food, a trick to being successful, is to make sure that it has the opportunity to float. Set the stove to medium-heat.

Now it is time to fill (or not fill) and fold the pieces of dough.

frittelle: traditional Italian fry-bread - recipe and how-to via - sugar, cinnamon and sugar and cheese

We are going to start with dessert-versions of frittelle, so they will not be filled.

Once you have the dough flattened, fold it over to make a kind of taco. Seal the edges closed with your finger tips.

When the oil in the pan has reached 350 degrees, you can start to fry the bread. Be prepared since this process will go quickly. You will want to have an area to dry and cool the frittelle and have a pair of tongs handy, to flip the pieces.

frittelle: traditional Italian fry-bread - recipe and how-to via - sugar, cinnamon and sugar and cheese

You can flip the dough over and over, until it has become golden brown and is floating in the oil. I cannot give you an exact time since it depends on the quality and make of the pan you are using. For the first try or two, you will want to eyeball-it. They can be done frying in as little as two minutes.  Here is what unfilled dough looks like, after it is fried. It is not as round as filled frittelle, but there should always be a lot of air and texture on the inside.

frittelle: traditional Italian fry-bread - recipe and how-to via - sugar, cinnamon and sugar and cheeseIf you are dipping into sugar or cinnamon-sugar, have a bowl prepared and ready. The best result for a sweet frittelle is to cover them when they are still hot and the oil is still warm on the bread.

frittelle: traditional Italian fry-bread - recipe and how-to via - sugar, cinnamon and sugar and cheese

One of the most beautiful details of frittelle is the light that shines through from the parts of the dough that have been pulled to the point of almost-breaking.

frittelle: traditional Italian fry-bread - recipe and how-to via - sugar, cinnamon and sugar and cheese

It is a skill and a gift to have the confidence to stretch the dough before it breaks. If it does break, do not worry. You can patch it back together with your fingers before frying.

Here is how to fill them, if you want to make a more traditional, savory version, with cheese:

frittelle: traditional Italian fry-bread - recipe and how-to via - sugar, cinnamon and sugar and cheese

Sprinkle one side with cheese. Fold over and lightly pinch the edges closed. You do not want the cheese to come through into the oil since it will burn. It will still taste good, but it won’t be pretty.

I really hope you enjoy this recipe as much as my family does!

It is so important to me, that my family can hold on to traditions that I was raised with, so that they continue to thrive in my home and in my heart. I believe it is important for any family to continue the legacy of their culture(s).  I honestly cannot imagine my world without the special foods and traditions that have helped to shape my life.

Being blessed with my mom living in our home means that my kids and I can learn about the food she has made most of her life. We can document it and always have it.  The best part is, she loves to share how she does it. It brings her joy and another opportunity to be bossy. I love my mom so very much and I’m actually happy when she tells me to do something. It wasn’t always that way, but it has been for a very long time now. Her grandchildren totally get it and love every minute of her sharing with us as well.


frittelle: traditional Italian fry-bread - recipe and how-to via - sugar, cinnamon and sugar and cheese



Thanksgiving specials

Over the years, many of my family’s special recipes come back into play for Thanksgiving. Through handcrafted food, we create a home filled with love, care and tradition.

Later this month, we’ll celebrate another Thanksgiving together. It is my family’s main event. It is the day when my husband and I roll up our sleeves to start cooking at 5am for a 1pm meal, with a ton of prep done in the days beforehand and all hands on deck from the kids. It doesn’t matter if we are feeding our family of six or our extended group of more than 30 in our home – our menu is typically made up of about 15 dishes, plus desserts and assorted appetizers. We love it and pace ourselves for one of the best days of the year.

As you begin your grocery-shopping plan and menu, let me share a few of my tried and true Thanksgiving menu items that you might claim as your own for this holiday and many more to come.

never bored of blueberry pie: recipes for cupcakes, muffins, tartlets, via

Let’s talk pie. It’s a mandatory part of our celebration. I always make no less than three. One has to be pumpkin, one has to be apple and the third has to be a berry pie.

Cherry Pie: gluten-free, with a flakey, butter crust. As you know, all of my recipes are completely free of peanuts and tree nuts. But more than likely, you will be attending Thanksgiving this year where at least one person has a food sensitivity or chooses not to eat gluten. Well, even if you don’t love the idea of cherry pie, (Could that be possible?) you’ll want to use this crust for other fillings.

cherry pie updated: gluten-free and all-butter crust. Recipe via

Another wonderful berry pie offering: Blueberry Pie.

never bored of blueberry pie: recipes for cupcakes, muffins, tartlets, via

The pie filling is the ultimate! If you aren’t sure about making a pie to bring or serve, let me suggest a very cool gift: just the pie filling. Make this incredible filling, as per my recipe, place the goodness in a sealed mason jar and offer it to the host/hostess as a thank you for the invite.

never bored of blueberry pie: recipes for cupcakes, muffins, tartlets, via

I’m a little obsessed with meringue. If I’m going to go there, I want to have a ton of it. It’s amazing on pumpkin pie. If lemon is your thing, try making a Lemon Meringue Pie. My recipe for fluffy vanilla meringue is on this same post.

lemon meringue pie, lemon curd and vanilla meringue - recipes via milissweets.comAnd then there’s pumpkin pie. It’s a must. I tried to take it to another level with a phyllo crust. For the recipe, please see my post, where I share how to make my Pumpkin Pie and Chocolate-Pumpkin Layer Pie with Phyllo Crust. I love the way this looks but really love and prefer a traditional crust with my pumpkin pie.

pumpkin & chocolate-pumpkin layer pie, with phyllo crust - recipe via

If for any reason, you’re not in the mood to make pies for Thanksgiving this year, then please allow me to do the baking for you! Now that Mili’s Sweets is at retail, I’m offering pies for the holidays. On the menu: either classic, gluten free or vegan Apple Pie and either classic or gluten free Pumpkin Pie. If you live in San Diego County or are willing to travel to MiaBella (the shop where I work and offer my products) then you can place the order and pick up as late as Wednesday, November 25th.

If you love pumpkin, but are not a fan of pie (personally unthinkable), maybe you’d like to try other pumpkin treats to offer for dessert? Try my recipes for Pumpkin Flan (another great offering for your gluten-free family and friends) or Pumpkin Spice Churros.

Next up, My favorite Cranberry Sauce. It’s not about having a lot of it, but it’s a must-have menu item for our Thanksgiving. Over the years, this is our favorite way to prepare it, with orange juice and zest, and bites of Granny Smith Apples.

sweet side: favorite cranberry sauce by Mili

Now, it’s really up to you, but in our family, Buttermilk Biscuits are a must-have on our Thanksgiving table. They are the very last item to go into our oven. The “crowd” goes wild for them!

how to make the best buttermilk biscuits by Mili

If rolls are more your style, then I say go for Trinity Rolls. We save these for our Christmas meal, but they are good for any special occasion.

Trinity Rolls - recipe on

Last but not least, you will want to have some special spreads for either your biscuits or rolls. Check out my recipes for Beautiful Butter. Orange Butter is my personal favorite and one I try to offer my family throughout the year.

butter trio, recipes by Mili

I hope you enjoy a very blessed Thanksgiving!

Please contact me if you have questions about any of my recipes. If you do try them out, let me know how it turned out!

xox, Mili

Ashley Norris - November 30, 2014 - 12:05 pm

Hi Mili! I just wanted to let you know I made your blueberry pie and cranberry sauce this Thanksgiving, and they both turned out fabulous! I’ve had a lot of problems making berry pies in the past and getting the consistently of the filling right and not too liquidy. It turned out great! Everyone loved the cranberry sauce too, so I’m sure that will become a staple for our Thankgiving’s from now on. Thank you for the awesome recipes! - December 13, 2014 - 9:51 am

Thanks for your note Ashley! It means so much to me! Take care and great big hugs!

our little tea party birthday

A lot of change happens in seven years! Little girls grow from having sweet little tea party celebrations for their 7th birthday, to being full-blown teenagers! This was a very sweet little party for my once-girly girl. It’s so fun to look back on all of this, to see all of the love and details that I shared with a small group of girls, hosted for an authentic tea party at our home.

I was so happy and still feel so blessed to have had the time to do this party, just the way we (my daughter and I) wanted! We made some special memories that day. All of this does seem like a lifetime ago, so thank goodness I’m crazy about documenting and taking family photos. If it weren’t for having these images in my archives, we may have forgotten! Remember, this was seven years ago, so even though paper pom decorations seem outdated now, they were a new thing back then! We did have this little dessert table, celebrating the first day of Spring as our theme, since March 20th is my daughter’s actual birthday. The colors throughout the decorating was pink, brown and golden.

I decorated with bird cages and pretty pastel eggs. Every girl invited went home with a cute little wood goodie-box, with “spring” printed on, and a pretty ribbon with their name tag.

The edible details on the table were fun to make too. I’m not the best at frosted sugar cookies but I made it happen with a teapot cutter and painted the number 7 or the first letter initial of each girl at the party.

Of course there were cupcakes. I wanted them to be so pretty for the sweethearts, and went with chocolate, pink vanilla buttercream, candy pearls and handmade tiny-teapots that I sculpted with sugar gum paste, fondant and edible paints.

The dining table was made extra special with details that I knew they would appreciate. I used poms for the birthday girl’s seat at the head of the table. I didn’t sit at all, as I was serving them food and tea the entire time. They had nice plates, cloth napkins, vintage gold cups for water, floral tea cups for tea (of course) and each girl had a little bird and place-card. They were happy to sit at a “fancy” table and use their very best manners. It was so sweet!

There was a little candy table too with even more sweets. I just couldn’t have enough! I kept with the little pink-bird/spring theme and made fondant birds to top the lollipops. I used this as part of the party favor and girls took from this table to add to their little take-home boxes.

Then there was my sweet little girl. This was such a precious memory! We picked out a “fancy” dress in the party colors and added some simple white gloves. She was so happy. Of course, I kept this dress and always will.

There was our little Peanut too, her buddy and our dog at the time. He passed away around Christmas time last year. He was in the mix when we took photos before the party. It’s fun to see him in these pics too.

The cake was all about my girl. I was getting good at handmade decorations, but covering tiered cakes in fondant was still relatively new for me at the time. This was the end result, with a custom color for the pink. She loved it. I still love it too! It’s just another precious memory and a special part of this day.

This was the little cake topper I made. My baby was the pink bird. xox At the end of the party, I set aside all of the decorations from the cake, and set them in a plate for her to enjoy in her room. This was short-lived with a curious 4 year old brother, but it was fun to admire while it lasted.

Another detail I made was handmade hair pins – a different one for each girl. My little pink bird wore the headband with the little feather.

In another area of our room, I decorated with more cute eggs, pink and a silhouette we had done of my daughter at Disneyland. (I wish we had done this for our son when he was little, so I would have a set.)

Here were our sweet guests! Love this so much! At the end of the party, we played music and they danced! It was all such a joy. All the girls were there, including my mom, some friends from school, and her big sister loved watching the fun. In this pic, she was still a teen! She’s now a grown-woman. Life is good. This was all love!


dessert table by Mili

This is a wonderful throwback that I wanted to re-post and share. It’s fun to look back and think, “I actually made all of this!” It was so much work but I’m always amazed by what love and dedication can do.

chocolate-cherry cupcakes by Mili

I absolutely loved working on this wedding. The bride and groom are very special to me. With all of my heart, I wanted to be sure they enjoyed everything detail to their heart’s desire. They are both so humble and I had to really work to get their details.

It was also very memorable since the desserts served more than 500. With all of the love and details, and because I baked alone, this would be a job that would require more prayer than usual. Everything worked out for the best and when my work was done, I felt amazing – like I had just climbed a mountain!

Lumberjack/Maple-Bacon groom

The bride surprised her groom and guests with my “Lumberjack” groom’s cake. It’s something I started making for my husband many years ago. He’s not a huge fan of dessert, but he loves bacon. It’s a vanilla-custard cake with freshly crisped bacon folded in, topped with maple butter cream and more crisp bacon. There was a long line to get a taste of this cake, and it was the first dessert of the evening to vanish. I was a guest at the wedding too. I thought it was funny when I heard someone remark “she must have found that idea on Pinerest.” I chuckled a bit and remembered that I started making this particular recipe for my husband before Pinterest even existed! (I must be getting old.)

rustic-romantic wedding desserts and table styled by Mili

The bride chose the colors and the floral. Her friend put all of the arrangements together, with the use of some of my jars and vases. They were gorgeous and really set the tone for very welcoming and beautiful tables. I was so thankful since the flowers really tied the tables together and made them beautiful.

wedding cake by Mili

Then there was the wedding cake! I incorporated their floral choices and the piping detail they requested for the center of each tier. Those were the days, when I did multi-tier cakes, and covered them in fondant! I remember working quite hard to perfect the way I would create that buttercream details in white, onto the ivory. I was so pleased when it finally worked!

wedding pie buffet by Mili

I’ve made pie buffets for my own family gatherings, but this was the first one I catered  for a wedding reception.

rustic-romantic dessert table labeling by Mili

It was important that the dessert buffet be untouched, until the cake cutting ceremony. With this many guests and with the number of children present, we thought it was a good idea to have a polite and friendly reminder.

etiquette note at dessert table by Mili

To make the labeling, I printed out the menu and used punch-cutters from Martha Stewart, along with some of the pre-cut pieces her line offers.

rustic-romantic wedding desserts and table styled by Mili

The family worked very hard, to have handmade touches throughout the reception. The groom was in charge of building the beautiful backdrop for the dessert tables. There were four, 8′ tables needed to set all of the cookies, cupcakes, groom’s cake, main wedding cake and pie buffet.

This was such a joy and a wedding I will always remember.


rustic-romantic wedding desserts and table styled by Mili

wendy verdin - November 4, 2013 - 7:07 am

I can’t stop raving about how beautiful the set up was and how my family really enjoyed the deserts…they were so yummy we shared to taste a bit of each my fav was the churo my finance loved everything he could chose just one favorite. the entire set up was breath taking once it was announce we can help ourselves everyone was there. 🙂 - November 4, 2013 - 7:36 am

Oh Wendy! Thank you! xox

Reema Boccia - November 4, 2013 - 7:55 am

Your blog is just amazing! I love the personal stories, beautiful photos and relatable posts. Can’t wait for more!! XOX - November 4, 2013 - 8:13 am

Thanks so much Reema! xox

September Wedded Bliss


It has taken me this long, nine whole months, to go back to the work for this beautiful wedding last September. To be honest, I would skip the photo and video history from this entire month, because it all seemed too painful, as this wedding day of September 3, 2016, was just a day before my dad’s last trip into the hospital where he would stay before he passed away on the 26th.

I worked that whole month while going back and forth to see my dad in the hospital almost every day, taking care of the kids and trying to be super mom/wife/sister/daughter. The background of my life was very difficult, but I’m my dad’s daughter and that means I would do whatever it took. I even catered a wedding the weekend after he passed away. I cried a lot, but the tears didn’t get in the way. It was a happy distraction.

Now that it’s about to be Father’s Day, and my first one without my dad, I thought I’d face the weight of it all and just go for it with this post. Dad would have wanted me to. He would have been so proud of me to share my work, as he was most definitely my biggest fan and would re-post everything I ever did regarding my work. (To be so loved!)

This was a spectacular wedding and my personal favorite from 2016, because I got to do it all for the customer/client. This whole family stole my heart. Mom and Dad wanted the best for their daughter and her wonderful groom, and I was so very happy to have the opportunity to work with them to make it all happen.

We had a really nice time at the tasting appointment, and I loved how much they appreciated what I had to offer. Mom, Bride and I would work together for about a month to get all of the details just right.

The reception was held at the gorgeous Darlington House in La Jolla. I love this venue and have had the pleasure of catering weddings and events here a few times. Everyone at this location is nice, super professional and both clients and vendors are very well cared for.

One detail, on this hot day, was the shade. They were able to bring in a couple of umbrellas to do the trick. Over exposed desserts for an outdoor venue is such a shame and thank goodness we were able to work it out.

One of the first and most important requests, was to have an abundant assortment of desserts and especially cupcakes, for the dessert table. Vanilla Italia with Lavender buttercream minis, was at the top of the list.

They had a bunch of minis in their assortment but also enjoyed standard size cupcakes that are deluxe and can only be done in the larger size, including Key Lime with a graham cracker crust, and Champagne With Strawberries.

They were able to please the sugar-free needs of their guests, with our fresh seasonal berry and vanilla cream parfaits. The gluten-free offering were our Flourless Brownie Bites.

The cake was definitely the center piece and to be honest, I don’t remember what flavors I made for their three-layered, 8″ cutting cake! I know they will forgive me and what matters is that they remember!

I do remember putting the floral arrangement together at the venue and was beyond-blessed to have my friend Karen there/on-site from Franco’s Flowers, who referred me and worked on all of the gorgeous arrangements for the reception. She started the topper and gave me a bunch of clippings for me to go for it. It was so big and so gorgeous! I didn’t want to leave any space on the top of that cake, with so much beauty to work with.

Here are the incredible farm tables that Karen adorned with stunning lifted centerpieces. This was when eucalyptus had just made their way into being popular for weddings and I’ve noticed them as a special detail for almost every wedding I have catered since this day.

One other detail that I was able to provide for the reception, were creating the custom favors. Again, we worked on these special details together. Each bag had a paper inside, a stamp that they ordered and I placed, a paper doilie and a short wooden clothespin for all of the guests to take one. All of the chocolate chip cookies were baked and placed that morning.

Since last year, my daughter has become an important member of my team – getting things prepped for big catering days, and she is instrumental in helping me to carefully set all of the desserts to their special place onto the dessert table(s). We are so good at it, that we barely talk anymore. We are on the same wave length, with little to no stress at all. We just get it done, and with plenty of time to spare. I love this time together. I know she loves the work and our special time too.  These opportunities are truly appreciated, and rewarding for us as a family in so many ways.

Thanks for being here! Please contact me with any questions or comments. I’d love to hear from you.

Take care,


Linda Ricardo - June 12, 2017 - 1:12 pm

I’m so very sorry to hear of your dad’s passing. Many blessing to you and your family. <3
-Linda - September 12, 2017 - 8:56 pm

Thank you Linda!