My most Italian Christmas tradition: Torcetti

Mary (Arcuri) Sanders, at age 77

My Italian grandma, born Mary Nancy Arcuri, was a great cook. She lived into her 90s, and now her many dozens of descendants like to share “Gram’s recipe” for various foods we associate with her. Somehow, though, each of her seven kids has a different version of “Gram’s recipe” for spaghetti sauce, each claiming to be authentic, and the rest charlatans.

At Christmas, Gram always made torcetti (tor-chet-ee). The lightly sweetened pastry was rolled in powdered sugar, shaped in figure 8s or candy canes, or folded into little half-moon turnovers filled with mince or cherry pie filling. I always imagine her learning to make it at her mother’s side, in Italian–the only language her mother spoke. Gram came from a big family, and it is a big recipe–I have penciled in on my recipe card a smaller version, one-fourth of the original recipe. But for you, readers, I am providing the full meal deal, the recipe for 12 dozen torcetti. Enough to share with lots of friends!


1 lb. butter or margerine

1 lb. vegetable shortning

10 cups sifted flour

1 cup warm milk

1 T. granulated sugar

1 T. vanilla

2 pkgs. yeast

4 eggs, beaten

2 lbs. powdered sugar

Cut shortning and butter into flour until it is like corn meal. Combine milk, granulated sugar, vanilla, and stir in yeast. Add liquid to flour mixture. Add eggs and beat. Add more flour if sticky. Knead slightly. Put in a greased bowl, cover in a warm place, and let rise until double in bulk, about one hour. {I must tell you, this is a heavy dough, and has rarely doubled its bulk for me!}

Cover a bread board with some of the powdered sugar. Break off egg-size pieces of the dough, roll in powdered sugar into one long piece, and shape into figures–pretzel, figure 8, knots, candy canes. Bake on a greased sheet 12-15 minutes at 375 degrees. For filled turnovers, roll out dough, sprinking with powdered sugar if sticky, and use a cookie cutter or water glass to make 3″ circles. Fill with a spoonful of your favorite fruit pie filling, fold in half, and seal by pressing a fork along the edge.

If you try Torcetti from Gram’s recipe, I’d love to hear from you. And do you have an Italian Christmas food you love? Let’s hear about it!


13 thoughts on “My most Italian Christmas tradition: Torcetti

  1. Pingback: Another generation of Christmas torcetti | The Italian South

  2. Pingback: Re-blog: Italian Christmas traditions, the American way! « The Italian South

  3. Pingback: Time to make torcetti « The Italian South

  4. I was looking for the recipe of torcetti and found this nice web. But please !! i don´t belive that your grandma in Italy used margarina or shortening!! there are not italian ingredients. Please not transform the autentic and healthy italian stile. This new industrial fat are not healthy. Im italian descendent too.

    • Virginia, No doubt, those ingredients were not used in Italy!! However, my grandma grew up in New York so adapted her recipe long before she passed it on to me. In addition she moved to Alaska in 1945, where fresh healthy ingredients were even harder to find. Thanks for your comment–Salute! Sandy

  5. I have already made it once this holiday season for a “Cultural Smorgasbord” at Raymond’s school a couple weeks ago. I took a plate of them to my 80 something-year-old neighbor across the street who is from Ireland originally, and her comment was “Those were delicious! I knew right away they were from the old country!” I am planning to make a batch in another week or so to give out to coworkers as we go on break. Happy Torcetti making everyone! Oh, and thank you for posting this picture. Made me smile.

  6. Thanks, Sandy for bringing a tear of joy to my eyes this morning. I love to think of my kids, grandkids and now even great nieces and nephews making Mama’s torcetti. I always thought Great was born Maria Nancy Arcuri, but you’re the genealogist, so I defer. Buon Natale indeed! U mama

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