This beloved pastry was invented by a Catholic nun in the 17th century

Vincenzo De Bernardo | Shutterstock

The Neapolitan treat has been a best-seller ever since. 

For many Neapolitans, the day starts with a strong espresso and “sfogliatella,” a shell-shaped crunchy baked dough filled with a cream made of semolina, ricotta, dried fruit or almonds. Travel blogs are filled with serendipitous encounters with this beloved pastry, which can be easily found in cafes around Naples and surroundings. Some visitors explained that the scent of sfogliatella is the first thing they smelled upon settiing foot in Naples’ train station. Others recount casually trying it in Neapolitan cafes and becoming “hooked.”

But not many of us may know that this beloved pastry goes back to the ingenuity of a 17th-century Catholic nun. According to a local tale, a nun named Clotilde living in the cloistered monastery of Santa Rosa on the Amalfi Coast noticed some semolina leftovers in the monastery’s kitchen. Inspired by the sight, Clotilde mixed the semolina with ricotta cheese, dried fruits and lemon liquor and, after forming into the shape of a monk’s hood, put it in the oven, giving rise to the very first sfogliatella. 

Two hundred years later, Pasquale Pintauro, a pastry baker in Naples, took on the nun’s recipe and started selling sfogliatelle in its shop. 

Unsurprisingly, Pintauro has been in business ever since. You can visit the shop today in Via Toledo 275, Naples. According to some visitors from Los Angeles, California, Pintauro’s pastry are “well worth the 75,000 mile trip.” 

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