• Sweet Christmas taralli (rococò) (Paola Bacchia)Source: Paola Bacchia

Roccocò are spicy ring-shaped biscotti that are eaten on the streets of Naples around Christmas time. 






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They contain a typical Neopolitan spice mix called ‘pisto’, which is used in certain traditional pastries. Pisto is hard to find ready prepared outside of Naples, but you can easily make your own using equal quantities of star anise, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and white pepper.


  • 350 g (12½ oz) blanched almonds
  • 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) 00 weak (cake) flour
  • 200 g (7 oz) sugar
  • 2 scant tsp baking powder
  • zest of 2 oranges
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 20 g (¾ oz) pisto (see below)
  • pinch of salt
  • 100 g (3½ oz) honey
  • 2 eggs – 1 lightly beaten; 1 beaten with a splash of milk


  • 4 g (¼ oz) star anise
  • 4 g (¼ oz) freshly grated nutmeg
  • 4 g (¼ oz) ground cinnamon
  • 4 g (¼ oz) cloves
  • 4 g (¼ oz) white pepper

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F).

To make the pisto, combine all of the ingredients in a mortar and pestle and grind to a fine powder.

Place the almonds on a baking tray and roast for 15–20 minutes, checking on them every few minutes and tossing them around, until they look golden and a lovely almond smell fills the room. Transfer to a heatproof bowl and set aside to cool.

Once cool, reserve about 25 almonds, then place the rest in a food processor and finely process. Roughly chop the reserved almonds to use as decoration.

Place the flour, sugar, processed almonds, baking powder, zests, pisto and salt in a large bowl. Give the ingredients a good whisk then turn out onto a clean work surface. Make a well in the centre and add the honey and the beaten egg. Work this through the dry ingredients with your fingers, then start adding 125 ml (4 oz/½ cup) water, a little at a time, until it is all incorporated. The dough should be quite stiff but homogenous.

Reduce the oven temperature to 180°C (350°F). Line a baking tray with baking paper.

Using your hands, take 50 g (1¾ oz) balls of dough and roll them into sausages. Join the two ends to make 8 cm (3¼ in) rings. Decorate each ring with the reserved almond pieces, then brush with the egg and milk wash and place on the prepared baking tray.

Bake for about 20 minutes, until deep golden. For a harder rococò, bake for a couple of minutes longer. The rococò will keep in an airtight container for up to 1 week.


This recipe is from Italian Street Food. (Smith Street Books). Photography by Paola Bacchia.