Sfogliatella Santa Rosa: A local pastry filled with tradition

I need a good dose of inspiration to talk about this dessert appropriately.

Well, here it is, my Sfogliatella Santa Rosa: it lies on the saucer, silent and golden, with its triangular shape, so familiar, adorned with pastry cream and the unmistakable candied sour cherry.

There it is, a dusting of powdered sugar, ready to prepare the palate for the explosion of sweetness and crunchiness that will follow the first bite.

Sfogliatella Santa Rosa is a musical dessert: if you taste it, try having it warm, preferably by the sea, in a quiet and secluded spot.

With the first bite, you can hear its melody: the delicate sound of the pastry giving way and breaking, making room for the sweet and creamy filling.

In addition to being a musical dessert,Sfogliatella Santa Rosa encapsulates in its conical shape, reminiscent of a monk’s hood, a blend of flavors and textures that almost seems like a metaphor for our land.

But beyond this, this typical dessert is linked to a story that takes us back a few centuries.

Once upon a time in the Santa Rosa Monastery: how the Sfogliatella Santa Rosa was born

The sfogliatella Santa Rosa was born in the 17th century in Conca dei Marini, within the walls of the Santa Rosa Monastery, from which it takes its name.

Telling the story of how the recipe came about makes one reflect on how much our traditional cuisine is tied to the fundamental need to optimise available resources.

If today the zero waste philosophy has taken hold partly out of fashion, partly because of the need to have less impact on the environment, over the centuries the recovery of raw materials was a habit that, combined with creativity, gave life to small culinary masterpieces.

This was also the case for the protagonist of our article, which was not immediately the sfogliatella we know today.

In the beginning, it was called ‘Santa Rosa del Monastero’ (Saint Rose of the Monastery): it was not, in fact, the pastry sheet that held the delicious filling, but a rough pastry, prepared with the use of some ingredients left over from the preparation of the monastery meal.

It is said, in fact, that it was the day dedicated to baking bread and there was some dough left over: the monastery cook, then, had the intuition to combine wine and lard with the bread dough.

Leftover from lunch was semolina cooked in milk, to which the nun added sugar, lemon liqueur and dried fruit.

The next step was baking. Who knows whether those who were cooking that day were aware of the delicacy that would be baked shortly thereafter.

Once upon a time in the Santa Rosa Monastery: how the Sfogliatella Santa Rosa was born

In any case, the deliciousness of the cake, to which the name ‘Santa Rosa’ was given, was immediately evident, so much so that it was decided to sell it to the citizens of Conca: by using the wheel, in use at the time in churches to preserve the enclosure of the nuns, the citizens would leave a coin in exchange for the pastry, which also became the symbol of the feast of Santa Rosa, which falls on 30 August.

From Conca dei Marini to Naples: the evolution of the Santa Rosa del Monastero

For a long time, the recipe for Santa Rosa remained locked within the walls of the convent, until a Neapolitan pastry chef, Pasquale Pintauro, managed to get an aunt to confide the recipe to him.

Having learnt the recipe, the creative pastry chef returned to Naples, where he decided to create his own variation of the cake: he eliminated custard and the three candied cherries, resulting in the crispy, fragrant sfogliatella we know today.

A curiosity, or rather two, about the legendary sfogliatella of Conca dei Marini

At the historic Pasticceria Pansa in Amalfi, it is possible to taste the dessert made according to the ancient Monastery recipe.

The Pansa brothers, in fact, after much research, have reconstructed the basic steps of what the cake must have originally been.
In addition to this, every year in Conca dei Marini is held an event called “Sagra della sfogliatella Santa Rosa”, with the purpose of telling and spreading the goodness of this dessert that conveys a purely coastal story of creativity, devotion, and goodness.