How to Make Swirly, Flaky Sfogliatelle

A step-by-step guide to the mesmerizing Italian pastry.

Photo by Ren Fuller

Buckle up, guys—this pastry is definitely a project. But trust me, it’s a super fun, satisfying, and delicious one. There’s nothing like a batch of still-warm sfogliatelle (or if you’re just referring to one, sfogliatella), an especially beautiful Italian pastry. Multiple layers of gorgeously thin dough (rolled using a pasta machine) encase a creamy filling made with a base of semolina “pudding” and ricotta cheese. The pastry, sometimes referred to as “lobster claws” (not “lobster tails,” that’s something else) here in the States, bake up gorgeously golden and crisp. The result is a seriously impressive pastry that’s time-consuming, but totally doable at home, and worth it. Ahead, I’ll walk you through exactly how to make sfogliatelle at home using my go-to recipe and you’ll be folding and shaping dough in no time.

But First…How Do You Pronounce Sfogliatelle?

Let me take a stab at this one—Ss-fog-lee-uh-tell-ee.

The Dough

Sfogliatelle dough is simple to make; it’s the handling that gets tricky. To make the dough, combine all-purpose flour, fine sea salt, room temperature unsalted butter, and room temperature water in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Mix on low speed for 3 minutes—the dough should start to come together, but will still look pretty rough. Raise to medium speed and mix for 3 minutes more; the dough may not look super smooth, but it should have formed a ball around the mixer attachment. A longer mixing time like this is what helps give the dough its structure, enabling it to undergo many, many manipulations to create the paper-thin layers of pastry that make this recipe so dang good.

Enlist Some Helping Hands

What makes this pastry special is the paper-thin dough that creates layer after layer of flaky dough. To achieve this, the dough is rolled thin using a pasta machine. While there are multiple stages of rolling, at its longest, the dough will stretch to about 4 feet long. For this reason, it’s ideal to have a couple of sets of hands on deck to help handle the dough. It is also totally possible to do it alone, but you need a nice, long piece of kitchen counter (or a table) to make sure you have room to gently lay the pastry dough down as it comes out of the machine. Before you start rolling the dough, grab yourself a small bowl of flour, in case you ever need a dusting. This will help prevent the dough from sticking or tearing, which it’s especially at risk of because it will be so thin and delicate. Clear off as big of a space on your counter as possible, or opt for a table instead! The more room you have, the easier some of the more detailed steps will be.

First Rolling

Right away, the dough needs to undergo some folds, so break out your pasta maker. It can be a hand-crank variety, but I’m a fan of the attachment for my electric mixer: it frees both of my hands for working with the dough. Divide the dough into two even pieces. Wrap one piece tightly in plastic wrap while you work with the other (always keep any dough that’s not in use wrapped up—it can dry out easily, especially as it starts to get rolled thinner).

This is how it gets paper-thin. Photo by Ren Fuller

You shouldn’t need to use much flour to work with this dough, only a light dusting, and only whenever it feels a little tacky to the touch. Roll out the first piece of dough into a rectangle of about 5x10 inches. Set your pasta machine or rollers to the widest setting. Run the dough through the pasta machine, then fold it in half to make a small rectangular package of dough. Repeat this process 4 more times (a total of 5), continuing to run the folded dough through at the widest setting. Unwrap the second piece of dough, and use the plastic wrap to tightly wrap up the first piece. The dough will dry out if exposed too long to air in these early stages and become harder to work with.

Fold it in half. Photo by Ren Fuller

Repeat this process with the second piece of dough. When it's ready, unwrap the first piece of dough and place it on top of the second. Use a rolling pin to press the dough together, and roll it gently until it’s about 1/2-inch thick.

Run the dough through the pasta machine (still set to the widest setting), then fold it in half. Repeat a total of 10 times. After the final pass, fold the dough in half horizontally (from one long side to the other), then fold in half from one short side to the other.

Let's roll. Photo by Ren Fuller
Run through the machine, fold it in half, and do this 10 times. Photo by Ren Fuller
Fold in half horizontally. Photo by Ren Fuller
And then fold the short side across. Photo by Ren Fuller

Rest Time

This process of rolling starts to form the layers in the dough. After these stages of rolling, it’s important to let the dough rest and chill. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 1/2 hours, and up to overnight.

Second Rolling

Quarter the dough, and wrap all but one piece tightly in plastic wrap. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a rectangle about 4 x 7 inches. Set your pasta machine or rollers to the widest setting. Run the dough through the pasta machine. Flour the dough lightly, as needed (though I will note that I did not need to use flour at all for my dough). Continue passing the dough through the machine, making the setting smaller/narrower each time, until the dough is almost thin enough to see through; it will be about 4 feet long at this point.

Yes, your dough will be the height of a small child. Photo by Ren Fuller

Forming the Dough Log

Gently lay the long strip of dough down on the counter. Working the length of the dough, gently stretch it to make it slightly wider and thinner. Don’t worry, it’s very sturdy, but if you get a small rip or two, you won’t be able to tell.

That's some elasticity. Photo by Ren Fuller

At this stage, soft butter is spread into a thin, even layer, all the way across the dough. Starting from one of the short ends, roll the dough up into a tight spiral, leaving about 1 inch of dough unrolled. Set aside, and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Repeat the rolling process with another piece of the remaining dough. When it’s rolled out, repeat the stretching and buttering processes.

Spread soft butter with an offset spatula. Photo by Ren Fuller
Don't forget to leave an inch. Photo by Ren Fuller

Unwrap the first dough spiral that you rolled, and place the excess 1 inch of dough at the end of the new piece of dough, overlapping by about 1/4 inch. Roll the spiral with the new dough, now making the log even thicker and larger by rolling the whole length of the second piece of dough. The log should be about 2 inches thick and about 8 inches long. Wrap the log tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours and up to overnight. Repeat the process with the two remaining pieces of dough to make a second dough log.

The Filling

The traditional filling for sfogliatelle is a semolina-ricotta mixture. First, sugar and milk are brought to a simmer. Semolina flour (yes, like the kind used to make pasta) is added and whisked until it thickens, creating a thick sort of pudding. After it cools, the mixture is mixed in an electric mixer with the whip attachment. Egg yolks are added, and I also add vanilla for flavor. I personally like to add the zest of a lemon or orange and a pinch of ground cardamom, but both are optional. These are the most traditional flavors for sfogliatelle fillings, but have fun with different variations, like pistachio or fruit jam. Finally, the ricotta is whipped in. The final filling is smooth, creamy, and thick. Keep it covered and chilled until ready to use.

Shaping the Pastries

When they’ve thoroughly chilled, remove the dough logs from the refrigerator and unwrap. Cut each log into 8 even pieces—each piece should be about 1-inch wide.

Home stretch—you got this. Photo by Ren Fuller

Working with one piece at a time, use your fingers (pressing to flatten the dough between your fingers) to work your way around the edge of the dough, making it thinner. The idea is not to make the whole piece of dough thinner, but make it kind of cone shaped.

Soon to be filled with ricotta and semolina goodness. Photo by Ren Fuller

I press the dough between my thumb on one side, and my first and middle finger on the other. As you work, you’ll start to feel it flattening out. What’s really happening is the butter between the layers of the dough makes it easy to sort of fan the layers out, creating a thinner look to the dough, though it’s all still one piece. Continue the same motion, but work inward toward the center of the round. Once you’ve achieved the conical shape, spoon about 2 tablespoons of filling into the center of the cone, fold it over so the ends meet, encasing the filling. Gently pinch the ends to seal.

Ah, there are the lobster claws. Photo by Ren Fuller

Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet, and repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.


Ok, you’ve done it! All that’s left now is to brush the surface of each pastry with melted butter, and bake the pastries at 400° F until they are very golden brown and crisp (about 23-26 minutes). I like to rotate the trays front to back and between their racks halfway through baking, and brush them with butter again, for good measure! This also helps to ensure that the sfogliatelle cooks evenly in the oven, so that they come out golden brown all over.


Once the pastries come out of the oven, transfer them to a cooling rack to cool for about 10 minutes. I like these best served still slightly warm (but of course even a room temperature Italian sfogliatelle will still be delicious). Just before serving, dust them generously with powdered sugar using a fine mesh sieve. Then, sit back and enjoy the fruits (erm…pastries) of your labor!

Other Italian Pastries!

Homemade Cannoli

There’s no treat like a cannoli. Biting into the hard pastry shell and having the sweet ricotta filling ooze out is one of life’s simplest pleasures. Dust the cannolis with powdered sugar or dip the ends into chopped chocolate and pistachios.

Millefoglie (Italian Custard and Puff Pastry Cake)

This layered cake is a classic dessert for Tuscan celebrations, but it’s typically purchased from a bakery rather than made at home. That being said, it’s surprisingly easy to make yourself.

Bomboloncini (Italian doughnut holes)

This classic Tuscan treat is devoured as a snack, a breakfast, and sometimes even dessert. Emiko’s recipe calls for rolling the fresh bomboloncini in cinnamon sugar, but you can take things to the next level by filling each one with jelly or custard. Pro tip: “The bomboloni must be very hot for the sugar to stick to them evenly, so pop them straight into a bowl of sugar as soon as they come out of the hot oil from frying,” says Emiko.

Have you ever tried making Italian sfogliatelle before? Did you success? Share your stories—the good, the bad, and the ugly—in the comments below!

This article was updated in May 2022 by our editors because who doesn’t love to eat sfogliatelle?

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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I always have three kinds of hot sauce in my purse. I have a soft spot for making people their favorite dessert, especially if it's wrapped in a pastry crust. My newest cookbook, Savory Baking, came out in Fall of 2022 - is full of recipes to translate a love of baking into recipes for breakfast, dinner, and everything in between!


Joani July 9, 2023
Dear Erin, Please comment about the butter in the dough. I love the sound of this recipe, the filling sounds delish and I like the method; I like the technique suggested of making 2 small rolls instead of one large roll. I've made sfogliatelle before and would love to try this version, but please comment about the butter! Several bakers sent up alarm about adding butter to the dough, so I'd appreciate knowing if it was a mistake. Thanks!!
mikozyanna December 15, 2022
I'm sitting here wondering if the butter was added twice by mistake. I have never seen butter added into the dough like this, only added in between the layers. After attempting this anyway- I've made sfogliatelle before, I think the recipe is SUPPOSED to read as :
3 cups (361 g) all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon (3 g) fine sea salt
1 cup (237 g) room temperature water
6 ounces (170 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

My belief is that you're supposed to make up the dough as water and flour (as you normally would) not ADD in 6 oz (which is A LOT) of butter into the dough. I think it is a disastrous typo. I hope Home 52 confirms this with chef.
Home C. September 24, 2022
Disaster from the get go. I should have known better then to put butter in the dough. Added another 2/3 cup of flour to no avail. Dough was a sticky mess, not even close to being workable.. Right into the garbage. What a waste of ingredients.
NJBernstein May 15, 2022
Not pronounced w hard “g” — the “gl” combination is pronounced like the “ll” in “million”. Or in dialect, they are pronounced (singular or plural: “shvoyadell.” With a short “o” — not a diphthong.
Ichabod May 15, 2022
If you pronounce the “ll” like in million…you are saying the letter “L.” The gli is pronounced rather like “Lee” with a slight glitch. Before the “L” of “Lee”
I correct mine below to be: sss-folya-taell-eh. A bit hard to describe, for sure in English, but not hard to say.
NJBernstein May 15, 2022
Mainly, as you agree, it's not a hard, sounded "g"! " L" with a "glitch," "lli" as in "millions" –– It's hard to capture the phonetics without actually using the phonetic symbols.
I'm not with you on the dragged-out "s." A double consonant is used to signify that one should linger a tiny bit on the sound of the letter; a single "s" is not drawn out or held. (Compare "ottissimo"). I'm also not there on putting in a diphthong ( "taell") - Italian vowels are very short, distinctively so. It's just a light, short, "eh" sound. No diphthongs unless indicated by vowels in combination (e.g.: "mai"). But yes, yes, yes -- no "g" sound in "sfogliatelle."
Wish someone would bake these for me...

Ichabod May 15, 2022
Cool. I think for the most part we are in sync! I love Italy, cannot wait to go back again! Just wish I actually spoke the language. I have difficulty with languages, though my pronunciation (I’ve been told) is very good. I know words, but find it impossible to make a sentence that is spoken correctly. So I can grocery shop and ask directions and can sometimes get a point across, but I’m sadly inept at languages.
Ichabod May 15, 2022
Well, I just read all the other reviews…I don’t think I’ll be trying this recipe. Sounds like a disaster.
Ichabod May 15, 2022
I’m not Italian, but have been there 14 times have taken cooking classes there and made some very dear Italian friends I have met and stayed with along my travels. You badly spelled out the pronunciation! You would NOT pronounce the ‘g.’ Properly it would be: sss-folya-taell-eh…but altogether with the accent on the last vowel. Looks yummy.
dmc May 15, 2022
I was happy to see this recipe, however I have not attempted it. I do wish however you hadn't posted your guess at the pronunciation of sfogliatelle! I am not an Italian speaker but of Italian descent. I do believe the g is silent.
ep2175 September 28, 2019
Hi! I've made sfogliatelle before, but have never used a recipe for them that called for fat in the pastry dough itself -- every recipe I've used has been for a simple dough of flour, salt, water, and honey. I tried your recipe this afternoon and I must have done something wrong because it was a total disaster -- wet, sticky dough after the initial 6min in the mixer, needed a ton of flour to make it even remotely workable, and even then had to do the initial folds by rolling pin rather than pastry roller because of the dough texture. Even once I got it to the point that I could put it through the roller, it didn't really work... dough was lumpy, seemed to be filled with air, all the wrong texture (compared to other times I've made this). Any guesses what I did wrong? I thought I was following your recipe exactly, but have no idea how I ended up with such a disappointing result. Help!
ep2175 September 28, 2019
* I meant "pasta roller" not "pastry roller" -- whoops!
ep2175 September 28, 2019
Also, "lumpy" is not quite the right word to describe it. It was bumpy, and the roller tore holes through it, and wouldn't feed the dough evenly because the dough was the wrong texture. I really don't know how to describe what was going on, but the dough was sort of like pizza dough.
Tina H. May 1, 2020
This recipe is absolutely horrible from top to bottom. I don't know why I didn't throw the whole thing out at step one. I suffered on and I can tell you this is 2020 in a pastry recipe. If it ever saw an editor I will eat a hat.
ep2175 May 2, 2020
I agree!!! Try this one, it comes out beautifully (have now made them successfully several times):
ep2175 May 2, 2020
I agree!!! Try this one, it comes out beautifully (have now made them successfully several times):
Smaug May 5, 2022
I've never made sfogliatelle, but I've worked quite a bit with laminated doughs. The 1-3 water/flour ratio is a bit high, but shouldn't be outrageous, it's gotta be the butter in the dough. I've never seen that in a laminated pastry dough either, and it seems like a weird idea.
clotherstuff August 14, 2019
I just wanted to check if it’s right that butter is added to the dough itself? Other recipes I’ve seen only add butter in the step when the dough is spread with butter then rolled into a log.
Caren K. April 21, 2019
Omgoodness! The recipe is amazing and it looks like you have to have mad skills to accomplish this!

I had my first sfogliatella in Naples last year. It was love at first bite! I have since found a place within about 10 miles from me that carries them. I bought four. They were ok but tasted like they were sitting for a week in the case. So disappointing. Well, today my husband and I went down to the Venetian Hotel to meet friends visiting from Australia. Her mom wanted a place that had “Italian cakes”. So of course I Googled it. We ended up at Carlo’s Bakery and low and behold, they had sfogliatelle! My heart and tongue did a :::happy dance:::! Now I know where I can get GOOD sfogliatelle in Las Vegas! Woo hoo!! But, I can’t leave well enough alone. I had to search for a recipe to make for myself! Holy cow! Talk about labor intensive! ;) I just may be up for the challenge so I can have that wonderful taste of Italy whenever I want. Just need to go and Google the pasta machine attachment for my Kitchen Aid! Thanks for the wonderful recipe WITH pictures! <3
Ginger T. January 19, 2018
How long start to finish including rest times and max daylight hrs of 16? Just finished working on croissant recipie (try
Adjust repeat) and found the 2.3 hrs really meant 2-5 days using overnight resting which greatly improves crispy crunch texture similar to this project. So dish please. How many overnight resting do we need for Dough. Thanks Ginger
Kate G. January 18, 2018
Lobster tails, not claws, I believe.
exploredough January 17, 2018
I love them sooo much. But making them, uffff, takes time and patience. One day I have to make them though...they are too good.
Diana S. January 14, 2018
Oh my god! Sfogliatelle is my favorite pastry of all time, I cannot WAIT to make these once I get a pasta attachment for my KitchenAid!! Thank you!
Hedy D. January 13, 2018
could the finished pastry be frozen prior to baking?
Shelley T. January 13, 2018
I would love an instructional video for this project! I can’t wait to try this.
nancy E. January 13, 2018
Should it not read"makes 32 pastries". You divided the dough into quarters and got 8 pastries out of each quarter.
Erin J. January 13, 2018
Sorry if it’s unclear! You do divide the dough into quarters, but you use two quarters to make one dough log from which you cut slices. You roll the dough into a spiral, and using two separately rolled out quarters of the dough makes a thicker spiral (aka more layers)! 16 pastries is the correct yield.
Analida B. January 12, 2018
Wow. These look almost too beautiful to eat. I will certainly enlist some help from my son, a culinary student, to put these together.