To further sweeten Valentine’s Day, take a cue from those who like to serve everything with amore: Italians have the perfect mate for anything from a glass of Prosecco to a slice of semifreddo or plate of fruit and cheese. Known by several different names, these crisp “waffles” are a light, not-too-sweet accompaniment to coffee or tea at any time. Usually impressed with patterns reminiscent of snowflakes, pizzelle are just the treat for a mid-winter holiday.

Our thick batter was made with olive oil.
Copyright © 2013, Skip Lombardi

Most often sold as pizzelle in North America, the wafers are also called ferratelle or nevole in Abruzzo, the Italian region most closely associated with them. Ferratelle is also the name of the iron kitchen tools with which generations of Abruzzese women made these delicacies, usually one at a time, in hand-held irons.

For both peasantry and gentry, these irons were typically wedding presents, often etched with the initials or family crests of both a bride and her groom. Clearly, these implements became treasured heirlooms. Indeed, many hand-held irons were brought to America (before the airline age and pre-boarding metal-detectors!) by impoverished Italian immigrants who arrived with little more than their clothing.

Our electric pizzelle iron
Copyright © 2013, Skip Lombardi

An alternate name, nevole (sometimes neole) is derived from the Latin nebula, sometimes translated as “a thin layer or veneer”—which we think may refer to the Abruzzese ferratelle that are made from a thick batter as opposed to those that rely on a stiffer dough. The batter is trickier to handle but may have been preferred here in America when Italian-Americans began to use counter-top electric irons rather than those held over an open flame. (A runny batter might have leaked from a hand-held iron.)

Every pizzelle iron has a mind of its own.
Copyright © 2013, Skip Lombardi
Weather permitting, it’s not a bad idea to make pizzelle outdoors…
Copyright © 2013, Skip Lombardi
Eventually, you’ll get the hang of it…
Copyright © 2013, Skip Lombardi
Copyright © 2013, Skip Lombardi

We were going to accompany Skip’s pizzelle photos with additional lore and a couple of our tweaked recipes, but we think that Adri Barr Crocetti, whose heritage is Abruzzese, has already done this so well on her own blog, that we are delighted to refer our readers to an accomplished cook who clearly has ferratelle-making in her DNA. Adri’s own family recipe for a soft dough uses butter rather than oil.

Want to try a batter? Please email us if you’d like the recipe for the batter we devised for the pizzelle in the photos here in our post.

We think Adri’s idea of browned butter is brilliant. We used olive oil for the fat in our pizzelle, even though our electric iron’s manufacturer insisted on a solid fat and warned against using a batter made with oil. We’re happy to report that we fried no circuitry and nothing exploded; both our butter-batter and oil-batter yielded delicious results.

Regardless of your recipe, be sure to allow your pizzelle to cool completely before you store them flat, in an air-tight tin or plastic container.

Remember, practice makes perfect…
As in love, even mistakes can be delicious.

Copyright © 2013, Skip Lombardi

Happy Valentine’s Day!

4 thoughts on “Pizzelle

  1. Ed Iannuccilli

    We have my grandmother’s pizzelle irons…with handle and all. they have the letters “VT” on them. Not sure what they stand for, but I would love a clue.

    Grandma never made pizzelle outdoors, but rather always over the stove.

    1. Skip

      Ciao Dottore,

      Nice to hear from you as always. Are you sure the initials on your pizzelle iron are ‘VT?’ See the comment above with another possible theory.

      Alla prossima volta,

  2. Loretta Knorr

    Every Christmas my brother and I have a “pizzelle-off”. He’s taken to making his with butter; I still use my grandmother’s recipe with corn, not olive oil. Vanilla is verbtoten, only anise oil is used and anise seeds are a must. My brother’s are quite tasty but I’ll never be able to call them “pizzelles”! I’ve tweaked grandmom’s recipe a bit by reducing the amount of flour by 1/2 cup and sifting it into the batter. The result is a very thin, delicate and crisp cookie.

    When I was a little girl, it was my job to hold the pizzelle iron over the gas fire. My grandmother devised the perfect timer – one Hail Mary,turn and another Hail Mary on the other side produced the perfect waffle!

  3. Adri

    Well thank you both for the shout-out! How kind of you. I so enjoy sharing with others, and you have enhanced the pleasure tenfold.

    This afternoon I have spent a great deal of of time poring over your site. It is wonderful. I appreciate the information a recipes you provide, and I particularly enjoyed your opening historical overview.

    And to your first commenter, Ed Iannuccilli, I would offer that most likely the “VI” etched into his iron does indeed represent the family initials. I feel quite confident in this given that your last name begins with an “I.” And you have quite a treasure on your hands. How I wish I had my grandmother’s iron!

    Thanks again, Holly and Skip.

    Alla prossima,

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