Dal Borgo’s Little Walnut Cakes

Updated February 23, 2016
This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

The enchanting town of Farfa in Rieti Province rises from the slopes of Mount Buzio in the Sabine and has a sweeping view of the Tiber Valley. Besides its particularly ancient history–it was the seat of King Tito Tazio, who reigned during the years of the war between the Sabines and the Romans, circa 760 B.C.–it is noteworthy for a number of things. One is its splendid abbey, the Abbazia di Farfa, which was originally constructed in 420 B.C. as a pagan temple. According to local legend, a dragon used to fly over its ruins until the place was consecrated as a Christian abbey. Also of note in Farfa is a remarkable olive tree that is over 2,000 years old. It is 22 feet in circumference, 33 feet high, and produces nearly 3 tons of olives yearly. Another jewel in Farfa’s crown is Giuliana Quatrocchi’s bakery. Dal Borgo, which makes some of the best confections around.

While the dough for these cookies can be made by hand, it is far easier to use a heavy-duty electric mixer.

Cooking Methodbaking



Total Timeunder 2 hours

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Kid FriendlyYes

OccasionBuffet, Casual Dinner Party

Recipe Coursedessert

Dietary Considerationhalal, kosher, peanut free, soy free, vegetarian

Equipmentelectric mixer


Taste and Texturebuttery, nutty, sweet

Type of Dishcookie, dessert


  • ½ cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 3¼ cups all purpose flour
  • scant 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3 extra large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 12 ounces finely chopped walnuts


In a large bowl, combine the butter, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Use a pastry cutter or 2 dinner knives to cut in the butter until the mixture is fine and crumbly. In a small bowl, beat 2 of the eggs and the vanilla together and stir into the dry ingredients. Mix the dough just until all the ingredients come together. Turn the mixture out onto a floured work surface and knead for a minute or two by hand to form a cohesive dough. It should be somewhat sticky. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Spread the walnuts out on a piece of waxed paper.

Dust your hands with flour and shape the dough into 3 ropes, each about 1½ inches in diameter. Cut each into 2-inch pieces. In a small bowl, beat the remaining egg. Dip each of the pieces into the beaten egg, then roll in the walnuts to coat evenly. Place the cookies about 1½ inches apart on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake the cookies until they are lightly colored, 12 to 15 minutes. Slip the parchment, with the cookies, off each baking sheet and let cool on wire racks. Let stand for 2 minutes before peeling the cookies off.

Variation: Dust the cookies with confectioners’ sugar before serving.



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