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Also known as "sapienze" they are sweets that cannot be missing on the tables of Campania people during the holiday season. Let's discover together the original recipe to make them at home!

by Vittoria Samaria

Their origin of "Susamielli" cookies is traced back to Ancient Greece. Their recipe recalls the scent of doughnuts, with honey and sesame, that were prepared in honor of the divinities Demeter and Core, linked to the worship of the Eleusinian Mysteries.
It was precisely from the main ingredients that these sweets took their name: from the Greek "sesamon" and later from the union of the late Latin words "sesamum" and "mel," "Sesamiello", that later turned into "Susamiello."
What is certain is that they make a fine figure on Neapolitan Christmas tables, along with other cookies named raffiuoli, mostaccioli, roccocò, and struffoli.

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The Susamielli

The history of this ancient dessert

In the 1600s, the Poor Clares nuns of the Convent of Santa Maria della Sapienza in the historic center of Naples prepared Susamielli in their classic form and were the connoisseurs of this recipe.

Apparently, the shape of this dessert was modified in honor of Luigi Settembrini, a Neapolitan writer and patriot who lived in the first half of the 19th century, taking on the characteristic "S" that has come down to the present day.

What is certain is that traditionally the dessert was made in three different ways depending on the diners for whom it was intended: "Susamielli nobili," made with white flour, pisto, and almond paste was intended for the families of the Neapolitan nobility; "Susamielli del buon cammino," filled with black cherry jam, were intended for friars and priests; and finally, "Susamielli dello zampognaro," made with coarse flour and citrus peels, were intended for the pipers who played at the doorways of houses with their bagpipes, announcing Christmas. 

The recipe

The recipe that has come down to the present day is the noblest one. These delicious treats are usually prepared in Campania homes before the feast of the Immaculate Conception, on December 8, the day that traditionally kicks off the holiday season, so they can be enjoyed at the end of family lunches. Here is the recipe for Susamielli!

Ingredients for about 15 pieces

  • 250 gr of flour

  • 250 gr of honey

  • 100 gr of almonds

  • 100 gr sugar

  • 1 tablespoon candied fruit

  • a pinch of ammonia for cakes

  • "pisto" or mixture of spices: cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg


  • After lightly toasting them, grind the almonds, adding the flour and pisto.

  • Put together the mixed flours. Heat the honey together with the sugar and as soon as it has melted put it in the center of the flours.

  • Add the candied fruit and ammonia and start mixing everything.

  • After obtaining a solid mixture, continue kneading until the honey has cooled so that you can knead the dough with your hands.

  • Form many equal balls, and help yourself with a little flour if the dough is sticky.

  • From the balls, make little rolls, give them the famous "S" shape and flatten them slightly.

  • Arrange the obtained Susamielli on a baking sheet and bake them for about 15 minutes at 180 degrees until golden brown.


  • Susamielli can be further enriched with almond granules or toasted almonds. To make them stick to the surface, lightly wet the rolls with water before baking.
  • Some variations use almond flour instead of toasted almonds.
  • Susamielli can also be decorated with sesame seeds in a version that more closely resembles the ancient recipe.
  • These delicious treats can be enjoyed by dipping them in homemade liqueurs typical of the Coast or even in Vin Santo.


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