Black pepper taralli (or, the best cocktail snack ever).

If you ask Rob, he’ll tell you I was obsessed with taralli when we were in Italy. Obsessed. The little bakery around the corner from our apartment made them fresh every day, and I bought them throughout our trip and brought a pound of them home in a paper sack. Obsessed.

What are taralli? Only the most perfect cocktail snack EVAH. Little rings of crackery goodness, with a light, shortbread-like texture and gentle crunch. For cocktail nibbles, they pack remarkable flavor: good olive oil, wine, bold black pepper, salt.

They’re kind of hard to find in the States, and when I do run across a bag of imported Italian taralli, they’re often a bit stale and unsatisfying. So when I discovered a recipe for taralli on the New York Times Cooking site, I was thrilled. Could I make these delightful cocktail snacks at home?

Absolutely. And they’re amazing. And really easy and fun to make.

As with anything simple, using great ingredients is a must. Use a white wine you’d drink with the taralli to make them. Good olive oil. Freshly cracked pepper. Taralli are often flavored with red pepper flakes or fennel seed, or just made with salt, so feel free to riff as you like.

I’ve adapted the recipe a bit here, most notably clarifying some measurements and instructions. But it’s ultimately super easy to make taralli at home. Shaping the little rings takes time, but I find it to be meditative work.

Although it contains a smidge of yeast, this is not a bread dough, so don’t expect it to be stiff and solid. The dough is soft, stretchy and very oily, but it should not stick to your hands. (I imagine that Italian women who regularly make taralli have very soft hands from all that olive oil.)

I’ve found that these homemade taralli keep well for a good week at room temperature, and they freeze well so you’ll always have a tasty snack whenever you stir up your happy hour Aperol Spritz.

Buon appetito!

black pepper taralli (Italian cocktail crackers) recipe

makes about 7 dozen

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 cups '00' flour (or use cake flour)
1 tablespoon coarsely ground pepper or more to taste
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons good extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup dry white wine

Preheat oven to 375° or 350° with convection (which, on my oven, means punching in 375; the system automatically deducts 25° in convection mode). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, whisk together the flours, pepper, salt and yeast. Add olive oil and half the wine; begin mixing on medium-low speed. When the dough begins to come together, taste it; it should taste like what you want the finished taralli to taste like: olive oil-y and salty and peppery. (Add a bit more ground pepper if you want to increase the heat.) Set a kitchen timer for 12 minutes and keep mixing the dough on medium-low speed, adding the remaining wine a bit at a time. When you add the wine, you'll think you've created a sloppy mess, but it will quickly incorporate into the dough as mixing continues. At the end of 12 minutes, the dough will be soft, moist and very oily but not sticky. (If it is, mix in just a bit of flour.)

Pinch off a bit of dough—you want each portion to weigh 8g (or 1 measuring teaspoon full of dough). A kitchen scale is very helpful here. Roll the dough into a rope about 5 inches long, evenly shaped through its length and then slightly tapered at the ends. Form the rope into a circle, overlapping the tapered ends and gently pinching together. Place on a baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough. I find it's most efficient to portion out about half the dough and then form the rings (instead of portioning and forming them one at a time). You'll bake two batches of two baking sheets.

Bake the taralli until they're dry and nicely golden, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool. They'll crisp up as they cool. Serve with a crisp wine and assorted cheeses.

2 thoughts on “Black pepper taralli (or, the best cocktail snack ever).

  1. Sounds delicious! When you say they can be frozen, is that before or after baking? Thanks!

    • Hi, Shawn — you can freeze them EITHER before or after:
      1) to freeze before baking: arrange the unbaked taralli on a parchment-lined baking sheet, cover with plastic and put the tray in the freezer. When the taralli are frozen solid, scoop them into a zip-top freezer bag. Add 10 minutes to the baking time when you bake frozen dough.
      2) To freeze the baked ones, just transfer the well-cooled taralli to a zip-top freezer bag. Either way, they’ll keep for about 6 months.