Vino Cotto

Vino Cotto

When we were kids (ragazzi) growing up in New York, my grandparents were far, far from affluent.  In fact, they made their own soap using lye, cured olives, sewed their own clothes and bartered the shoes my grandfather made in his small shop for music lessons for the six children.      As in most Italian-American homes, pasta was the main stay of the diet and luxuries like sweets (dolci) where seldom seen.  Fortunately,  every backyard seemed to have a grape arbor that produced large quantities of purple fruit bursting with sweet goodness.  These grapes were picked and made into Vino Cotto, the central ingredient for a popular fried cookie called Gravioli (or at least this is what they were called in our home).  I liken them to the cookie, ‘brutta ma buoni’, the popular Italian cookie that is aptly named ‘ugly but good’.


Obtaining or producing vino cotto is no simple task (see recipe below) but I was fortunate enough to find the elusive thick, sugary substance on Amazon.it so placed my order.

The gravioli made in my kitchen was very similar to what my mother and grandmother created so many years ago.  Not sure if it is the best cookie every made, but the nostalgia connected with making and eating the sweet delight makes it one of my favorites.  Below is my recipe handed down from my mother.

Mix 3 oz. vino cotto, 3 oz. water, 3 oz. red wine, 3 oz. oil, and 3 oz. granulated sugar together.

Heat all ingredients on stove to a boil.  Add approximately 3 cups flour.  Roll out cookies to desired shape

Deep fry until golden.  Buon appetito!!!

Mosto Cotto (Vino Cotto) Recipe

Makes 1 to 2 cups


  • 10 pounds ripe grapes, removed from their stems (red or purple grapes will give the best color)

Smash the grapes with a potato masher.  Or put them into a food processor in small batches and pulse a few times (you don’t want to grind the seeds, just crush the grapes).

Put the smashed grapes into a large pot over medium heat. Let the temperature rise until it is steaming hot but just below a simmer (it should not be bubbling much if at all). Maintain this approximate temperature and cook, stirring often, for 1 hour.

During this hour the pectin in the skins and seeds of the grapes will permeate the juice.

Strain the must through cheesecloth. Squeeze the bundle of cloth, or press on it with the back of a wooden spoon, to get out as much liquid as possible. Return the strained liquid to the pot.

Cook for at least 1 more hour, stirring occasionally. Again, do not let the liquid boil!!!   Continue to cook the mosto cotto down until it is the consistency of olive oil or thick maple syrup. This can take anywhere from 1 to 5 hours.

Remove from the heat and let cool slightly before bottling. vino cotto will keep in a cool place for at least 1 year.

Dolce Vita Bloggers
Dolce Vita Bloggers





Comments (12)

  1. Questa Dolce Vita (@questadolcevita)

    Lisa, thank you for sharing a recipe that has meant so much to your family. I actually teared up when I read the line “passed down from my mother”. I’m so emotional lately! I think reading your intro about your grandparents and the hardships they faced just really got to me. What a connection and what a beautiful memory, I love how food does that.


    1. Lisa

      Ciao Jasmine. Good to hear from you. Family recipes have that ability of tapping into our emotional psyche. Not to make you cry, but the recipe is hand written by my Mom. xo

  2. Georgina Carpentieri

    Sounds like an interesting recipe. I have heard of something similar in my families recipes.I’ll have to try it.

  3. Un po’ di pepe

    Ciao Lisa
    My comment didn’t work last night, so i’ll try again. Vino cotto is connected with so many memories for me! Today Papa will be getting his grapes for vino. We will all help put them through the ‘uva mulcher thing’ (I’m sure it has a real name) into the barrel. Mamma will take some of this mosto and tomorrow she will have it on the stove all day boiling down until it is a thick syrup. I always receive my little bottle too. We use vino cotto to make muscitaglia Nov 1, and our traditional Pugliese Christmas dolci, cartellate and cauzuncill’. When I was a child, I remember making ‘vino cotto slushies’ in the snow! Grazie for the great post. Ciao, Cristina

    1. Lisa

      Ciao Cristina. We liken the vino cotto to liquid gold…. My background is also Pugliese. I would love to have your recipe for muscitaglia. That recipe is an urban legend in my family – and no one has the recipe…..

      1. Un po’ di pepe

        Ciao Lisa. Wow-una leggenda metropolitana! Muscitaglia is so good-I actually have a blog post on muscitaglia which you can check out. I can’t remember if there is a recipe, but I’ll have a look and can send you a more detailed one. Ciao, Cristina

      2. Un po’ di pepe

        Ciao Lisa
        I have posted a photo of our vino cotto boiling on the stove on instagram @unpodipepe. Ciao, Cristina

  4. Bellissimamma

    I like the expression “Brutta ma buono”…it describes most of my cooking, hehe! I love the fact that your mom wrote this recipe. I think that’s amazing. It is my first time to hear about Vino Cotto. Pinning this recipe for later! #dolcevitabloggers

  5. Lucy and Kelly

    We’ve never heard of this recipe before, but it sounds really tasty! Thank you for sharing! We love recipes passed down through the family! <3

    Lucy and Kelly xx

  6. Kelly

    Ciao Lisa, what a special family recipe! I feel so honored that you have shared it with us. That’s what I love about Italian food…I am always learning about something new, and this is the first time I’ve heard of vino cotto. I would love to try this recipe for the holidays! I will certainly think of you and thank your mother when I make it! <3

  7. mammaprada

    Wow I’ve never heard of vino cotto! So lovely for you to have these memories and still be able to make this as well! I love the cookies. What a romantic name. Thank you for sharing!

  8. Rochelle

    Handed down dishes are so special, I know whenever I make something my Nonna used to make it reminds me of her, each recipe is really a piece of family history isn’t it!
    Right now in Sicily, where I live it’s wine making season so there is plenty of vino cotto action happening, it’s actually a quite versatile ingredient, it’s also the secret ingredient in Marsala! Thanks for your wonderful recipe, I’m looking forward to trying it!

Comments are closed.