Sfogliatelle are created by rolling out dough very thin and slathering it with shortening (or, more authentically, strutto - rendered pork fat). The dough is then carefully rolled up (like a jelly roll), which creates the many layers. It is then cut into thin discs. The center of the disc (which looks like a roll of ribbon) is pushed out to make room for a pocket of filling. The filling is usually orange-flavored ricotta. Sometimes, other fillings, such as almond paste, can also be used for a different taste.
The dough is sealed around the filling, and the pastries are then baked in a special way to make them crispy on the outside and to give them their characteristic ridges as the layers of dough separate.
Sfogliatelle originated in Naples, Italy, and are thought to have been perfected in convents, because their making is so time-consuming.