For this year, the Carnival season is nearly over, but it’s always a good time to make Castagnole. Castagnole are small ricotta doughnuts coated with sugar sold in bakeries all around Italy, or often prepared at home, around January and February.
Castagnole are traditionally sold in or around Rome during the Carnival period. You will find similar sweet fritters in the rest of Italy too, with different names depending on the region: favette, frittole, frittelle, or tortelli.
The main ingredients of castagnole are: eggs, sugar, flour and citrus zest like lemon or orange. They can be prepared with or without ricotta cheese and there are also many regional variations that include raisins or rhum. Castagnole are usually quite small, so a teaspoon of dough fried in hot oil is enough to make one fritter ball. They are then served with a dusting of sugar or icing sugar.
In the spirit of Carnival and as a tribute to my Italian roots I decided to make Castagnole this season. It was my first ever attempt at making them, so when they turned out well and tasty I was very pleased with myself! I still have to master the art of frying (I don’t get a lot of practice since I never crave fried food) so some of them were too brown outside and a bit raw inside.
A helpful tip to remember when frying the dough is to insert a long wooden skewer in the oil; when bubbles form around it then the oil is at the right temperature.
I am so pleased that my castagnole which turned out perfectly cooked and delicious, so I consider this a success! I loved the lemon and orange taste, so in my opinion the zest is a key element of this recipe.
I used these two recipes as references: Ricette della Nonna (in Italian); Emiko Davies for Food52.
- 250g ricotta
- 6-7 tbsp plain flour
- 2 medium eggs
- zest of 1 orange
- zest of 1 lemon (or 1/2 tsp lemon extract)
- 2 tbsp caster sugar
- 3 tsp baking powder (or one sachet of lievito Pane degli Angeli)
- vegetable oil, for frying
Mix all of the ingredients together (except for the oil) in a mixing bowl until well combined. The mixture should be soft, not as liquid as pancake batter but not dense like bread dough either.
Over low heat, heat a small saucepan with enough oil for the fritters to float. Drop teaspoon-sized blobs of the dough into the hot oil and fry until evenly golden-brown, about 90 seconds. I fried 3-4 doughnuts at a time (don’t overcrowd the pan as that will make the temperature drop).
Drain on paper towels and, while still hot, roll the fritters in white sugar to coat. Serve warm or cold.
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