Tag Archives: carnival

Castagnole recipe


Lent this year starts this Wednesday, 18 February. (Making today Collop Monday in olde British parlance.)  Which means it’s still Carnival, Carnevale, and there’s time for a few more traditional treats of the season. Anyone who’s read my blog before will know I enjoy castagnole, the Italian Carnevale sweets that are basically dough-ball doughnuts. The name relates to the Italian for chestnut, castagna, as they’re of similar dimensions, and deepfried to a lovely brown colour but there’s nothing else chestnut related in the recipe.

I ate loads of them last week when we visited Rome, but here’s my own recipe, for those of us living in countries with a more miserably chaste take on Carnevale.

You can make castagnole without any leavening agent at all, or there are recipes that are leavened with yeast. But I found this worked well, resulting in the balls puffing up and cracking slightly when you deep-fry them, and a fairly open, spongy interior.

250g plain/all-purpose or low protein 00 flour
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch salt
50g caster sugar
Zest of half a lemon (optional)
50g butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 medium eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
Sunflower oil for frying*
Sugar for serving

1. Sieve the flour and baking powder into a bowl. Add the pinch of salt, sugar and zest.
2. Add the vanilla to the eggs and beat slightly, then add this along with the butter to the flour mixture.

Castagnole componentsCastagnole dough 1

Castagnole dough 2Castagnole dough 3
3. Combine all the ingredients, then turn out and work to a soft, smooth dough. Don’t overwork it.
4. Wrap in plastic and rest for half an hour.

Shaping castagnole
5. Divide the ball of dough up into pieces and roll these into sausage shapes.
6. Cut the sausages into small pieces, about 20g each.
7. Roll these piece between your hands to form small balls.

Frying castagnole
8. Heat oil in a large pan (to about 180C if you have a thermometer) then deepfry the balls in small batches, until golden, about 2-5 minutes.
9. Remove from the oil and drain on kitchen paper, to absorb some of the oil.

Castagnole cooling
10. To serve, liberally with icing sugar (aka powdered sugar, confectioner’s sugar) or roll in caster sugar. Or indeed both if you really like refined sugar. So healthy!

Enjoy… while you can. I mean, you can make them any time you like, especially if you’re not Catholic or are entirely nonreligious, but personally I like keeping seasonal specialities special by having them at the relevant time of the year. So that means I have to eat all these before Wednesday. It’s not like I’m religious and going to have an ascetic Lent, but I respect the principle.

Castagnole close up


* Italian recipes I looked at say “Olio di semi” – seed oil, ie sunflower seed oil – or simply “Olio per frittura” – oil for frying, while another says “strutto” – lard. We talked about this on our last visit to Italy, where people even use olive oil for deep-frying, something that’s contrary to what we’ve been told here in the UK. There are, however, a lot of arguments (smoke points, cost factors, etc) and a lot of myths (destruction of nutrients etc), which I won’t go into now. Suffice to say, I actually used a mix of sunflower oil and rapeseed oil, as the latter is something that’s produced locally to where I live, unlike olive oil, which, sadly, isn’t.


Filed under Cakes, Feasts, Recipes

Carnival and castagnole 2013

We don’t really do Carnival in England or the rest of the UK. Or at least, as Wikipedia says, “Carnival is traditionally held in areas with a large Catholic… makeup. Protestant areas usually do not have Carnival celebrations or have modified traditions, such as the Danish Carnival or other Shrove Tuesday events.”

Although I was raised a Catholic, we didn’t do anything like Carnival in my home – it was just Shrove Tuesday, aka Pancake Day (a blowout on pancakes, lemon and sugar that even heathens enjoy), then Lent (restraint for Catholics), then Easter (a blowout on highly religious chocolate eggs…). So Carnival here surprises me. The Romans once more express their love of  fireworks and a snow of confetti is added to the general mess in the streets.

(As an aside – confetti is clearly an Italian loanword in English. Though confusingly, it’s not the Italian for confetti – ie the stuff you throw at the happy couple at weddings. Rice and small paper thrown at weddings, or used to celebrate Carnival, is called coriandoli in Italian – the plural of the herb/spice coriander. Confetto [plural confetti] instead means both a pill or a sugared almond.)

More cheery than the garbage are  the seasonal edible goodies. Last year, we discovered castagnole and frappe, treats sold specifically at Carnival. I wrote these treats last year (here and here), their characteristics, the other regional names used in Italy, etc then so I’ll try not to go on too much now.

This year we’ve been eschewing the crunchy delights of frappe, deep-fried sweet pasta shreds, dusted with icing sugar. Instead, we’ve mostly been focussing on castagnole, smallish balls of deep-fried dough that may or may not be filled with custards or ricotta. We’ve been favouring the non-filled, castagnole semplici this year. They’re basically dough-balls, very similar in taste and texture to a British doughnut – sweet dough, deep-fried, rolled or coated in sugar. You can watch some being made here, with the recipe (in Italian or English). TBH, I walk past so many pasticcerie on a daily basis that are brimming with castagnole I don’t feel the need to make them. But if I do, I will of course report back.

Since Christmas I’ve been vowing to ease off on the making and scoffing of cakes, ease off on the purchasing and scoffing of pasticceria wares. But hey, it’s still winter, it’s cold, and I think we can justify the intensive regime of carbs for a few more weeks. At least until Shrove Tuesday, then we should really stop for Lent (Quaresima). Oh, hang on, that’s tomorrow. Oh, hang on again though – we’re not religious, so it’s okay. I’m not sure about the rest of the population of good Catholics here though: the pasticcerie don’t suddenly stop selling castagnole and frappe for Quaresima, so somebody’s still busy eating them, all the way to Easter. So not really observing Lent very assiduously. Vergogna! For shame!


Filed under Cakes, Discussion