Tag Archives: pasta

Acciuleddi – Sardinian deep-fried sweet pasta

Acciuleddi, drizzled with honey

We first encountered acciuleddi on our holiday in Sardinia a few weeks ago. They’re a form of sweet, deep-fried pasta and as such are a cousin to frappe, which are found on the Italian mainland. I ate a lot of frappe in Rome, when they would appear in shops for Carnevale – the blow-out before the fasting period of Lent, the run-up to Easter in the Christian calendar.

Pasta, deep-fried then sweetened? What’s not to like? Well, perhaps such things aren’t brilliant for your arteries so it’s good they’re just eaten for Carnevale. Except of course it wasn’t Carnevale in June for our holiday, so I think the proprietress of the Gallurese (northern Sardinian) bakery we bought them, La Panetteria del Porto in La Maddalena, from was bending the rules slightly.

If she can do it, so can I. Though I wouldn’t normally endorse eating celebratory seasonal or feast-day foods at the wrong time of year. It’s as obnoxious as British supermarkets stocking hot cross buns all year round. They cease to be special if they’re on the shelves all the time.

Sweet pasta
The very concept of sweet pasta may be a bit weird for staid Brits, but I just couldn’t resist a crack at these, given my love of frappe.

Looking at Italian – and Sardi – recipes, the pasta generally seems to be made with semola rimacinata di grano duro – that is fine, “re-milled” semolina (Triticum durum) flour. That’s not something it’s terribly easy to source here in the UK, so I went for a mixture of 00 flour for the fineness, and normal (ie medium milled) semolina for some robustness.

Also, the pasta does seem to have been traditionally made with strutto – lard. Now, I don’t have a problem with lard in principle, as I do eat some meat and as it was a key ingredient for older, traditional British baking (such lardy johns, or the more well-known lardy cake). The thing is, I try to only eat meat where I know the provenance, and generally that means from people we trust who have a farm nearby. I hoped they’d do some lard, but they just don’t have the demand. Instead, the only readily available lard in small-town England is foul crap spat out by the grotesque industrial meat machine, and I don’t want to use that. Instead, I’m going for all eggs, which some of the Italian recipes I researched also did.

So really, it’s just a pretty basic egg pasta – with the familiar ratio of 1 egg to 100g flour. Though with a little added sugar and some lemon zest.

Then deep-fried.

Surface & tension
The best surface for making fresh pasta is marble, the next best is stainless steel. I don’t have either, so I just used my bamboo worktop, rubbed with a bit of oil, as I do when making bread. It worked fine.

150g 00 flour
50g semolina
20g icing sugar (or caster)
Pinch salt
Zest of half a lemon (optional), finely chopped
2 medium eggs (about 110g total yolk & white)
Extra water, or egg, if mixture is too dry
Oil for frying

1. Sieve together the flours and icing sugar, add the pinch of salt and lemon zest.
2. Form a mound on your work surface.
3. Create a hole in the middle of the mound, much like the gaping mouth of a miniature volcano. Or like when you’re making concrete by hand.
4. Crack the eggs and put in the hole. You can of course do all this in a bowl, but there’s something very satisfying about eggs in a mound of flour..

Making acciuleddi pasta 1Making acciuleddi pasta 2
5. Using a fork, whisk up the egg, then starting combining the flour. Try to keep that wall around the edge intact, and add the flour bit by bit.
6. When the dough is starting to get quite thick, bring the rest of the flour into it by hand.

Making acciuleddi pasta 3Making acciuleddi pasta 4

7. Knead the dough until smooth, then form a ball, wrap in plastic and rest in the fridge for about half an hour.
8. Take the dough out and cut off small pieces. Mine weighed in at about 15g.

Acciuleddi pasta ballAcciuleddi cutting pasta
9. Take a piece and roll it out to form a long snake. Mine were about 300mm long, 5mm wide.

Acciuleddi, roll outAcciuleddi, roll out
Shaping acciuleddi 2Shaping acciuleddi 3

10. This is the tricky bit, so I’ve also made a video. It’s my first video and it’s not exactly slick, focus is an issue, going out of frame is an issue, and it is entirely un-edited, sorry. But it might help.

11. Anyway, you take the snake and join the two ends together.
12. Gently roll one end, while holding the other end still, to form a spiral. There will be some tension in the spiral – retain it.
13. Now, join the ends together again and that tension should cause it to spiral around itself again – creating a kind of double helix. Help it on its way as needs be.
14. Squeeze together the join.

Acciuleddi ready for frying
15. Put the acciuleddi on a tray or plate, lightly dusted with flour or semolina, and cover while you make the rest so they don’t dry out.
16. Heat oil for frying. I used sunflower oil, though I imagine the most authentic, original ones were fried in lard too. You want it at 180C or thereabouts, if you have a thermometer or fryer with a dial. If not, throw a small piece of dough in. If it bubbles, bobs to the surface and browns within a few minutes, you’re good to go.
17. Fry the acciuleddi in batches until browned.
18. Drain and put on some absorbent paper.

Acciuleddi, drizzle with honey
19. While they’re still warm, pile them up and drizzle them liberally with honey. I used some from our friends’ hives, from when they were in south London. I’ve been saving it for a special occasion. This seemed like one.

The results were good. Sweet, crunchy and simultaneously indulgent and undemonstrative. They were a bit chunkier than the ones we bought from La Panetteria del Porto, so if you want to make more refined, smaller ones, use pieces of dough weighing about 10g and roll that snake even thinner!

I want to go back to Sardinia now.


Filed under Feasts, Misc, Other food, Recipes

Frappe, chiacchiere, cenci, angel wings – sweet deep-fried pasta treats

Plateful of frappe

One of the many things I’m missing about Rome is the pasticcerie – pastry bakeries, patisseries. Our old neighbourhood alone had four within about a hundred metres of each other, all independent, selling wonderful selections of handmade pastries. And what made these places a particular joy – for a baked goods geek like me – was watching their wares change over the seasons.

Particularly fun was the period of Carnevale, equivalent to our word carnival, and from the Latin to “take the meat away”. That is, stop eating meat for Lent, the period of Christian abstinence before Easter. In the Roman pasticcerie, Carnevale seemed to start pretty much immediately after Christmas and was heralded by the appearance of frappe and castagnole. For the two Carnevales we were in Rome, we indulged in these goodies extensively (check out here, here and here).

Plateful 2

Angelic chit-chat
I never tried making them though – there was little incentive when they were easily available. But now I’m home in Blighty, where proper handmade pastries aren’t quite so readily available. Plus, I was browsing Diana Henry’s book Roast Figs Sugar Snow and found her recipe for bugne ­– which are pretty much identical to frappe but from Lyon, France and take their name from the word beignet, another kind of sweet, dough fritter variable.

Bugne and frappe are simply deep-fried pieces of enriched, sweetened pastry or pasta dough* served dusted with icing sugar. Indeed, good ol’ Wikipedia – the dream of the internet incarnate – lumps bugne and frappe and may other similar international treats under the entry for “Angel wings”, which is presumably the US American English term, as I’ve not heard it in British English.

For me they’ll always be frappe as that was the name used in Rome, but even Italian has several other names for them, including cenci (“rags”) and chiacchiere (“chit-chat”).

So anyway, it’s technically Lent now, so I should have done this recipe a few weeks ago. But, well, I’m not religious and I just felt like some. Apologies to any devout Catholics who treat their seasonal gluttony proper seriously.

Frappe recipe

250g plain flour
1/2 t baking powder
30g caster sugar
Pinch of salt
Zest of half a lemon
25g butter, melted and cooled
2 eggs
1/2 t vanilla essence
1/2 T of liquor – grappa, brandy, rum, or whatever depending on your inclinations and what’s in your cabinet. We didn’t really have anything so I added a dash of vodka.
Oil for deep-frying (sunflower or similar)
Icing sugar for dusting

1. Sieve the flour and baking powder together into a bowl.
2. Add the pinch of salt.
3. Add the sugar and lemon zest.

4. Lightly beat together the eggs, add the vanilla essence and liquor.
5. I could say “make a well in the centre….” but I’m not convinced you really need to worry about that unless you’re working directly on a work surface so simply add the egg mix into the flour mix.

Added together
6. Likewise add the melted butter.

7. Bring together a dough. (You could do all this in a food processor, like making short-crust pastry, or in a mixer.)

Ready to roll
8. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a few minutes until smooth and well integrated.
9. Wrap in plastic and leave to rest for at least half an hour in a cool, draught-free place.
10. Pin out the dough to about 1mm thick, maximum 2mm. You want them thin so they cook through and crisp up evenly. Ideally, roll it out with a pasta machine. We don’t have one.

Cut CU
11. Cut rectangles about 5 x 10cm. If you have one of those little pastry wheels that gives a crimpedety** cut, perfect.

12. Cut two slices within the rectangle. The difference between frappe and bugne is in the cut, nominally. With the bugne, you cut one slice and fold the piece of dough in on itself.

13. Heat the oil (to about 170C) then deep-fry the dough pieces a few at a time, until golden.

14. Take out and put on some kitchen paper to absorb some of the fat.
15. When cool, arrange on a plate and dust liberally with icing sugar.

With hot choc
16. Enjoy, perhaps with a nice rich cup of quality hot chocolate.

After our record winter rains, we had a warm, sunny, dry March, very much spring. But now it’s turned cool and wet again, so I think we can do a bit more hot chocolate drinking before it gets too balmy to really enjoy that most delightful of hot drink. Current hot chocolate of choice is still Montezuma’s Dark, but local coffee-grinders Jaju also sell a very fine Columbia hot chocolate.

I found it very hard to stop eating these last night. So it’s probably better if I don’t make them too frequently.

* This dish really highlights the fine line between pastry and pasta.
** I am aware this is not a real word.


Filed under Other food, Recipes, Rome

Dinner at Plistia restaurant, Pescasseroli, Abruzzo

This post does not feature beer. But it does feature some bread, as well as as soup containing grains. And a little cake. Some of which is photographed with my rubbish phone’s rubbish camera.

I know, I know, quality blogging is all about quality photography, especially when food is involved, but generally we’re not lugging the DSLR around with us when we eat and drink. I really need to get a decent phone with a decent camera, or even a new compact camera.

In my defence, I’d say I was more of a writer than a photographer, so hopefully I can describe these dishes through the medium of the English language, to compensate for the blurry pics.

So, the weekend of Saturday 29 June 2013, we headed out of Rome to get some mountain air in Abruzzo. We stayed in the town of Pescasseroli, at the heart of Abruzzo National Park. I’ve written about our hikes here; at the end of our second, long hike, we had a restaurant booked for Fran’s birthday dinner. This was Plistia, a restaurant and albergo located on the main road through the small town.

A kind of pasty - ok, a calzone - in Pescasseroli, Abruzzo

First, however, we had an aperitivo in a bar on the nearby piazza. The snacks included this Abruzzo “pasty” (probably actually a type of calzone, but they’re all related right?), and some sparkling Pecorino.

Many people don’t realise it, but Pecorino isn’t just the name of sheep’s milk cheese, it’s also a very good white wine from Abruzzo and adjoining regions, or more specifically a grape variety. Since we moved to Italy and started learning more about the vast number of Italian wines that don’t make an impression in the export market, it’s become our go-to white wine. Although Pecorinos (Pecorini?) vary, they’re generally slightly foral wines with some body – and as such a very nice versatile alternative to something like a Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio. When we moved on to Plistia, the host, Cicitto, settled us in and filled our glasses with more Pecorino.

No menus were offered, but we were absotuly happy with his. He just said, “We’re going to feed you, lots of food, take it slowly”. Considering you enter the restaurant via a dogleg hallway with a view straight into the open kitchen, they’re clearly confident about their food. Fran had researched the place more than me, but I was also reassured by this confidence, and years of Slow Food certificates on the wall.

On our honeymoon, in Croatia and Italy, Fran and I had agreed that for a couple of taster menus we had arranged, we would eat everything, despite our personal preferences (hers: red meat; mine: very little red meat). When Cicitto went to get the first dish, Fran and I shook on “Croatia rules”. Of course, this being inland Italy, where the food is hearty and the red meat ready and bleeding, that was always going to be more in her favour, but hey – it was her birthday!

The first course was a cheese plate. Cicitto said four of the seven cheeses were world champions. I don’t know anything about cheese world championships (it doesn’t really get the TV coverage of the World Cup, say), but they were delicious: five sheeps’ milk and one goats’ milk, of varying characteristics: young and sweet, mature and crunchy. The two harder, more mature ones we were instructed to eat with a strawberry sauce with balsamic, and a very nice combination it was too.

lardo bread

Next up we had something that was apparently an invention of the chef, Laura, Cicitto’s wife, rather than a traditional Abruzzo item with a name… I think. I could be wrong. Anyway, it was basically like a savoury doughnut, swathed in lardo. People assume lardo is just Italian for lard, but it’s a false friend. Lard is actually struzzo. Lardo is in fact a cured meat, like prosciutto crudo but with an emphasis on the fat. Racheleats discusses of the differences between several types of salumipancetta, guanciale and lardo – and has a good photo to illustrate it:

pancetta, guanciale, lardo from Racheleats

Again, despite the crapness of my photo it was delicious. The bread, made with a lievito madre (natural leaven), was white and soft inside, and the crust was crunchy and fatty, from the cooking oil and from the flavoursome melting lardo. It’s exactly the sort of thing I’d never naturally be inclined to try, but loved when I did.

Next up was a soup. This was exactly the sort of thing I would naturally want to eat: a thoroughly rustic minestra. This one was made with grains, beans and greens. The grains were farro decorticato, or more specifically they were husked emmer. The beans were cannellini, or similar. The greens were an Abruzzo spinach. It was one of those soups that had such depth of flavour you wonder how it was achieved with such simple ingredients. It wasn’t even made with a meat stock, apparently. Fab. As much as I enjoyed the whole meal, the soup alone would have made me happy.

Soup at Plistia, Pescasseroli

After the soup we had not one but two pasta primi. The first was caramelle, that is filled pasta shapes that resemble wrapped hard sweets, or like ravioli that have had their ends twisted. The filling here was faraona – guinea fowl – and they had a buttery sauce with juniper berries. The latter are an important part of Abruzzo cuisine it seems.

Caramelle at Plistia, Pescasseroli

The second pasta was made with short, flat noodle pieces (possibly maltagliata – “badly cut”) that had parsley and pecorino cheese in the dough. It was served with a sauce with a little guanciale, saffron and some thin so-called wild asparagus. This was one of the meal’s weaker courses as it was a little salty and the asparagus was a bit woody. I’m surprised they had it, as over in Lazio we’re way past asparagus season. Sure there’s a different climate in the mountains of Abruzzo, but asparagus is a spring vegetable, and it was 30 June.

After all this, we were pieno come le uova (“full like eggs”), but meataholic Fran could hardly resist the offer of a steak. I don’t really eat steak, so we had one between us and she had the lion’s share. It was tender and bloody, and came in a deglazing sauce of red wine with black peppercorns and more juniper.

We were officially full by this point, but it seemed almost rude to deflect the offer of a desert. We had one plate, with a meringue and a kind of light custard, a ricotto cake and a chocolate form filled with more of the custard. These provided a sugary hit, but didn’t really compare with the flavoursome savoury courses.

Overall though, a suberb meal, and one of the best I’ve had in Italy. Furthermore, it cost about €40 a head – a price you could easily pay in Rome for just two mediocre courses and a few glasses of wine. Most certainly a meal with buon rapporto qualità-prezzo. So if you find yourself in Abruzzo, perhaps doing some hiking in the beautiful mountains, we heartily recommend a visit to Cicitto and Laura at Plistia’s restaurant.

Plistia, Via Principe di Napoli 28, 67032 Pescasseroli, Abruzzo
albergoristoranteplistia.it / info@albergoristoranteplistia.it / +39 (0) 863 910 732


Filed under Misc, Other food, Restaurants etc