Home Italy Revisited Bookshelf Plays About Mary Melfi Contact Us
Castagnole (Fried dough balls, without yeast, Italian Carnival fritters)
Originated from: Northern Italy
Occasion: Carnival (Fried Balls of Dough, without yeast)
Contributed by: Mary Melfi

Printer Friendly Version


2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup melted butter
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
Zest of 1 lemon

Vegetable oil for deep frying*

Confectioners' sugar [icing sugar] for dusting

* Prior to World War II olive oil was used for deep frying in Italy, but nowadays most North Americans of Italian origin use all-purpose vegetable oil; however, most cooks, Italian or otherwise, agree that canola oil or peanut oil is best for frying as these oils don't leave an aftertaste.


Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, eggs, butter, vanilla and grated zest of one lemon and make a soft dough.

Using a spoon (round-shaped) make small balls the size of a walnut. Heat the oil in a pan and then fry the balls until they are golden brown.

Remove from pan and place on paper towels to absorb excess oil.


Dust with confectioners' sugar before serving.


This recipe has its origin in Northern Italy, possibly around Venice, but it's hard to say as it is now very popular in a number of regions. Prior to World War II castagnole fritters were associated with Carnival and so are sometimes known as "carnival fritters." In North America castagnole are often served at weddings or at baptisms -- they're stacked one top of each other to form the shape of a mountain. There are dozens of variations on this recipe, some recipes include aniseed liqueur, others white grappa. Some recipes are yeast-based, others use baking powder. My take on the classic dessert is not the best by far, but it might be one of the easiest to do. These castagnole taste similar to donut "munchkins", other recipes' have a lighter texture, but they involve a great deal more effort. For a similar recipe that is a touch easier to do see "Tarallucci di Natale" in "Taralli and Rolls." Photo: Mary Melfi

Back to main list