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Caragnoli or Rosacatarre
Caragnoli / Rosacatarre (Christmas Molisani sweet fritters, without yeast, rose wheels)
Originated from: Casacalenda, Molise, Italy
Occasion: Christmas and Carnival holidays
Contributed by: Mary Melfi (her mother's recipe)

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For pastry dough

3 eggs
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
Flour as needed (about 2 cups to 2 1/4 cups)

For deep frying
Vegetable oil

For topping
2 to 3 cups of honey
1/4 cup to 1/2 cup icing sugar for dusting

* Prior to World War II olive oil was generally used to make all kinds of sweets, including fritters. Sometimes lard was used, but on the whole, olive oil was the fat of choice as that was the cheapest thing available (Most households in the countryside grew their own olives).... Nowadays most North Americans of Italian origin use all-purpose vegetable oil. However, most professional cooks, Italian or otherwise, agree that peanut oil is best for frying as this oil doesn't leave an aftertaste. Those adverse to peanuts, can opt for canola oil as this too is good for frying.

**** Spellings vary. Caragnole [Caragnole, singular, Caragnoli (plural); dialect, "car?njele," sometimes spelled caragnelle in North America. Also known as "Rosacatarre," "rosachitarre," or "Rosacatarle."


1. In a mixing bowl beat eggs.

2. Add sugar and mix well.

3. Add oil.

4. Mix flour and baking powder [P.S. this style of fritter needs a lot less baking powder than the others, because the baking powder will puff up the dough, and this will cause the fritter to lose its delicate shape.]

5. Add the flour slowly to the egg, sugar and oil mixture and work into a soft dough [The dough should be soft enough so that the pastry strips will later stick together, but hard enough that the dough can pass through a pasta maker]. If the dough is too soft, add a touch more flour; if it's too hard add a touch more oil. Knead (by hand) for a few minutes.

6. Divide the dough into two portions and shape them into balls. Wrap the dough-balls in clear plastic and place them in separate containers. Let the dough rest for 4 to 6 hours. [P.S. Nowadays, most cooks, concerned over the eggs spoiling, either let the dough only rest for half an hour at room temperature, or let it rest for longer periods of time in the fridge. Nonetheless, prior to World War II, the dough rested at room temperature for long periods of time (perhaps even overnight). Of course, back then most homes were rather cold in the winter, so perhaps that is why dough could be kept at room temperature without any adverse effect.]

7. Remove one of the dough-balls out of its container and form a log (Kind of like a biscotti log). With a sharp knife cut a small piece of dough (about 2 inches wide). Flour the piece of dough, and pass it through a pasta machine. The resulting pastry panel (or sheet) should be a bit thinner than a lasagna noodle (The second to last number on the pasta machine should result in the right thickness -- about an 1/8 of an inch thick). Ideally, the panel should measure about 28 inches long.

8. Using a serrated roller pastry cutter cut the pastry panel into strips about 1 3/4 inch wide x 26 inches long.

9. To make the rose wheel take a strip of dough and fold it over, then every inch or so pinch the two sides together so that there is an opening or cup between every pinch (One can place one's finger in the fold and then pinch on the side of the finger). When the strip of dough has been pinched and cups have been formed curl the dough onto itself, round and round, so that it looks like a rose. To retain this shape parts of the strips have to be pinched together.

10. Place the rose-wheel-shaped caragnole cookie on a flat surface.

11. Repeat steps 3,4, 5 and 6 for each piece of dough you cut. It's best to cut one panel at a time and turn that panel into caragnole as soon as possible as the dough hardens very quickly when exposed to the air and this interferes with the shaping of the fritter.

12. When all the the rose wheels are completed, fry them in hot vegetable oil until they are golden (Avoid browning them as they will taste burnt).

13. Place the fried rose wheels directly on kitchen paper towels so that the excess oil is usurped [Due to the shape of the fritter, if they are not placed directly on kitchen paper, a lot of oil will remain in the fritters, making them rather soggy.]. Cool.

14. To glaze the rose wheels with honey heat two to three cups of honey in a pan until it bubbles and then dip the tops of the rose wheels one by one into the honey (Takes only a few seconds for the rose wheels to be coated with honey) and then place the honeyed rose wheel onto a prepared tray (Some cooks grease the tray so that this will prevent them from sticking to the surface). In any case it's best to place the caragnole in a large tray, so that they will avoid sticking together.

15. Alternatively, one can avoid step No. 10 and simply dust the caragnole with icing sugar after they have been fried and cooled.

16. Serve at room temperature (the fresher the better).


All my adult life I assumed "caragnoli" fritters were shaped as half-bows as that was how my mother made them each Christmas. It never occurred to me that they could be presented in any other shape. In the past year or so I learned that not only do "caragnoli" come in different forms, but that the name itself may refer to different styles of fried pastries -- what's a "caragnole" in one town is not necessarily a "caragnole" in another town. It seems, according to my mother, that in Casacalenda, Molise, "caragnoli" were shaped in the form of rose wheels. However, when she immigrated to Canada in the late 1950s she saw other Italians doing their fritters as half-bows and so she decided that was the way to do them, as that shape was easier to get right. Now, the story would end there, except my aunt who lives in Hamilton, does not agree with my mother. She believes that in Casacalenda, Molise the "caragonli" were shaped in the form of a spiral. When she was a little girl in the 1930s her mother made them in this form. Now, my mother's own mother, my grandmother, Nonna Zeppe, never made "caragnoli" in the 1930s as sugar was expensive, and therefore avoided doing most sweets. Nonetheless, my mother remembers that in the early 1950s her mother-in-law, my paternal grandmother, Nonna Assunta, made rose-wheeled shaped "caragnoli." So it's hard to say if rose-wheeled "caragnoli" only became popular after World War II or if they were also popular prior to it. My aunt believes one thing, my mother another. All I can know for sure is that in Montreal, Canada my mother, along with my late aunts, Zia Teresa and Zia Nunziatina, presented their fritters as half-bows. The information that the recipe for "caragnoli" had been modified in North America came as a bit of a shock to me. I had always assumed the food I ate as a child was what my mother also ate as a child -- meaning that it was "traditional" and went way back. Actually, it now seems that the "caragnoli" recipe was just one of many that had been modified. Most of the so-called "traditional" recipes I had grown up were not the real thing.... The first thing that was changed was the type of fat used. In Italy olive oil was generally used to make fritters and biscotti. Lard was sometimes used, but as it was a lot more expensive than olive oil, it was reserved for special kinds of sweets (e.g. tarts). The second thing that was changed was how the fried foods were sweetened. Prior to World War II icing sugar was unknown (or unavailable) in the countryside, so obviously it was not used to "dust" fritters. Honey was used, but honey was expensive, so generally speaking, the poor had to use regular table sugar to dust their fritters. In Canada icing sugar was cheap, so, of course, cooks dusted their fritters with it. Also, in Italy, prior to World War II, most foods, including sweets, were fried. In Canada most cooks took to "baking." In addition, baking powder was added to a lot of dough recipes that didn't originally call for it. Obviously, in Italy, prior to World War II, cooks living in the countryside, had no choice but to use a rolling pin to roll out their dough as there were no pasta makers. In North America pasta markers were found in most Italian households -- well, they were, by the late 1960s. The list of modifications goes on and on. Everyone ended up with their own personalized take on "traditional" recipes. For example, for the caragnoli dough recipe my late aunt, Zia Teresa, used: 4 eggs, 4 handfuls of flour, 4 tablespoons sugar, 4 tablespoons oil and 1 teaspoon Magic baking powder. Of course, what my aunt defined as "4 handfuls of flour" remains a mystery. My aunt Zia Rosina uses less sugar and fewer eggs, I believe. So if one has hit the big 50 and is still lucky enough to have one's mother around, one should really make it a point to write down her "traditional" recipes, as it's unlikely anyone else (Even one's relatives!) will be able to provide you with them. Sure there are places one can get information and they're a good place to start. Here is what Italian-language Wikipedia says about caragnoli: "I caragnoli insieme alle rosacatarre, sono dolci tipici del basso Molise, preparati per le festivit? Natalizie e per Carnevale il cui impasto a base di farina, uova ed olio viene avvolto a forma di elica e fritto, quindi ricoperto di miele...... In English (machine translation by Google): Caragnoli along with rosacatarre, are typical of the low Molise, prepared for the festive Christmas and Carnival, whose dough made of flour, eggs and oil is wrapped in the shape of a helix and fried, then covered with honey...." P.S. The Italian Wikipedia has the following text on this fritter: "Le rosacatarre o rosachitarre sono dolci tipici Molisani, preparati per le festivitą Natalizie insieme ai Caragnoli. Il nome deriva dalla forma: si tratta di strisce di pasta a base di farina, uova ed olio che vengono avvolte su se stesse ad imitare i petali della rosa, quindi vengono fritte e intinte nel miele bollita (od in alcune cucine una mescola di miele ed acqua, per un sapore meno zuccherato)." Machine google translation:" The rosacatarre or rosachitarre are sweets Molise, prepared for the Christmas holidays together with Caragnoli. The name comes from the shape: it is strips of dough made ​​of flour, eggs and oil which are wound onto themselves to imitate the petals of the rose, then they are fried and dipped in honey boiled (or in some kitchens a mixture of honey and water, for a less sweet flavor).".....Photo: Mary Melfi.

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