Carnevale is one of Italy’s most famous festivals and the ultimate party before Ash Wednesday. Italians enjoy plenty of traditional sweets during this time since it is the last time they can indulge before the start of Quaresima (Lent), a period of forty days, without their favorite treats.
During the Carnevale season in Venice, pastry shop windows are filled with various kinds of frittelle, some with raisins and pine nuts, others filled with pastry cream. One of the most popular and an Italian Carnevale favorite are Frittelle Veneziane, delicious fried balls of dough filled with sweet Nutella.
Migliaccio is typical of Naples and its surrounding areas and is baked on Shrove Tuesday. It is a type of cake made with wheat, milk, vanilla, butter, eggs, sugar, lemon and ricotta cheese. What makes a good Migliaccio is high-quality ricotta and this area is particularly renowned for the ingredient.
Chiacchiere is a traditional Italian dessert enjoyed during Carnevale in the region of Campania. It is typically served with ‘sanguinaccio,’ a chocolate sauce. Years ago, the sanguinaccio was made with pig’s blood, but now it is substituted with chocolate.
Frittelle di Mela alla Vaniglia are among the classic Carnevale treats. The recipe below calls for apples, but you can also use fresh strawberries, bananas or peaches.
Cater to your sweet tooth before Lent by indulging in these scrumptious Italian treats.
Frittelle Veneziane with Nutella
3-1/2 cups 00 flour
3-1/2 oz sugar, plus more for garnishing
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs, room temperature
1-3/4 cups whole milk, divided in half, plus more if needed
1-1/2 ounces yeast
6-8 cups oil for frying
1 large jar Nutella
In a bowl, mix together the flour, sugar and salt. Stir the eggs and half of the milk together and add it to the flour mixture. Whisk together gently just until combined. Warm the other half of the milk and add the yeast, stirring until the yeast is dissolved. Add the milk and yeast mixture to the flour mixture and stir just until all the ingredients are combined. The dough will be quite loose/wet. Do not try to dissolve all the lumps in the dough or you will overwork the flour causing the frittelle to be dense and heavy. Cover the bowl with a towel and let rise for about 5 hours, when it should have doubled in size. When the dough is ready, stir it again. It should still be very loose and sticky. If not, add a little more milk.
In a heavy pot for frying, heat the oil to 365°F. Spoon the batter, scooped into 1-1/2 inch balls, into the oil. Fry until the frittelle are cooked through, about 5 minutes. Do not overcrowd your pot or you will reduce the temperature of the oil and they will not cook properly.
Remove the frittelle with a slotted spoon and place on a plate covered with paper towels to drain. Once they have cooled enough to handle, roll each in granulated sugar. Once you have fried them all, poke a hole in the tops of them. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a round tip with Nutella and pipe it into each frittelle. Enjoy while they are still warm.
1 cup whole milk
3 cups water
3-1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 medium lemons
1-1/2 cups semolina flour
1 cup fresh ricotta
4 large eggs
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1-1/2 tsp limoncello (optional)
powdered sugar, as needed for serving
With the oven rack in the middle, preheat the oven to 390°F. Take one lemon and use a vegetable peeler to create 4-5 large, wide swaths of zest, being careful to avoid the bitter white pith. Take the other lemon and use a fine grater to create finely shaved zest.
In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, over a medium flame, bring the milk, water, butter and large strips of lemon zest just to a simmer. As soon as the milk starts to bubble, remove the strips of zest with a slotted spoon or fine-mesh strainer and discard. Sprinkle the semolina into the pot gradually, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to low and continue to stir until the mixture thickens and becomes dense and smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, eggs, granulated sugar, finely grated zest, vanilla extract and limoncello (if using) and mix well with a wooden spoon or electric hand mixer on medium-low until well blended. Gradually add the semolina mixture to the ricotta mixture, stirring well to create a smooth, creamy mixture without any large lumps (a few small lumps are fine).
Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan and transfer the mixture to the pan. Bake until the cake is firm and the top is golden brown, about 40-45 minutes. Let cool completely, then sprinkle lightly with powdered sugar before serving.
Chiacchiere with Sanguinaccio
2 cups all-purpose flour
5 tbsp white sugar
1 pinch salt
3 tbsp butter, melted
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp dry white wine
2 tbsp rum
1 tsp grated lemon zest
5 cups white sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1-1/2 cups cornstarch
1 quart whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
13 (1 oz) squares unsweetened chocolate
1 quart vegetable oil for frying
1/2 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
Sift the flour, 5 tablespoons sugar and salt into a large bowl and make a well in the center. Whisk together the eggs, butter, olive oil, wine, rum and lemon zest in a separate bowl until smooth; pour into the flour mixture. Stir together until a dough forms, then knead on a lightly floured work surface until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Place into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 1 hour.
While the dough rests, stir together 5 cups white sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon and cornstarch in a large saucepan. Slowly pour in the milk, whisking constantly. Stir in the vanilla. Add the unsweetened chocolate and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring constantly, then remove from the heat and allow the sauce to cool to room temperature.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface. Roll with a well-floured rolling pin to a thickness of 1/8 of an inch. Use a sharp knife to cut the dough into 2×5 inch rectangles. Alternately, pinch off an egg-sized piece of dough and roll it through a pasta machine. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Heat the oil in deep-fryer to 375°F. Fry the Chiacchiere a few at a time until golden brown; remove and drain on a paper towel-lined plate. To serve, arrange the Chiacchiere on a platter; pour the Sanguinaccio sauce over the pastry and sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.