[For tips on places where to celebrate Carnival in Emilia-Romagna, read this post.]
Traditionally, Carnival was a time to party and to indulge before the 40 days of fasting and penitence leading to Easter. For this reason, sweets abounded during this time: they were simple yet tasty, and usually fried in lard (now mostly replaced by oil, less heavy and fat).
Emilia-Romagna, like all regions in Italy, has its own traditional Carnival treats. Below is a look at the most popular.
Sfrappole is the most common dolce di Carnevale, known with different names and with slight variations outside of Emilia-Romagna. Sfrappole are made with flour and eggs, shaped into strips, fried and sprinkled with powdered sugar. The result? A sweet, crispy dough that is hard to resist – be warned: it’s pretty much impossible to stop at una sfrappola!
You’ll find sfrappole in many bakeries around Bologna and Emilia-Romagna, probably with different names: chiacchiere in Parma, intrigoni in Reggio Emilia, crostoli in Ferrara, frappe in Modena, fiocchetti in Rimini…
Whatever the name, sfrappole are quite easy to make, so why not try a homemade recipe?
Recipe for Sfrappole
Ingredients: 2 eggs, 2 cups of flour, 1 liter of vegetable oil, powdered sugar.
Preparation: arrange the flour on a table with the eggs in in the middle. Work the mixture well, form a ball, cover and let it rest for 30 minutes. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin to make a thin layer. Cut in 4 cm high strips, then cut into diamond shapes about 15 cm long. Fry a few at a time, making sure you don’t overcook them. When they are golden on both sides, remove from the pan and pat dry on paper towels. Allow to cool and sprinkle with powdered sugar.
Even tagliatelle, a typical dish of Emilia-Romagna, are made into a traditional Carnival treat: tagliatelle fritte. The dough normally prepared for regular tagliatelle is sprinkled with sugar and either grated lemon or orange peel. The sheet of dough is then rolled and cut the same way as you would for tagliatelle, but it’s left in rolls that are deep fried. This tradition hails from the peasant cuisine of the Romagna Apennines, but it’s popular everywhere around the region.
Just as tasty are frittelline di riso, cooked in milk; once prepared using leftovers, they are especially popular in the area around Ravenna. The rice is cooked in sweetened milk until you get the consistency of risotto. You then mix it with eggs, a pinch of salt and a drop of Marsala or grappa. The mixture is poured by spoonfuls into a pan with lard (or oil) and – you guessed it – fried until golden brown. Frittelline are then sprinkled with sugar and served hot.
Finally, castagnole were mentioned even in the most famous and widely read of all Italian cookbooks, Pellegrino Artusi’s La Scienza in Cucina e l’Arte di Mangiare Bene. Artusi described castagnole as typical of Romagna and, well, not exactly a refined food – ‘yet people may like them,’ he wrote. Made with flour, eggs, fumetto (an anise-flavored liqueur) and lemon rind, castagnole may not be refined, but they sure please the crowds!
Buon Carnevale… e Buon Appetito!