Castagnole Fritte, Italian Carnival Fritters are sweet, deep fried dough balls. These Italian-style fritters are lemon scented and rolled in granulated sugar while still warm for an extra sweet bite!
Although immensely popular during Carnival season in Italy, these Italian fritters always made an appearance up until our Easter holiday.
Lemon was the choice of flavour for both my parents and the only way dad would eat them. Simply because, they evoked memories of his own mamma whipping up batches of these castagnole with their very familiar lemon scent.
They were typically served on a large platter, piled high, and these sweet carnival fritters would disappear in a flash.
Italian Carnival Fritters
In Italy, there’s no shortage of deep fried treats during Carnival season! They’re the quintessential party snack during these festivities!
You’ll find many variations of fluffy, deep fried dough balls. Both sweet and savoury fritters. Their names will also vary depending on which part of Italy one hails from.
Unlike the popular Zeppole doughnuts with ricotta, these castagnole fritte are leavened with yeast.
They require a teeny bit more work and of course there’s also the rising time to factor in, but they are so worth it in my opinion.
However, if a yeasted dough is not your thing then consider trying some Italian Orange Frittelle: Fried Dough Balls. There’s not much hands on time to these sweet fritters. They are orange scented and partially made with finely ground almonds.
All are soft on the inside! Slightly crunchy on the outside! And totally irresistible!
How To Make Italian Castagnole Fritte
Step One: Place a half cup if warm water in a large bowl. Sprinkle in the yeast and let this stand until the yeast turns frothy, for about 10 minutes. Then stir to dissolve.
Step Two: Add in 1 cup of flour, a pinch of salt and stir the mixture until you have a soft batter.
Step 3: Cover the bowl with cling wrap and set aside, for 30 minutes, in a draft free area of your kitchen.
You’ll notice that the dough will expand after the first initial 30 minutes of rising time.
Step 4: Add the remaining flour, sugar, beaten eggs, zest, butter and vanilla extract to your bowl with the proofed dough. Mix with a wooden spoon till well incorporated. Then transfer the dough to a work surface and knead by hand for about 6 minutes.
You can also knead the dough directly in the bowl of a stand mixer with the hook attachment for about 3 minutes.
When ready it will pull away from the sides of the bowl and will be soft, smooth and slightly tacky.
Step 5: Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl and cover with cling wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm draft free area for about 1 and a half to 2 hours. Or until doubled in size.
Step 6: Once Doubled in size, transfer the dough onto a work surface, lightly press it down with your hands and knead the dough for about 1 minute.
Step 7: Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Roll each piece of dough out into an 18 inch long rope. Then slice each long rope into 1 inch pieces and transfer the cut pieces onto a lightly floured baking sheet.
You can leave the pieces as is or, to make rounder dough balls, gently roll each piece of dough between the palms of your hands.
Deep Frying Italian Sweet Dough Balls
- Pour 2 inches of vegetable or canola oil in a stock pot.
- Heat to 375 degrees F.
- Deep fry the fritters till golden on all sides.
- Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer the fried dough balls to a cookie sheet lined with paper towels to drain off any excess oil.
All that’s left to do before enjoying these sweet carnival fritters is to roll them in granulated sugar while still warm.
How Long Do Castagnole Fritte Stay Fresh
Like any deep fried doughnut, they’re at their best eaten the same day while still warm and soft because they get slightly drier after a day or two.
However, 10 seconds in the microwave will quickly soften them up again.
How to Serve Castagnole Fritte
Although wonderful all on their own while rolled in some granulated sugar, you can also fill them with your favourite jams. Nutella or other chocolate spreads would also be a delicious choice.
- To fill these sweet fritters start by poking a hole in the doughnut.
- Place the jam in a piping bag that is fitted with a round tip. Pipe in up to 1 teaspoon of filling into each doughnut.
Alternately, you can also fill the doughnuts with custard or even some lemon curd.
Or opt out of the filling and top them with a drizzle of some good quality chocolate spread and don’t forget the Carnival sprinkles!
And one can never go wrong with a luscious drizzle of honey over these sweet dough balls.
Whichever way you serve them, they’re sure to disappear in a flash!
And if you love doughnuts as much as I do and have some canned pumpkin lying around, you may want to try these easy to make Pumpkin Ricotta Zeppole (Italian Doughnuts)
If you make this recipe remember to tag @marisasitaliankitchen on Instagram so I can see your creation!
This post was originally published March 23, 2016 and republished February 17, 2021 with updated photos and content.
Castagnole Fritte (Italian Carnival Fritters)
- 8 g active dry yeast 1 envelope
- 1/2 cup lukewarm water
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- generous pinch of salt I used fine sea salt
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs lightly beaten (room temperature)
- 2 tablespoons lemon zest from 2 medium lemons
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter softened
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- vegetable or canola oil for deep frying
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar for rolling approximately
- Sprinkle the yeast in a bowl containing 1/2 cup of lukewarm water and let this sit for a 10 minutes, till frothy, then stir to dissolve.
- Add in 1 cup of the flour, a pinch of salt and stir till you get a soft batter. Cover the bowl with cling wrap and let this sit for about 30 minutes.
- Next, stir in the remaining flour, sugar, the lightly beaten eggs, lemon zest, butter and vanilla extract. Mix well.
- If kneading by hand: Transfer the dough to a work surface and knead for about 6 minutes. The dough should be soft, smooth and just a little bit sticky.
- If using a stand mixer: Knead the dough in the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment for about 3 minutes. When ready the dough will pull away from the sides of the bowl and feel somewhat tacky.
- Lightly grease a large bowl and place the dough in the bowl.
- Cover with cling wrap and let the dough rise in a warm draft free place for 1 to 1 ½ hours. The dough will double in volume.
- When ready transfer the dough to a work surface, lightly punch it down with your hands and knead it for about 1 minute.
- Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces.
- Keep the dough covered with a clean dishcloth while working with 1 piece of dough at a time. (this will keep the dough from drying out)
- Roll each piece of dough out into approximately an 18 inch long rope. (keep covered with clean dish cloth)
- Cut each rope into one inch pieces and roll each piece of dough in the palm of your hands for rounder shapes.
- Place the dough balls onto a lightly floured baking sheet. (keep covered)
- Pour 2 inches of oil in a medium sized sauce pan or dutch oven and heat to 375* degrees. (use a deep frying thermometer for accuracy)
- When the oil has reached 375 degrees F, carefully drop in about 6 pieces of dough at a time. (This will also depend on the size of your sauce pan). Don't over crowd them.
- When the fritters are golden on one side, flip over to the other side.
- Once golden brown on both sides, use a slotted spoon and drain the castagnole on paper towels.
- Roll the castagnole in granulated sugar turning to coat all over.
- Serve while still warm, piled high on a serving platter.
- For a festive Carnival appeal you can drizzle them with warm melted chocolate and top with sprinkles.