During the weeks of Carnevale, it is a tradition to eat a lot of sweets because we want to pig out before Lent. In Umbria the little fried pastries are called castagnole and in some places, zeppole. In Milan they are tortelli. Called castagnole, perhaps for their shape that resembles a chestnut for Umbria has a lot of chestnuts.
These delicious sweets are prepared and enjoyed in many regions of Italy, with different names and some slight variations of recipes. Whatever they are called, they are sinfully delicious and best eaten warm! Here is the one I was taught by my adopted Italian family in Piegaro, Umbria.
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 tablespoon Anise extract
1-1/2 cups fine flour
¼ cup sugar
Zest of ½ lemon
2 tablespoons of butter
2 small eggs
Pinch of salt
Powered yeast (lievito, in Italy)
Sunflower oil for frying
Extra sugar to dust them
Mix flour, eggs, sugar, butter (cut into small cubes), vanilla, anise, salt, lemon zest and yeast. Work the ingredients to mix well and transfer the dough to slightly floured surface and knead until soft and very smooth. Rest the dough for 20 minutes. Then form long and thick noodles of dough an inch thick rolling with your fingers. Cut into pieces the size of a chestnut. Roll into balls.
Heat your sunflower oil hot in a frying pan and drop about six in at a time frying over low heat and turning them, I use a big Chinese spider, a large drainer spoon to turn them until they are puffed up, golden and begin to float. Place them on layers of paper towel and then sift with sugar.