Time for Castagnole

February 24, 2014 / Food & Wine
Piegaro, Umbria

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.


Buon Carnavale a tutti!!


Images courtesy of fugzu, CC license 2.0.

Colleen Simpson

by Colleen Simpson

Colleen followed a long-held dream and made a home in Piegaro, which is a pristine medieval glass-making village south of Lago Trasimeno in Umbria. She is the innkeeper at www.anticavetreria.net.

9 Responses to “Time for Castagnole”

  1. My mom calls these Turtae’s because she thought that this was what she heard when someone pronounced them for her. I think that I now have the correct spelling thanks to you. Her family lived in Cuggiono in Lombardia region near Milan.

  2. I was able to enjoy these last March when I was in Orvieto. The town made hundreds of them and packaged them in plastic containers and sold them one evening in a piazza. Yummy!

  3. Anne Robichaud

    Colleen, missing those Carnevale sweets here in the US – and can only imagine Peppa at home in Assisi making her strufoli (as they’re called there)- .thanks so much for bringing Umbria to us!

  4. Colleen Simpson

    Italy’s answer to donut holes as Rebecca Winke reminded me! The real problem is that you cannot eat just a few!! Glad you this brings good memories to all!


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