words by Paola Bacchia of Italy On My Mind.
Frittole (or fritole in dialect) hold many memories for me. When we were growing up, I remember crowding around the pan that mamma was cooking the frittole in, waiting for her to scoop them out and then dust them with icing sugar. We would eat them faster than she could make them. This continued years later with the grand-children, who would also crowd around their nonna, waiting for the frittole to be cooked, sneaking a cooked one when she wasn’t looking.
Frittole (also called frittelle) are a bit like little fried sweet Italian donuts. They are traditionally eaten at Carnevale, just before the start of Lent, in late February. Carnevale is a time of celebration with masks, costumes, parties and of course lots of delicious food. I have seen frittole both in Venice and in Trieste, so I am not sure who rightfully has ownership of them. The ones that I grew up eating were the ones they eat in Trieste (not far from where my parents lived) and they contained grated apples, a brilliant addition that makes the frittole super moist. They also contain lemon and orange zest and grappa-soaked sultanas, giving them a uniquely Italian taste.
The recipe below is my mother’s. It was quite tricky getting it from her because she cooks like a typical Italian – with a bit of this and a bit of that, none of it weighed and all her spoons and cups are not standard sized ones! I had to follow her around the kitchen, grabbing ingredients and weighing them before she put them in the mixing bowl.
Frittole are best eaten on the day they are made (and it doesn’t have to be Carnevale for you to enjoy them!).
[You can read our interview with Paola and find out more about her great food blog here.]
Makes approximately 15 frittole
Lightly beat the milk and egg and set to one side. Place flour, sugar and salt in a medium-sized bowl, then add the milky mixture and stir well with a wooden spoon until well incorporated. Next add the drained sultanas, zests and grated apple. Mix until homogeneous. The mixture will be soft and thick, like a thick cake mix. Adjust with additional milk (if too thick) or flour (if too runny).
Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized saucepan on medium-high heat. The oil should be at least 6-7cm/2-3 inches deep as the frittole must be deep-fried. Using two metal spoons (I use a metal ice-cream scoop and another small spoon), drop a ping-pong size ball of mixture into the hot oil. They will not form perfect balls and they generally have little trails on the end – don’t worry too much, they look rustic and my mamma’s always looked that way.
The frittola should start cooking and bubbling fairly vigorously. If it doesn’t take on any colour within 30 seconds, the oil is not hot enough therefore you should wait for it to heat up some more before continuing. Frittole take no more than a couple of minutes to cook, about a minute on each side. They sometimes flip themselves over to cook on the other size, otherwise help them flip over using some tongs. They should be a deep golden colour. When you break a cooked open, it should be cooked through – if not, the heat is too high. Do not crowd the pan (cook 4-5 at a time, depending on the size of your pan). Once cooked, place them on absorbent paper to drain. Repeat until you have used up all the mixture.
Dust frittole with icing sugar and serve immediately. If you are not going to eat them right away, don’t put the icing sugar on. Heat them in the microwave slightly and then dust them with icing sugar to serve.
[For more recipes from Paola, check out her blog Italy on My Mind.]