Fritole venessiane: Venetian carnival fritters (recipe)

Frioe aea Venexiana

In Renaissance Venice, the period from 26 December until Ash Wednesday was one of chaos. The city was full of parties, festivals, but also of general misrule and often violence—tolerated by the authorities as a way for society to let off steam and a way to ensure good order for the rest of the year. People would wander the streets wearing masks to ensure anonymity as they played tricks on each other, or worse. Immediately after this period was Lent when meat and other so-called luxury food items would be forbidden. In Latin, to take away meat is carnem levare, so this festival became known as carnevale.

From the fall of the Venetian Republic in 1797 until 1979 the festival was hardly celebrated, but since its revival, it has become one of the most famous events worldwide celebrated by locals and tourists in equal measure. This year, I was lucky enough to be in the city as the carnival started on the 22 January. The shops were full of masks, which had started to make their way onto the streets, and on Sunday morning, thousands lined the Canale di Cannaregio to see a procession of gondolas and other boats, rowed up the canal by people in carnival costume and masks.

Venetian carnival boats

The spectators were showered with paper confetti, which littered the streets all over the city as a mark of misrule. The rowers on the canal were a mix of traditional masks and modern references—such as Minions—and were led by a huge rat, presumably representative of a local politician.

Venetian carnival boats

You see a lot of special food and cakes in Venice at carnival time, but the most popular and traditional are frittelle, (fritole in Venetian). These are little fritters, rather like doughnuts, filled with sultanas. They are sprinkled with sugar which looks not unlike the confetti sprinkled on the streets of the city. These make a hearty treat as you wander freezing streets of the city looking at the outrageous and inventive masks and costumes worn by the revellers.

Fritelle are actually quite easy to make at home, so for a taste of Venice this carnival season, why not try your own? Buon appetito!

 Fritole Venessiane

Makes about 20
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Resting time: 2 hours
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Total time: 2 hours 25 minutes
250g (1 2/3 cups) sultanas
4 tablespoons rum
30g (1 ounce) fresh yeast
400g (3 1/3 cups) 00 flour
40g (3 tablespoons) melted unsalted butter
250ml (1 cup) milk
2 eggs
100g (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
vegetable oil for frying
granulated sugar for sprinkling
  1. Soak the sultanas in the rum overnight and then drain.
  2. Crumble the yeast and then place it with the flour, butter, milk, eggs, and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Mix well until combined into a thick batter.
  3. Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel and then put in a warm place for a couple of hours. In this time, the batter will have doubled in size.
  4. Heat the oil to 170 °C (340 °F), preferably in a deep fat fryer. Using a large tablespoon, scoop some of the batter and drop it into the oil. Do this until there is no more room in your fryer and cook until golden brown on both sides (about 5 minutes).
  5. Remove the fritole from the oil with a slotted spoon and dry on kitchen paper. Sprinkle with granulated sugar.
  6. Continue until you have used all the batter.

9 thoughts on “Fritole venessiane: Venetian carnival fritters (recipe)”

  1. Dear Luca,

    Just a note to say that I am really enjoying your Italian blog. While I still miss oh la vache, Chestnuts and Truffle is providing really great information on a cuisine I know much less about. My mother was a huge fan of Italy, she took me many times to see art and monuments during my much younger years. Happy memories save the food poisoning we got in Rome once!

    I haven’t been back in over 30 years but reading your articles is making me think a visit is long overdue.

    Congratulations also on the YouTube films, you are clearly a man of many talents!

    Do you watch the Italian version of Bake Off?

    I tried to find episodes on YouTube but didn’t come across very much. It would be great if they produced a cross Europe edition….

    Thanks again for sharing your culinary and cultural experiences


    Sent from my iPad


    1. Dear Diana,
      I am so happy that you are still following my blog and that you are enjoying Chestnuts and Truffles as much as Oh la vache! It’s great to hear from you and to see that you are doing well. I’m glad also that you like the videos. I have a special one planned for this weekend.
      I have seen ‘Bake-off Italia!’ but I must say that it doesn’t compare to the UK or French versions. Most of the contestants seem like absolute beginners and it mostly seems to consist of them being shouted at for their disasters by a German pastry chef.
      You must come back to Italy soon. There is so much to discover here and my blog has only just begun to scratch the surface.
      Keep in touch!
      Luca 🙂

    1. It’s surprisingly light and fluffy. These are really like donuts in character and are too moreish for words. Showering you with virtual confetti … 🙂

  2. Pingback: Venetian word of the day: fritoa - Luca's Italy - Chestnuts and Truffles

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