Piazza San Marco, in Venice Italy, is typically filled with tourists (and pigeons) during the summer months. But, in February, this well-known Italian square is the heart of Carnevale, pulsing with seductive revelry. Magicians and mimes mingle with masquerade attendees dressed in elaborate costumes and ornate masks.
Carnevale, which comes from the Latin carnem levare, meaning ‘farewell to meat’ is the ultimate Italian food festival! It’s a time to indulge in the rich meat and sausage dishes, loaded lasagne and decadent dolce. The celebrations and feasting culminate with wild masquerade balls that go on until dawn. Just in time to go to mass on Ash Wednesday (the start of Lent).
Although, each region of Italy prepares their particular specialties, the one festival food that is synonymous with Carnevale throughout the country is frittelle : sweet fried fritters.
- 1/2 cup flour plus 3 tablespoons
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 cup sugar
- Salt, a pinch
- 3 eggs
- 1/3 cup butter, melted and cooled
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 1/3 cup milk
- 1 cup candied orange peel, finely chopped
- 3/4 cup dried figs, finely chopped
- Extra-virgin olive oil (Delicate), for frying
- Granulated or confectioners sugar for garnish
- Using a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Add the eggs, butter, vanilla and milk and then whisk until smooth. Stir in the candied orange and figs.
- Heat the oil to 350 degrees. Unless you fry a lot, a candy thermometer is very helpful to maintain a constant temperature when frying fritters. I always use one! Set out a plate lined with a double layer of paper towels.
- Fritters are meant to be bite-size. Take a small spoonful of batter (I use an ice tea spoon with a long handle) and use another spoon to scrape the batter off into the hot oil. As soon as the fritters are fluffy and golden brown, carefully remove with a slotted spoon and drain on the paper towels. Don’t worry if the fritters are not round. They tend to be free spirited.
- At this point, the fritters are typically rolled in granulated sugar. I think they are perfectly sweet the way they are and prefer to give them a light dusting of confectioners sugar. The best way to eat these is to have all your guests in the kitchen (where they usually hang out anyway) and have them eat the fritters as soon as they hit the paper-towel-lined plate!