Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Castagnole with Ricotta - Italian Fried Ricotta Balls

 Perfectly round, sugar-covered ricotta dough
fried to golden perfection

Have you ever heard or tasted castagnole before?!? These might look like your classic doughnut  holes, but oh no! Castagnole are one of the many treats that Italians traditionally make during this time of the year to celebrate il Carnevale. You would find these in bakeries together with zeppole, frittelle and frappe, to name a few. Now until Lent is the time to whip up and indulge in one (or several!!) of these delicacies.  

Castagnole are smaller in size compared to frittelle or zeppole, with a soft and delicate but denser crumb. Normally these are not stuffed with cream nor generally have raisins or pine nuts like frittelle do. These castagnole are simply flavored with orange zest (or you could use lemon if you prefer) and are made with ricotta cheese (I've used whole milk) well drained from its water and mixed with the usual ingredients.  A bit of flour, egg, sugar and baking powder. Simply mix, roll and fry! And your kitchen is bound to smell incredibly delicious :)

One word of advise. While frittelle e frappe are best eaten right away but also delicious the next day, these castagnole don't like to be left unattended (they will quickly loose their softness). So make sure to fry and enjoy as fast as you can ;) Trust me, these are sooooo good that it won't be an issue haha

Here is my (authentic Italian) recipe for you!



INGREDIENTS:

YIELD: about 25 castagnole
    • 1 cup (250 gr) ricotta cheese, well drained 
    • 1 large egg
    • 1/3 cup (65 gr) sugar
    • zest of 1 orange, finely grated
    • about 2 cups*  (250 gr) all-purpose flour
    • 1 tablespoon baking powder
    • oil for frying
    • powdered sugar to sprinkle at the end
  1. *depending on the amount of moisture in the ricotta you might need less than 2 cups

PREPARATION:

    TIME: about 30 minutes
    Drain the ricotta well from its liquid by placing in a fine mesh strainer over a bowl. You can cover the sieve with cheese cloth if you have it.
    Place the ricotta, egg and sugar in a large bowl. Whisk until smooth. 
    Add the finely grated orange zest and mix.

    Start by adding only 1 3/4 cups of flour and baking powder and mix to form a dough. Add a little more flour if needed. Depending on the brand of the ricotta and how much you drained it, the moisture content can vary, and so the amount of flour needed. The dough need to stay sticky and light, but solid enough to be able to roll it on the counter. 
    Place on the lightly flour counter. Roll into a thick log, cut in pieces and roll each into a ball, about 1.5 inch in diameter. 
    Add about 1.5 inch deep of oil into a medium high sided pot. Heat over medium heat to 340F (or when you see bubbles around a wooden spoon placed inside the oil). Fry 5 or 6 castagnole at a time depending on the size of the pan. Roll to all sides if needed for about 2 minutes, or until deep golden.  Adjust the heat if needed. If the castagnole brown too quickly you need to lower the heat otherwise they won't cook fully inside. Make sure to check one and adjust the heat if needed. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel. 
    Sprinkle with powdered sugar and enjoy!
    These don't store well, so I suggest ... eat them as fast as you can ;)

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