Carnevale in Italy is not only about the fancy masquerade ball of Venice, it is also the happiest children’s holiday. In every Italian city, big or small, during the time of Carnevale the children dress up in costumes, stroll in the streets and greet each other exchanging handful of coriandoli and stelle filanti (confetti and streamers). It is a joyous time marked by the colorful masks, the horsing around, and the laughing.
Carnevale is also associated to some culinary traditions and the epitome in the kitchen is reached on the last day of Carnevale, Fat Tuesday. In anticipation of the austere season of Lent, the food of Carnevale is markedly rich. The sweet treats were traditionally fried in lard and the king of the savory dishes was the pork.
Typical sweet treats of my Region, the Campania, are the chiacchiere. On the savory side, the lasagna napoletana (Neapolitan lasagna) is the most traditional dish of Carnevale and, it will be on my table tonight!
The chiacchiere are strips of dough fried and sprinkled with powdered sugar. Classic accompaniment to the chiacchiere is the sanguinaccio. It is a thick chocolate cream, originally made with fresh pig blood cooked with chocolate and spices, and thickened with potato. Since 1992 the sale of pig blood to the public has been banned. It is, however, possible that in rural communities, where peasants still slaughter the pig, the sanguinaccio may still be prepared according to the original recipe.
In the peasant tradition, indeed, Carnevale also coincided with the pig slaughter. The pig was then the Re di Carnevale (King of Carnival) and, a party followed the event to celebrate the abundance of meat before the fasting of Lent. When I lived in Italy, I was once invited to participate to the pig slaughter and the afterwards party. I have to confess that, to avoid being unkind and refusing the invitation, I lied and pretended to be ill.
But not more talking, here it is, I am sharing the recipe of my chiacchiere and sanguinaccio, and do not worry, no blood required! I also do not use lard and, I substitute it with butter.
Ricetta Chiacchiere di Carnevale
2 cups all-purpose flour,
5 tablespoon of unsalted butter (My preference is European butter) or lard
4.5 tablespoon of sugar
2 tbsp Marsala
lemon rind from one small lemon
¼ teaspoon yeast dissolved into a little bit of milk
peanut oil to fry
In the bowl of a food processor combine the sugar and the lemon zest.
Add the butter and the eggs.
Add the flour and salt and keep working while slowly adding the Marsala.
Lastly add the yeast and work the dough until it detaches from the side of the bowl.
Transfer the dough on a surface dusted with flour and knead few minutes.
Form a ball, wrap in film and let rest for 30 minutes.
Divide the dough in half and roll out, one half at the time, with a rolling-pin. Make sure that your surface is dusted with flour as well as the rolling-pin.
Your sheet of dough should be 1/8 inch thick.
Use a toothed wheel to cut diamonds or triangles. One of the characteristic of the chiacchiere is to have irregular shapes, so don’t seat trying to make them all perfect.
With the toothed wheel make an incision in the center of each piece of dough.
Gently remove each chiacchiera, open the incision, through which you will pass a corner to form a knot.
Fry in plenty of Peanut oil or lard if you prefer. The oil should not be very hot ( 338 degree) or the chiacchiere will burn easily. Quickly flip the chiacchiere and as soon as golden remove from oil.
Transfer to a plate lined with absorbent paper to drain the excess oil. Transfer to a serving dish and when they are completely cool sprinkle with plenty of powdered sugar.
Ricetta del Sanguinaccio
2 cups of milk
1.5 cups of sugar
1 cup of cocoa
2 oz. of bittersweet chocolate chip
half stick unsalted butter
2 oz. of starch (potato starch or corn starch)
1 / 2 tsp cinnamon
1 pinch of salt
candied orange (in small pieces)
In a pan mix the starch, cocoa and sugar.
Slowly add the milk, stirring to dissolve the dry ingredients.
Transfer the pan to the stove over low heat.
While constantly stirring, cook until the mixture has thickened about 20 minutes).
Remove from heat and immediately add the cinnamon, dark chocolate, and butter. Mix energetically until smooth.
Lastly add the candied orange and give one more stir.
Transfer to a serving bowl cover with film and let it cool.
Serve alongside the chiacchiere.
You still have time to make your chiacchiere for Mardi Gras but you can enjoy this bontà (delicacy) any time.