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Castagnole (Italian doughnuts) recipe

Castagnole (Italian doughnuts) recipe

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Castagnole are small Italian-style doughnut balls that are usually eaten around Carnival time just before Lent. I make them much more often than that because they are so easy and made with 5 ingredients you usually already have!

16 people made this

IngredientsServes: 6

  • 3 eggs
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 100g butter
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 teaspoon 1 lemon zest (or lemon extract)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 16g baking powder
  • 500g plain flour
  • sunflower oil, for deep frying
  • caster or icing sugar, for dusting

MethodPrep:15min ›Cook:15min ›Ready in:30min

  1. In a large bowl, beat eggs and sugar until pale and slightly stiff.
  2. Melt the butter; stir in 1 tablespoon milk. Add the butter mixture , lemon zest and salt to the eggs, stirring well with a whisk.
  3. Sift in flour and baking powder; mix with a spatula, then with you hands to make a soft dough. If too stiff, add 1 tablespoon of milk. If mixture is too soft, add more flour.
  4. Divide into balls, about the size of your fist and form a 1.5cm diameter cylinder with each ball. Slice each cylinder into smaller pieces.
  5. Heat sunflower oil in a deep saucepan or wok until it reaches 190 C. Cook the doughnuts, a few at a time, flipping them over at least once, until golden brown and float to the top. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.
  6. Transfer to a serving plate; dust with caster or icing sugar and serve.


For deep frying, the perfect temperature of the oil should be between 180 and 190 degrees C. If you do not have a food thermometer, just use a wooden spoon: dip it in the oil and check if it make bubbles. If it does, the oil is ready for deep frying.

See it on my blog

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Castagnole – Italian Carnival Fried Sweet Dough

Castagnole, a typical carnival dessert, are small balls of fried dough rolled in sugar. They owe their name to the similarity of their shape to chestnuts and are a delight for the eyes and the palate.

Originally from Emilia Romagna, castagnole are now prepared and appreciated throughout Italy thanks to their simple preparation and wonderful taste. There are numerous ways to prepare them, such as with ricotta, with alchermes, or baked, and they are all delicious.

Castagnole (Italian doughnuts) recipe - Recipes

Italian “castagnole” recipe

Not only allegorical carts and masks: Italian Carnival is also rich in gastronomic culture, especially the traditional fried sweets prepared in this period throughout Italy. Call them chiacchiere, cenci, frappe, bugie, thin stripes of fried dough, or classic fried doughnuts, or castagnole.

The origin of castagnole seems to date back to 1700 at the D’Angiò royal house. Castagnole at that time were called “struffoli alla romana”. They are little balls of fried dough and then rolled into sugar, whose shape has obviously influenced their modern name. In fact, they’re about as big as a chestnut, i.e. Castagna.

Castagnole are delicious and esay to prepare! Our Castagnole recipe is easy to make and includes a reinterpretation that gives them a special taste thanks to the presence of coffee. To prepare our coffee castagnole, we used a cup of Gran Coffee in compostable coffee pods and a pinch of coffee liqueur.

Here’s the recipe for about 30 castagnole:

230 g Flour 00
60 g Hazelnut Flour (alternatively almond flour)
60 g Sugar
50 g Greek Yogurt (5 %)
40 g butter (room temperature)
1 Medium egg
1 cup of espresso (better if ristretto)
1 tablespoon coffee liquor (optional)
½ vanilla bean
1g salt
4 g baking powder

q.b. Peanut oil (to fry)
q.b. Sugar (to roll fried castagnole)

On a work surface, create a circle with flour and baking powder previously sifted. Add the rest of the ingredients: sugar, yogurt, egg, soft butter, coffee liqueur, vanilla, espresso coffee (cold), hazelnut flour and salt.
Then mix everything first with a fork, then with your hands to obtain a smooth and soft dough. Leave it to rest at least 30 minutes in the fridge.
Once rested, use the dough to form strings of dough, from which you will cut little balls of 4-5 cm.
Once the balls are formed, fry them in hot peanut oil (150-160°C ), until they are golden and put them on paper towel. It is important to roll castagnole into sugar while still hot.


To add the hazelnut cream to your castagnole, once the pieces of dough are detached, form balls with your hands, crush each ball and place a teaspoon of hazelnut in the center. Close them well, pass them between your hands to roll them up and fry them.

To make soft castagnole, the butter must be previously softened. Frying oil must also be hot but not boiling.

Often we find the castagnole served with a sprinkle of powdered sugar (as the recipe that I propose today) or passed in white granulated sugar. But not everyone knows that the castagnole can also be wet in alchermes (the classic fuchsia colored liquor that is used a lot in pastry-making) that allows the granulated sugar to stick even better or with the very simple honey poured over it.

Venetian-style doughnuts (frìtole)

Grandma’s fritole are soft, pillowy and perfumed with anise and citrus.



Skill level

The big Venetian carnival fry-up plot unfolds every year in a similar way. On the night before Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras, the phone rings. It’s Grandma. She’s made fritole, she says, screaming into the receiver as usual, sure that I’ll hear her better if she does. ‘Can you come and pick them up?’ she asks. I look outside: it’s a gloomy, wet, foggy February night but then again, yes, I could make the effort for a bowl of doughnuts.

I bundle up and go out. Grandma lives down the road from us, a one-minute walk door to door. I find her downstairs, as always when she’s spent the whole day cooking. She’s busy cleaning up, traces of sugar on the floor. The air is filled with a biting scent, a mix of yeast and exhausted frying oil. On the table are three small platoons of aluminium trays neatly covered with flowery kitchen paper. She grabs a tray from each group and presses them into my hands: one filled with paper-thin squares (crostoli) one with walnut-sized balls (favette), and one with a pile of spongy, pillowy fritole. ‘I thought you just made fritole?’ ‘Yes, well, since I had the oil going . . . ’

Venetians are religious about their Carnival. It’s a century-old recurrence that can’t be ignored, not just in the city but in the countryside, too. Kids dress up and parade, and everybody stuffs their faces with fried treats. I like the Carnival triplet of crostoli, favette and fritole (or frittelle), and I like that Grandma has taken on the chore of frying up a storm for the whole family, year in and year out. Of the three, fritole are her strongest — soft, perfumed with anise and citrus, and surprisingly un-greasy. I’m happy to be sharing her recipe here.


  • 150 g (1 cup) raisins
  • 120 ml (½ cup) grappa (see Note)
  • 400 g (3⅓ cups) plain flour, sifted
  • 10 g (3¼) tsp fast-action dried yeast
  • 100 g ( ½ cup) granulated sugar, plus more for rolling
  • Pinch of fine-grain sea salt
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 160 ml (⅔ cup) whole milk, lukewarm, or as needed
  • 40 g (¼ cup) pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • Finely grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
  • 60 g (⅓ cup) candied citrus peel (optional)
  • Sunflower oil, for frying

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Soak the raisins in grappa and let them plump up for 20 minutes, then drain well and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, yeast, sugar and salt. Add the eggs and lukewarm milk and work them into the dry ingredients. Next stir in the raisins, pine nuts, grated lemon zest and candied citrus peel, if using. Knead the dough until it looks even, elastic and smooth (add a little more milk if it appears too dry it should be fairly sticky). Cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rise in a dry, warm place for about 2 hours, or until it has doubled in volume and the surface is full of tiny bubbles.

Fill two-thirds of a medium, high-sided frying pan with sunflower oil. Place it over a medium heat and wait until it reaches a temperature of 180°C (350°F), which you can test with a thermometer or by inserting the handle of a wooden spoon in the oil when small but fierce bubbles form around the handle, it’s ready. Using 2 tablespoons, grab a spoonful of dough and slide it into the hot oil. Fry 6–7 frìtole at a time, turning with a slotted spoon, until dark brown on all sides. Drain with the slotted spoon and transfer to a large plate covered with kitchen paper.

Leave the frìtole to cool slightly before rolling them in plenty of granulated sugar. Enjoy them warm or within 12 hours of frying.

• Some like using anise liqueur instead of grappa for soaking the raisins: it’ll definitely increase the aromatic potential of these frìtole, though you must like anise in the first place.

• Candied citrus peel and pine nuts are often omitted in traditional recipes, while raisins are often present: my suggestion would be to find the combination you like the best.

Recipe from Veneto: Recipes from an Italian Country Kitchen by Valeria Necchio (Guardian Faber, hb, $39.99).

Recipe Summary

  • ⅔ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg, or more to taste
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup milk
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5 tablespoons softened butter
  • ⅓ cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ⅓ cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease miniature muffin cups or line with paper liners.

Whisk flour, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt together in a bowl. Stir milk and vanilla extract together in a separate bowl. Beat butter and 1/3 cup white sugar together in a third bowl using an electric mixer until smooth and creamy beat in egg.

Stir flour mixture, alternating with milk mixture, into butter mixture until batter is smooth. Spoon batter into a piping bag and pipe into muffin cups, about 2/3-full.

Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 10 to 12 minutes.

Mix 1/3 cup white sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl add warm doughnuts and gently toss with hands until coated.

Enjoy Homemade Italian Castagnole
(Source: ©fiorellamacor/

Italian Fat Balls are also known as Castagnole, Sweet Dough Balls, and Italian Carnival Cakes. They are deep fried pastry balls that are crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.

Castagnole are traditionally eaten during Carnevale, a colorful Italian Mardi Gras-like festival held in Italy before Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent, but the truth is they can be enjoyed the year-round.

Fried Fat Balls

My Italian "Gram" made these fried fat balls every Christmas! It's basically fried bread with raisins dipped in confectioners' sugar.

This traditional Italian Castagnole recipe makes an Italian comfort food you'll absolutely love! —Denise

4 cups flour
1-1/2 tablespoons salt
6 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons shortening
2 packages yeast dissolved in 3/4 cup warm water
1 cup raisins
4-3/4 cups warm milk

Knead ingredients 10 minutes, let rise, and punch down. Add 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 cups warm water and raisins knead in and let rise to double size. (It will be very sticky!)

With a fork, drop globs of dough in 375°F oil until brown. (Not too large otherwise, it won't be cooked in the middle.) Dip fried balls in confectioners' sugar. The best.

Make Homemade Italian Fat Balls, Also Known as Castagnole
(Source: ©fiorellamacor/

I've been looking for this homemade fat balls recipe! My old Polish grandmother used to make them. They were like large donut holes, only a bit denser.

They had raisins right in the dough, not just a filling added after the balls were made. Also, they were rolled in granulated sugar when they were cool enough to handle.

Now, I will be able to make castagnole! —Anon, USA

Italian Cassateddi di Ricotta Recipe

Historic Torre del Mangia in Old Siena, Italy
(Source: ©pitatatu/

Homemade Cassateddi di Ricotta

I make a half-moon fried ricotta filled dessert (ricotta turnovers) which I was told many years ago was called Cassateddi. —Annette

First, put 1 cup sugar in 1 cup warm water.

Dough: 5-plus cups flour with 6 tablespoons Crisco® solid shortening cut in. Make well in flour. Pour in sugar and water, little by little. Add 2 eggs. Knead into dough.

Filling: Ricotta, chocolate chips, cinnamon, and sugar to taste.

Roll out meatball-size dough balls. Fill with a hefty tablespoon of filling. Fold dough over. Pinch closed with fork.

Fry in Crisco® vegetable oil. Drain and sprinkle with confectioner's sugar. Refrigerate to cool. Hope you enjoy this take on a traditional Italian Cassateddi recipe.

Italian Gnocchi di Latte Recipe

The Italian Cook Book (1919)

Gnocchi di Latte - Milk Gnocchi Dumpling

Enjoy Traditional Italian Milk Gnocchi Dumpling
(Source: ©oxyzay/

Ingredients: One quart of milk sugar, nine ounces cornstarch in powder, four ounces eight yolks of eggs, a taste of vanilla.

Mix everything together as you would do for a cream and put on the fire in a saucepan, continually stirring with a ladle.

When the mixture has become thickened keep it a few moments more on the fire and then pour it in a plate to make it about half an inch thick and cut it into diamonds when it is cold.

Put these diamonds one over the other with symmetry in a baking tin or in a fireproof glass plate, with some little pieces of butter in between, and brown them a little in the oven. Serve your gnocchi hot.

Take the time to make the homemade Italian Castagnole recipe, and do try the other Italian pastry recipes too.

Expect to receive compliments from your friends and family. They'll marvel at how you could make these classic Italian desserts yourself.

Venetian frìtole

A true symbol of the Venice Carnival, Valeria's frìtole recipe will help you perfect these delicious sweet snacks, laced with grappa-soaked raisins and pine nuts. If you're heading to Venice carnival this year, check out Valeria's guide to where to eat the best frìtole in Venice, so you can stock up on snacks while you're there.

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Every year this time of year, the windows of all bakeries and pastry shops in Venice are filled to the ceiling with piles of dark-brown, sugary globes – the Venetian Carnival sweet par excellence – the celebrated, delightful frìtola.

The first notes of the presence of the frìtola in Venice date back to the 14th century (Marco Polo was known to be worshipper). During carnevale, the alleys of Venice used to be dotted by the fritolèri, itinerant masters of the fried dough, who would lure the passers-by into buying one of their piping hot doughnuts. The fritolèri were crucial figures in Renaissance Venice so much so that they had their own union rules, which dictated, among other things, the areas in which each vendor would be trading. Their popularity within the city grew exponentially until, in the 18th century, the frìtola was elevated to the rank of official sweet of the Serenissima Republic of Venice.

The original recipe for frìtole venessiane consists of a sweetened dough made with flour, eggs, milk, raisins and pine nuts, deep-fried by the spoonful in hot lard. These were sold on the street (they were most definitely considered street food), pierced onto skewers so people could eat them right away without soiling their hands. They were small, pillowy, rolled in sugar while still hot, often giving a subtle scent of anise liqueur or eau de vie.

Although no fritolèro remains in Venice, this old-school version of the frìtola survives in local bakeries as much as in people’s kitchens. Alongside these, which are called sensa gnente (without filling), one can now find larger, ever-indulgent fritòle stuffed with all sorts of creamy fillings – from custard to zabaglione, from chocolate to chantilly cream. These are, however, often reserved to pastry shops, while most home cooks stick to the easier-to-make, plain classic.

The recipe for frìtole venessiane sensa gnente we use in my family, which includes grappa-scented raisins and crunchy pine nuts, is very straightforward. It makes quite a large batch – so it’s definitely good for sharing. Here I suggest dusting the frìtole with icing sugar, but you can also roll them in caster sugar if you like the idea of a crunchy coating.

History of Castagnole

The Castagnole is a sweet Carnival classic fried dumpling that, along with the Galani and the Frittelle, is always present in all Italian bakeries and cakes shops, during one of the craziest and fun periods of the year.

They are ready to be enjoyed with just a few simple ingredients and in only a few minutes.

The Castagnole, whose Italian term is due to the small size and a similar shape to the fruit of the chestnut trees, are typical Carnival sweets mainly from Veneto, Emilia Romagna and Lazio, but you can also find them in some Southern regions, like Campania.

This delight, mostly fried and covered in sugar, is very old, but not ancient, according to what we historically know.

In fact, in addition to the more modern 19th century cookbooks, we know that already in the seventeenth century, the cooks of the noble families, like the Dâ€𡈪ngiò and the Farnese, wrote about the “struffoli in the Roman way”, whose recipe corresponds perfectly to that of Castagnole.

But it is in a manuscript of the end �,that we can find four different recipes bearing the name of Castagnole.

The manuscript was found by Italo Arieti, in the State Archives of the city of Viterbo.

Nowadays it is one of the simpliest Carnival cakes to be prepared. There are many different recipes. We decided to try and test the recipe by Veneto and Dintorni.

We were very pleased with the results!  You can also try also a Castagnole Recipe with Alchermes posted by Judy Watts Francini of Divina Cucina for The Florentine. Judy was one of the first people in Italy to hold cooking classes. She organises custom culinary tours in Italy for lovers of food and wine!

We hope you will enjoy them too. And please don’t forget to try all of our Carnival Sweets Recipes: galani, frittelle alla crema, frittelle alla Nutella, frittelle alla veneziana.

In the Kitchen With: Italian Doughnut Holes

This week’s recipe is from my cookbook, Tasting Rome. Castagnole are traditionally a carnevale recipe, but I consider them the Italian equivalent of the doughnut hole. Even better, I consider them an easy cheat for rum balls at Christmas time. You can serve them strictly according to the original recipe or glaze them with something boozy (just make sure you omit the Sambuca in the recipe), and even add sprinkles of your choice. These are soft as pillows and best eaten immediately, but they will keep, and be perfect to have with coffee, even days after you make them. So make a beautiful batch, wrap, and give as a gift without fear. For an alternative recipe for castagnole from our archives, click here. —Kristina

Makes 30 castagnole


— 2 cups all-purpose flour
— 3 large eggs
— 2 teaspoons baking powder
— Pinch of baking soda
— 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice (from 1/2 orange)
— 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
— 2 tablespoons Sambuca (or your favorite liquor)
— 5 tablespoons sugar, plus more for coating
— 1/2 cup vegetable oil
— 1/2 cup whole milk
— Neutral oil for frying

Mix the flour, eggs, baking powder, baking soda, orange juice, lemon juice, Sambuca, sugar, vegetable oil, and milk in a large bowl until smooth.

In a small pot or cast-iron skillet, heat 2 1/2 inches of neutral oil to 350F over medium heat. Using a teaspoon or small ice cream scoop, scoop up a spoonful of batter, then carefully scrape it off with a second teaspoon into the hot oil.

Cook the castagnole in batches of four or five for about 4 minutes, until a deep golden brown. Halfway through cooking, they will turn themselves over in the oil. Take care not to overcrowd the pan.

Remove to a paper towel-lined tray or plate to drain. If you are not glazing them, roll them in sugar while they are still hot so that the sugar sticks.

Castagnole are best eaten the day they are prepared, but they will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for 3 to 4 days.

Kristina’s Note: To make a glaze, use 2 to 4 tablespoons of liquid (milk, melted butter, citrus juice, liquor, etc) per 1 cup of powdered sugar, depending on the consistency you wish to achieve. Toss the castagnole with the glaze or drizzle the glaze across the top of them. Scatter sprinkles over the top for an extra festive twist!

Castagnole recipe (note excluded) reprinted from Tasting Rome: Fresh Flavors and Forgotten Recipes from an Ancient City. Copyright © 2016 by Katie Parla and Kristina Gill. Photographs copyright © 2016 by Kristina Gill. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

About Kristina: Kristina Gill is an Italy-based food and travel photographer and the Food and Drinks Editor at Design*Sponge. A native of Nashville, TN, Kristina lives in Rome with her husband.