Deep-fried pastry ribbons – Traditional Italian Recipe

I grew up knowing these delicious fried pastry ribbons by 2 different names: my paternal grandmother called them crostoli and my maternal grandmother called them frappe. Recipes for these delicate, fried morsels vary slightly by household and region. Some people use lard in the dough, others use butter, while still others omit the fat altogether.

There is usually a splash of alcohol (usually San Vino, which is Italian dessert wine) added to the dough for both moisture and acidity to make the dough more tender (very similar to adding vodka or white vinegar to pie crust). I remember my nonna Luisa using San Vino, and my nonna Angela using grappa – I guess she used grappa because she was from the north-eastern region of Veneto where some of the finest grappa is distilled. Anise liquor, brandy, or rum can also be used, and the dough could be lightly perfumed with freshly grated orange or lemon zest.

Deep-fried pastry ribbons

Fried pastry ribbons go by various names depending on the region of Italy you find yourself. All through the regions of Le Marche and Lazio, you will hear them referred to as sfrappole, sfappe, or frappe. Loosely translated, the terms mean “fringes”. In Trentino and Veneto, they’re known as galani or crostoli. In parts of Liguria and Piemonte, they’re called bugie (“lies”). In Campania, they are called chiacchere (“chatter’) or “chiacchere della nonna (“grandmother’s chatter”), and in Toscana, they are known as cenci. For as many words exist for these tasty treats, there are even more shapes.

My grandma Rita used her pasta cutter to cut long strips of dough which she knotted into bows. My other grandma Angela also used a pasta cutter to shape hers into large squares and rectangles. For this recipe, I decided to prepare mine rectangular and bite size. There is no right or wrong way to shape the ribbons. Just do an image search on Google and you will see what I mean 😉

Fried pastry ribbons are traditionally consumed through Italy in the days preceding Lent and particularly on martedi grasso (Fat Tuesday), though, they can be made for any celebratory occasion. As if the lightly sweetened fried dough is not delicious enough on its own, the fried pastry treats are given a generous dusting of powdered sugar that makes them look both irresistible and festive. If you eat these in someone’s “casa”, they’ll most likely be piled high on an ample serving bowl or on a large platter.

If you purchase them out and about in Italy, you will get them piled into a paper vessel of some sort. I once read that many people in Italy believe in consuming these delights neatly so as not to leave any stray crumbs or powdered sugar on the shirt, but where is the fun in that?

You’re not eating them right if you don’t have any evidence on your clothes – as far as I’m concerned. Here is the traditional Italian recipe for deep-fried pastry ribbons:

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 280 g/10 oz. plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tbsp. light olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp. Vin Santo (or other Italian dessert wine)
  • Finely grated rind of 1 lemon
  • 4 oranges
  • Sunflower oil, for deep-frying
  • Icing sugar, for dusting

Directions:

Stir the flour into a  large mixing bowl and make a well in the center. Add the eggs, the olive oil, sugar, Vin Santo and lemon rind. Mix together with a round-bladed knife to form a dough. Use your hands to knead until smooth. Form into a ball, then wrap in in clingfilm and chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, working over a bowl to catch the juice, peel, and segment the oranges with a sharp knife. Add the segments to the juice, then cover and chill in the refrigerator until required.

Divide the dough in half and roll out one-half on a lightly floured work surface to a rectangle about a 3mm/1/8 inch thick. Cover and repeat with the remaining dough. Using a fluted pastry cutting wheel, cut the dough into 10×2.5-cm / 4×1-ich ribbons. Tie a single knot in each ribbon. Alternatively, cut the dough into diamond shapes and leave flat.

Heat the oil for deep-frying in a deep-fat fryer or a deep, heavy-based saucepan to 180 C/350 F, or until a cube of bread browns in 30 seconds. Add the ribbons, in small batches, and cook until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper, then keep warm while you cook the remaining ribbons. Dust with icing sugar before serving warm, with the orange segments.

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