Food & Drink

Kristina’s Castagnole Recipe

by Kristina Gill

Carnevale, a period which passed by me almost entirely unnoticed as a child growing up in Nashville, is inescapable in Italy, betrayed by the appearance of typical carnevale treats in bakeries, coffee shops, and supermarket bread counters. The two most common treats you’ll see around are fried or baked strips of dough dusted in powdered sugar, called frappe in Rome, and quasi-doughnut holes called castagnole (chestnuts). The strict castagnola, from what I’ve come to understand, is a little hard-ish bit of lightly sweetened fried dough rolled in granulated sugar, almost like fried gnocchi. There are probably as many variations on the recipe as you can find people who make them, and this week I am sharing with you one of those variations. This recipe comes from a colleague’s mother, and uses potato starch and ricotta to produce soft, addictive castagnole. –Kristina

About Kristina: I am the food and drink editor here at Design*Sponge. I am currently co-authoring my first book about Roman food. When I’m not working on or photographing recipes, I’m out photographing cities and people. My work has appeared in Need Supply’s Human Being Journal, Atlas Quarterly, Australian Gourmet Traveller, Bon Appetit, kinfolk, and Airbnb. My latest obsessions are pure linen bed sheets, Pusheen, and the color “petrol.”

See how to make castagnole after the jump!



Makes about 80 castagnole

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon potato starch
  • 3/4 cup sugar, plus more for coating
  • 1/3 pound ricotta
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 4 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup rum
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • up to 2/3 cup milk
  • Oil for frying


In a large bowl, sift the baking powder, salt, flour, and potato starch together. Stir in the sugar, until well-blended. Make a well in the center and add the ricotta, egg yolks, butter, rum, and zest. Mix with a wooden spoon until a homogenous, soft and sticky dough has formed. If it is too dry, add in some of the milk, a tablespoon at a time. You will end up with a slightly sticky dough that you break off small pieces to form balls with. Form the dough into small grape-sized balls.

Using a fryer or appropriate pan for frying, heat the oil to 350 degrees and fry the castagnole in small batches, at 350 degrees, for 3 to 5 minutes, turning half way through cooking, until golden brown. Roll in sugar.


Why I love this recipe: I don’t like traditional castagnole very much because I think their hard nature seems to be a bit of an uninspiring oil trap. I prefer soft versions, like these, with added flavors which make the indulgence worthwhile. The trick, however, is to take them to a party or someone else’s house so that you don’t end up eating too many of them yourself.


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  • Oh this is very interesting because in Portugal, we also do Carnavale (or Carnaval em portuguese) and we call it Bola de Berlim.
    So nice to see it with a different name so close to our country.


  • these sound delicious, can’t wait to make them, however can I ask what potato starch is? I’ve seen potato flour but not starch on supermarkets!

  • Oh my lord these look so tasty and beautiful. I would love to try to make a variation without eggs and milk products (lactose intolerant over here!) Maybe I will take a stab at it some upcoming weekend! Thanks for the lovely recipe.

    Rae | love from berlin

  • @Jen – any vegetable oil is fine, and there are many pans which are suited for frying. I used 2-quart sauce pan, but I have a cast iron skillet I also fry in. Here’s a link from Food 52 on frying which may be useful: http://food52.com/blog/5639-deep-frying-without-fear

    @Jordan With the wet ingredients. Sorry, it got deleted in editing. I’ve put it back in. Thanks for letting us know!

  • Hi, I was born and raised in Rome, properly made castagnole are never hard, also there’s a new school of thought that bakes the castagnole rather than deep fry them, to be avoided. Have you ever tried them stuffed with ricotta? You make a mix of sheep (never cow) ricotta, powdered sugar and just a hint of liqueur (I like sambuca), and then proceed filling the castagnole with a ‘sac de poche’. Now that’s my death of choice.
    P.S. I read you are writing a book on Roman cuisine, are you going to let America know that carbonara does not call for Bacon, Parmesan or cream? Cheers.

  • @Walter – I think the consistency of the traditional castagnola is harder relative to those which include other elements, like ricotta, in the mix. As for your carbonara question, you will have to wait until next year this time and buy a copy of the book to see!! Because you are a native Roman, I look forward to your scrutiny! K

  • Looks delicious and beautiful! Can these be made ahead and then re-heated? How would you recommend reheating them?