Italian Carnival Food Traditions – Borghi Magazine
We are very excited to announce our partnership with Borghi Magazine, a prestigious Italian magazine committed to unveiling the hidden treasures of Italy’s borghi villages. Through the pages of this beautiful monthly bilingual Italian-English magazine, you will travel across Italy and discover the over 300 small borghi towns you would never have known of otherwise.
Every month, Local Aromas will contribute with an article about Italy’s local food traditions and ingredients. Our very first article is in the February 2020 edition of Borghi Magazine and you can read it below.
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Italian Carnival Food Traditions
It seems that as soon as the Christmas and New Year festivities are over Italy flings itself into its next annual celebration: Carnival. Taking place between mid-January and February, the period of carnevale was historically a time of decadence culminating on Fat Tuesday, Martedì Grasso, which marked the beginning of Lent.
Literally translated from the Latin for ‘farewell to meat’, carnival was once an exaggeration of excess before the abstinence and restraint required during Lent. Faced with the prospect of forty days without meat, eggs or dairy, much of this excess manifested itself in the gorging of rich, fatty or sweet foods, thus creating traditional recipes across the country which are nowadays still prepared and eaten specifically at this time of year.
For most Italians, carnival means sugar but there are a few savory recipes, usually oozing with meat and cheese, which are annually devoured in certain areas. Migliacco di polenta is eaten in the Campania region and made from cornmeal mixed with salami and provola cheese before being baked in the oven, while the Neapolitan Lasagne di Carnevale sees the humble lasagne enhanced with an explosive combination of sausage, meatballs, ricotta and boiled eggs.
However, it is the sweet treats which truly epitomise Italian carnival, many of which are fried in pork fat and coated in sugar to increase the level of gluttony. The most common are undoubtedly the strips of fried pastry which are doused in icing sugar and are called a host of different names depending on the region; frappe, chiacchiere, crostoli, galani, cenci and bugie to mention just a few. Elsewhere you can find castagnole (small fried dough balls rolled in sugar), fritelle or fritole (sugary fritters made with pine nuts and raisins and sometimes filled with custard), bignè (choux pastry buns, fried or oven-baked, stuffed with pastry cream), zeppole (fried ring doughnuts) and struffoli or cicerchiata (tiny balls of fried dough which are covered in honey and brightly colored sprinkles).
Just like all major Italian festivals, carnival is steeped in rich culinary history and time-honored traditions which still hold true today so, wherever in the country you find yourself, make sure you enter into the spirit of carnevale and consume some of these wickedly delicious local specialities.