Chiacchiere (Fried Ribbons)

Chiacchiere (Fried “Ribbons”)

In Campania, dessert by Frank47 Comments

I wasn’t much on sweets even as a kid, but these little sugar-dusted ribbons of fried dough—variously known as chiacchiere, nastrini, stracci, cenci, frappe and a myriad of other names—were my one weakness in the sweets department. They are a traditional treat for Carnival, a time for over-indulgence, culinary and otherwise, getting in your ‘last licks’ before the privations of Lent.

The recipe is actually quite simple. The dough strongly resembles the dough for making stuffoli, but it is rolled out flat like pasta and cut into ribbons or squares or other shapes as you like. Even with such similar ingredients, the taste and texture are entirely different, an example of the Italian talent for creating incredible variety out of a limited palette.

They are not overly sweet—one reason I like them so much—but they are surprisingly addictive. So make lots!

Ingredients

Enough for a large plateful of chiacchiere

  • 200g flour
  • 1 whole egg plus 1 yolk
  • 50g sugar
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil (or butter)
  • 1 jigger of sambuca, anisette, grappa or white wine
  • A pinch of baking powder (optional)
  • Oil for frying
  • Confectioner’s sugar for dusting

Directions

Mix the first six ingredients together into a ball. You may need to add more flour or a bit of water until you have a mixture that is rather soft but neither sticky nor tacky. Knead the mixture for a good five minutes until you have a nice, elastic dough. (If using a KitchenAid mixer, use the paddle to mix the ingredients, then switch to the hook to knead the dough on slow.) Wrap your ball of dough in cellophane and then a towel and let it rest for at least an hour.

Divide the two into two parts and roll it out just as if you were making fresh egg pasta. If using a pasta machine, roll it to a medium thinness (notch 3 on a KitchenAid mixer pasta attachment).

Then cut the dough out into the shape(s) you like with a fluted pastry wheel. The most typical, perhaps, is the rectangle that is partially split in the middle as pictured above, but Angelina favored simple ribbons (see photo below). Some folks like to pinch the ribbons in the middle to create little ‘bow-ties’.

Deep fry the dough shapes in moderate hot oil. (Not too hot: remember dough fries very quickly and  if your oil is too hot, it may darken too much.) They should puff up immediately, especially if you’ve used a bit of baking powder. Turn them often with a slotted spoon so they cook evenly. Fry until they are just golden brown, not too dark. (The dark ones don’t look as pretty but they are still good—you can exercise you cook’s prerogative and enjoy them yourself in the kitchen while no one is looking…)

Drain the fried chiacchiere on paper towels and let them cool. (They can be served lukewarm or at room temperature.) Before serving, dust them with confectioner’s sugar. I like to toss them delicately the a bit of sugar first, then top them with a further dusting. They are at their best eaten immediately but are still good for a day or two after they are made.

Chiacchiere, Nana style...

Chiacchiere, Nana style…

Notes on Chiacchiere

No Italian carnevale would be complete without a plate (or two) of chiacchiere, although other Carnival sweets can also be found around the country. In Naples, the other classic dish of the season is lasagna di carnevale, Angelina’s signature dish. A dinner featuring both—and a nice roast, perhaps, for the secondo—would be almost overwhelming, but then, Carnival is all about excess.

The recipe for chiacchiere has changed remarkably little. Northern versions tend to use butter and spirits like grappa for the dough, while in the south they use olive oil and sambuca. (The original recipe, I believe, used lard, which you may try if you dare!) Modern recipes add a bit of baking powder (as for stuffoli) for a lighter, puffier result. You will also see recipes that add some additional flavors, usually lemon zest or, as in this lovely version I just saw today, a bit of orange zest. Some recipes will have you bake the dough ribbons in a hot oven, but I’ve never tried that—don’t like the idea, frankly.

The recipe for chiacchiere is apparently extremely old, dating back to ancient Roman times, when they (or something similar) was called frictilia.

Chiacchiere (Fried “Ribbons”)

Total Time: 45 minutes

Yield: Enough for a large plateful

Chiacchiere (Fried “Ribbons”)

Ingredients

  • 200g flour
  • 1 whole egg plus 1 yolk
  • 50g sugar
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil (or butter)
  • 1 jigger of sambuca, anisette, grappa or white wine
  • A pinch of baking powder (optional)
  • Oil for frying
  • Confectioner's sugar for dusting

Directions

  1. Mix the first six ingredients together into a ball. You may need to add more flour or a bit of water until you have a mixture that is rather soft but neither sticky nor tacky. Knead the mixture for a good five minutes until you have a nice, elastic dough. (If using a KitchenAid mixer, use the paddle to mix the ingredients, then switch to the hook to knead the dough on slow.) Wrap your ball of dough in cellophane and then a towel and let it rest for at least an hour.
  2. Divide the two into two parts and roll it out just as if you were making fresh egg pasta. If using a pasta machine, roll it to a medium thinness (notch 3 on a KitchenAid mixer pasta attachment).
  3. Then cut the dough out into the shape(s) you like with a fluted pastry wheel. The most typical, perhaps, is the rectangle that is partially split in the middle as pictured above, but Angelina favored simple ribbons (see photo below). Some folks like to pinch the ribbons in the middle to create little 'bow-ties'.
  4. Deep fry the dough shapes in moderate hot oil. (Not too hot: remember dough fries very quickly and if your oil is too hot, it may darken too much.) They should puff up immediately, especially if you've used a bit of baking powder. Turn them often with a slotted spoon so they cook evenly. Fry until they are just golden brown, not too dark. (The dark ones don't look as pretty but they are still good—you can exercise you cook's prerogative and enjoy them yourself in the kitchen while no one is looking...)
  5. Drain the fried chiacchiere on paper towels and let them cool. (They can be served lukewarm or at room temperature.) Before serving, dust them with confectioner's sugar. I like to toss them delicately the a bit of sugar first, then top them with a further dusting. They are at their best eaten immediately but are still good for a day or two after they are made.
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Comments

  1. A bit away from Carnival, but… has anyoune used the Tefal Active Fry machine for frying them~?

  2. First of all I would like to compliment and thank you for such a wonderful blog on authentic Italian cuisine. It’s outstanding.
    My grandmother was from Emilia Romagna and I have found many similar dishes she used to make in your blog. And this recipe is one of them. We call them stracci and she used liquore strega for the dough and doused them in a little alchemes when done.She also used una bustina di vaniglia e lievito per dolci, and rolled them in sugar while still warm.
    They were addictive to say the least. As soon as I find some alchemes and strega I will definitely make them.

    1. Author

      Sounds very nice, Alida! Alas, alkermes is very hard to find around these parts… but I’m sure it added a nice color to those stracci. If I ever find it, I’ll definitely try your grandmother’s recipe!

  3. These are galani to my Venetian family 🙂 Delicious! We usually use grappa as the spirit and then add Prosecco as the dough forms to make it smooth and elastic.

    I haven’t tried making this since I went gluten free, but that would be an interesting experiment!

  4. Ciao Frank! I’m like you, I did not grow up eating many sweets nor did I crave them. When we had sweets it was for a special occasion or for a holiday. Even then the dessert wasn’t all that sweet. I remember mamma making these and yes they are addictive. Thank you for such a wonderful reminder of beautiful days past. Buon fine settimana.

  5. we call them frappe in Umbria and we often serve them with a drizzle of alchermens liqueur, ah I so miss them now that I can’t eat them anymore for health reasons!

  6. Ash Wednesday was always homemades day. The left over dough was fried and drizzled with honey. We’d eat them right off of the macaroni board, like our polenta.

  7. My family refers to these as I Guanti or I Guandi, a childhood favorite of me as well. Addictive does not begin to describe it. I generally try to eat them secretly, but that trail of powdered sugar….

  8. Those are a thing of beauty! Bravo! Here in Milan making chiacchiere ‘al forno’, or in the oven, has become quite a trend. You can get them at the supermarket or pretty much every bakery or bread shop as an alternative to the deep fried ones. I have to say some are actually really good, but they are different: usually much thinner and flakier. Others sell them fried and then “ripassate al forno”, I guess cooked a second time in the oven? Need to look into that…

    1. Author

      Sounds intriguing… I suppose if you use a high-fat dough you needn’t fry them, which makes sense if they come out flaky. Do look into it, I’m curious to know more!

  9. I learnt to make something similar during my stay in Germany. it is called Mutzenmandeln and is mostly made at carnival time. We also add almonds and almond aroma to it.

  10. I learnt to make something similar during my stay in Germany. it is called Mutzenmandeln and is mostly made at carnival time.

  11. I just made them, Mmmmmmm so good!, thank God I made double of the recipe, because half are gone already:))))

  12. We make these in Germany for carnival, so I loved seeing this recipe! 🙂 Well done, and congrats on your Top 9!

  13. Thanks, folks! Glad you enjoyed this post and thanks for your readership, as always. 🙂

    @Anna's Table: You're so right. It's that lightness that makes them so addictive…

    @citronetvanille: Thanks for stopping by! And I think you may be right about the name… 😉

    @Nicole: Interesting! And in fact, one of the names for these treats in Italian is bugie, and that means 'lies', too!

    @Emily Malloy: Thanks, you're just too kind!

    @Simona: I did take a look—your turtlitt look fabulous!

  14. North of Italy.
    They are called BUGIE or GASSE (Lies or bows).
    We add orange zest and my nonna used lard to fry them…

  15. Mouth watering to say the least. My mom made something similar, she called them bows. They were strips and folded into each other to make a bow shape. Also very delicious.
    Anita

  16. These do look addictive! You know they remind me of buñelos, do you know them? Reading through your ingredients list it also sounds very similar. Love the decorative shapes too.

  17. It is so nice to see how Italian food sometimes it is like Romanian food. We have something very similar with Chiacchere, and they are named “Minciunele” meaning “little lies” so even the meaning is similar! As always is a pleasure to read your recipe!

  18. I am wondering if they're called chiacchiere, because people were eating them while chit-chatting 🙂 – They sure remind me of Carnevale, beautiful treats you made! yes they are very very addictive!

  19. Thanx for all the childhood memories you bring back in your articles, when I was a kid my Nonna made these with butter and grappa, “Cenci” in our family, we kids called them bow-ties, and wanted more !!

  20. I try to stay away from chiacchiere because I will eat the whole plate. One of my weaknesses at Carnevale. These look wonderful.

  21. These were also one of my favourite sweet treats growing up. Unfortunately, they can be quite addictive. Amazing how light they are in spite of the fact that they are deep fried.

  22. They were bugies in my home. And they are classics. Yours remind me of times long ago connecting me to today.

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