Snap, Crackle, Pop Italian Style: Chiacchiere for Carnevale

Munching on chiacchiere for Carnevale is one of my almost-springtime traditions here in Calabria. In case you’re not sure what they are:

Chiacchiere on Flickr

Chiacchiere: The traditional pastry for Carnevale.

Known by a ridiculous number of names throughout Italy such as Cenci (rags/tatters), Bugie (lies), Guanti (gloves), Nastri delle suore (nuns’ ribbons), Fritelle, Crostoli, Frappe, and often called Lovers’ Knots in English, these fried, powdered-sugar-dusted treats are just what the dottore ordered after a long, hard winter.

Maybe not so heart smart, but hey, that’s why they’re a treat, right?

Here in my corner of Calabria, they’re called “Chiacchiere,” which I like to think of as “chit chat” — these definitely make noises as you crunch into them (and you probably make some noises too as you shift wildly to avoid sprinkling your entire self with powdered sugar in the meantime).

A kind of Italian “snap crackle pop,” kinda sorta.

Some recipes call for rum, whiskey, brandy, grappa, anise, or the like, and many are tied in knots, but the ones I’ve seen around here are just strips, so those are the instructions below.

P’s mom doesn’t make these, so I borrowed this recipe from my dear friend Mary Amabile Palmer’s Cucina di Calabria: Treasured Recipes and Family Traditions from Southern Italy (a cookbook that I cannot recommend highly enough):

Recipe for Chiacchiere for Carnevale

chiacchiere for carnevale

  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs, well beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • zest of 1 small lemon
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons milk
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • Powdered sugar for dusting

1. In large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar.

2. Add eggs and vanilla and mix thoroughly.

3. Add flour, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest and mix well.

4. Place mixture on lightly floured surface and knead for 6 to 8 minutes until the dough is soft, smooth, and elastic. If dough is hard, add 1 to 2 teaspoons of milk.

5. Form dough into ball, place in greased bowl, turn to coat, and then cover with towel and let stand for 10 minutes.

6. Roll out into sheets, 1/8 thick. (I’ve seen other recipes that recommend folding the dough over and doing this a few times, but you can use your judgment.)

7. Cut dough into 3 by 5 inch strips. Put a small slit in the center of each strip and twist slightly.

8. Deep fry strips of dough for 1 to 3 minutes until puffed and golden. Remove from oil and place on paper towels to drain.

9. When cool, sprinkle with powdered sugar.

I don’t think I have to tell you that I think these are great with espresso, do I?

Buon appetito e Buon Carnevale!

Have you had these fried treats? What do you call them?

32 Beans of Wisdom to “Snap, Crackle, Pop Italian Style: Chiacchiere for Carnevale”
  1. Gil

    These sound delicious! Too bad we don’t have an Italian bakery close by.

    Gil, I’m sure your diabetes is grateful 😉

  2. aaaaaaaaah. I responded to your comment on my blog saying I hope you didn’t post a recipe and here it is.

    I am going to pretend I didn’t see this. I’m trying to stay away from these. They are so good.

    Here in Rome there are called frappe.

    nyc/caribbean ragazza’s last blog post..Italian Driving School For Beginners.

    Sorry 😉 These are so good from the bakeries…so easy to just pop in and grab a bag, isn’t it? Too easy!

  3. 02.18.2009

    I have never had this, but i can imagine how delicious it will be tasting.

    Happy Cook’s last blog post..Maa di dal

    It can be rather difficult to *stop* eating these, believe me!

  4. joanne at frutto della passione

    I made these on the weekend but will be posting about them closer to Carnevale. Yummy with Nutella too!

    joanne at frutto della passione’s last blog post..The Organic Vanilla Bean Company Website of the Month February 2009

    Ooh I love that Joanne 🙂

  5. Not here too! I just can’t get away from them. They are everywhere, piles and piles of the crispy, flaking little things,in the forno and at the COOP all calling my name. We bought a tray of them from the forno and the whole lot were devoured in one greedy session.

    I’m afraid I have to draw the line at deep frying dough in my own kitchen though, it’s too, too naughty. Michelle my advice to you is stop while you still have a chance and move away from the fryer! 😉

    Done Amanda. Thank you for your intervention 🙂

    amanda@A Tuscan View…’s last blog post..…take a deep breath…

  6. 02.18.2009

    These sound delicious!!!

    Indeed, Yaya 🙂

  7. 02.18.2009

    My nonna always makes these and since she is Pugliese we call them Crostoli. She makes hers into a wheel shape and then drizzles honey over them too sometimes.

    Leanne in Italy’s last blog post..Snow covered Malito

    YUM! Honey sounds great 🙂

  8. 02.18.2009

    YUM!!! Yes, I have has them. Or what I beleive to be them. We call them Fried Dough…I think. I have also had Zeppoli (sp?) which are also delish!!! Thanks for the fried goodness 🙂

    My Melange’s last blog post..Travel Tip Tuesday -Destination Montreal

    I firmly believe just about anything fried is good 😉

  9. 02.18.2009

    Yep – we called them “frappe” in Rome. Not a big fan of Italian baked goods in general (I really missed the vanilla in everything) but I loved these. Speaking of vanilla…..This is how we know it’s not your suocera’s recipe! These sound really really good though – better than the original. And dipped in Nutella? Only way to go! Ah, the memories, thanks Michelle.

    anna l’americana’s last blog post..Makin’ friends….

    Glad to bring back happy memories, Anna 🙂

  10. 02.18.2009

    Those look amazing!

    Chel’s last blog post..Wordless Wednesday – happy family

    Mangia mangia!

  11. 02.18.2009

    Yes, Bugie. Yum
    Thank you for posting this recipe, I am going to surprise my husband with some of these!

    Amber’s last blog post..A New Day!

    Surprising your husband with lies! Love it Amber 😉

  12. awedree

    This is so interesting. In Afghan culture, we have a very similar pastry prepared almost exactly the same. They’re called “elephant’s ears” because they’re tied in a bow and sort of resemble elephant’s ears. They also make a lot of noise and they’re reserved for holidays, weddings, etc. So amazing the similarities you see across the globe! Next time I’m in Italy, I’ll make sure to try “chiachierre” 🙂

    Thanks for sharing that Awedree! *So* interesting to learn of the similarities 🙂

  13. 02.18.2009

    Yum! I have my grandma’s recipe that’s been in the family for a while. However, we call them Crostoli and we typically only have them at Christmas time for some reason. Grandma’s recipe includes a little Bourbon, too, if I remember correctly. I believe the Bourbon went into the batter and not grandma. LOL! We also braid ours. That’s the only way I’ve ever had them. Interesting how they are called by so many different names and come in different shapes.

    You had me at bourbon….

  14. 02.18.2009

    Ooooh! These look dangerously delicious! Maybe even worth spattering oil all over my kitchen to make…

    anno’s last blog post..News & Notes…

    Be sure to wear an apron, Anno!

  15. 02.18.2009

    Yes, this is the typical Carnevale sweet here in Molfetta, too. I’m not crazy about the store-bought ones, but homemade they can be super delicious! Btw, they are called chiacchiere here, too!

    saretta’s last blog post..Along the Lungomare

    Hee hee…chit chat in the south…who woulda thunk it? 😉

  16. 02.18.2009

    I LOVE fritelle! My mom makes some often for us when we’re visiting and it’s so easy to eat a whole plate of them without even realizing. We usually eat them plain but I’ve had them with the powdered sugar as well which are very good! Buon Carnevale!

    Lisa’s last blog post..Hope you’re not tired of DR pics just yet!

    They are *so* addictive, aren’t they? So light and airy and YUM 🙂

  17. 02.18.2009

    We always made pizza fritte…I htink that’s how it was spelled. Bread dough fried in oil, served hot with cinnamon, sugar, powdered sugar, honey or what ever. I can smell them cooking now! I am hungry!

    Deb R’s last blog post..Waiting for Spring

    Yes we did those too with sugar on them…also known as zeppole 🙂

  18. 02.18.2009

    They make something like that here at the fair…they call it and Elephant Ear. It’s pretty tasty!

    andrea’s last blog post..Blog Share

    Cute 🙂

  19. 02.18.2009

    And here I was wondering what to take to a dinner on Saturday night, and now you give me the perfect dessert!! Thanks!

    Barbara’s last blog post..KITCHEN DRAWERS

    I hope you like them Barb!

  20. 02.19.2009

    I made these at Christmas time with my Mom- we dont really have a name for them though- sometimes we tie them in a knot and call them bow ties….I like your name best! Chiacchiere! Perfect…I will call them this from now on! Besides we are Calabrese we need the authentic terminology! Thanks Michelle…

    Susan’s last blog post..Our quiet dinner on the 14th…

    Fun to eat and a fun word to say! Can’t beat it Susan 🙂

  21. 02.21.2009

    Ooohhhh…. I am having family over for Sunday lunch tomorrow. Now I know what dolce to make! I will see what names they come up with for this pastry here in Campania. Thanks for the great recipe! Quick question… how much oil do you use in the pan? I am not used to frying things. Enough to cover them completely, or is that too much? Grazie!

    Laura’s last blog post..Ruins of the Basilica di Sant’Eustachio

    As lots of people actually deep fry these, you can’t go wrong with a good bit of oil in the pan–I’d say barely covered works well 🙂

  22. 02.21.2009

    Oh dear! And now you can tell I am not much of a baker here yet. How do you buy baking powder in Italy? What is is called? Grazie Michelle!

    Laura’s last blog post..Ruins of the Basilica di Sant’Eustachio

    It’s “lievito per dolci” and usually comes with vanilla in there already. I almost always use “Paneangeli” brand in packets. Hope these come out well for you 🙂

  23. 02.21.2009

    Thanks for answering my questions so quickly, Michelle! Thanks also for the suggestion for what type of baking powder to buy. I am looking forward to making them tomorrow morning!

    Laura’s last blog post..Ruins of the Basilica di Sant’Eustachio

    Mmmm I can smell them frying already 🙂

  24. 02.23.2009

    This food looks like our fried pie , I love the food because it is so delicious to send my mouth water and my mom was good at preparing this food. Thanks for sharing us.

    Glad you enjoyed, and thank for stopping by 🙂

  25. 02.23.2009

    Ciao Michelle! I made these yesterday morning, and they were a big hit with the family. Yum! I asked and everyone here seems to known them by the name of chiacchiere as well. I love the little bit of lemon flavor that came through from the zest. It doesn’t seem to be a traditional ingredient used here, which surprised me since the Amalfi Coast is the land of the lemons. (Several women spontaneously gave me a recipe when I said I was going to make them, and it usually was very simple and included a cup of wine.) I was very happy with your recipe, and I will make these every year now! Grazie!!

    Laura’s last blog post..The Amalfi Duomo Webcam is Back!

    I’m *so* happy they came out so well, Laura! Thanks for letting me know 🙂

  26. 02.24.2009

    I just made these & I’m not sure there will be any left by the time my husband comes home from work. Wish I had read the comments earlier so I would have known they’re called frappe in Rome. I was trying to explain them to my son who’s living in Rome & he had no idea what I was talking about.

    So happy you like them! Thanks for sharing, and be sure to fill in your son on what you were talking about later 😉

  27. 01.23.2010

    I love the ‘chit chat’ translation, although someome mentioned that perhaps it was because the white powder falls all over you, and it gives you away…
    Anyway, I’m going to run a small piece on chiacchiere, etc. etc. and was wondering if I could ursurp your photo, with link to here!
    fammi sapere.

    francesca maggi

    Of course you may use it Francesca! Looking forward to your post 🙂

  28. Jody Rybka

    Live in the Midwest. Near Cleveland, Ohio. We have very high humidity. My mother was Italian and made these quite often. They were not the real light and airy type. They were very close to this recipe. She has since passed away. I have tried to duplicate this recipe. They come out close. But, seem to get soft by the next day. My moms stayed crispy for well over a week. What am I doing wrong. I do have a deep fat thermometer and do wait to add them when the oil reaches a tempature of 350. All of your comments are welcome and greatly appreciated.

    Thank you! and Happy New Year!

    Jody Deen

    Hi Jody, if they are the crispness you want initially but then turn soft later, I’d say it’s a question of storage, so I’d play around with your method. The best way to store them just may be to put them on a cookie sheet in the oven uncovered; that’s what my grandmother did with anything she didn’t want “humidified” including bread for bread crumbs. Let me know how it turns out next time you make them!

  29. marie concetta

    My mother made those for Xmas. I think we called them “bow ties”. Out here in CA. we make them with won ton wrappers.

    Haha talk about Chinese/Italian fusion! Love it!

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Michelle KaminskyMichelle Kaminsky is an American attorney-turned-freelance writer who lived in her family's ancestral village in Calabria, Italy for 15 years. This blog is now archived. 

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