The dough in Tasting Rome’s variation is spiked with a bit of sambuca to deliver a subtle hint of anise, once a common flavor on Roman tables, but you will find versions made with other liquors or citrus zest throughout Rome and indeed all of central Italy.
So-called because their size and shape evokes that of a chestnut (castagna in Italian), these roughly spherical fried balls of dough, easily shaped with a small ice cream scoop or two spoons, are rolled in sugar—like the Roman equivalent of doughnut holes—and sold at bakeries all over town in the days leading up to Lent.
Reprinted with permission from Tasting Rome by Katie Parla and Kristina Gill (Random House, 2016). —katieparla
Pinch baking soda
tablespoons fresh orange juice (from 1/2 orange)
fresh lemon juice
sugar, plus more for coating
Neutral oil (such as vegetable or canola oil), for frying
Mix the flour, eggs, baking powder, baking soda, orange juice, lemon juice, Sambuca, sugar, vegetable oil, and milk in a large bowl until smooth.
In a small pot or cast-iron skillet, heat 2 1/2 inches of neutral oil to 350° F over medium heat. Using a teaspoon or a small ice cream scoop, scoop up a spoonful of batter, then carefully scrape it off with a second teaspoon into the hot oil.
Cook the castagnole in batches of four or five for about 4 minutes, until a deep golden brown. Halfway through cooking, they will turn themselves over in the oil. Take care not to crowd the pan.
Remove to a paper towel-lined tray or plate to drain, then roll them in sugar while they are still hot so that the sugar sticks.
Castagnole are best eaten the day they are prepared, but they will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for 3 to 4 days.