Memories of long-cherished flavors and traditions

February 1, 2022 - 12:00am -- Living City

Memories of long-cherished flavors and traditions

An old family recipe from Italy

By Maria Grazia Niola

The small village in Sardinia, Italy, where I come from, is called Aidomaggiore. I treasure memories of time-honored traditions passed down through generations in the local community — always associated with special culinary treats. 

In the days before Lent, I always remember how Carnival is celebrated there. It’s a time of celebration, when people dance in the square to the music of the “Sa Cointrotza,” the traditional dance of my village. Everybody is dressed up and there is a lot of fun and laughter. 

We visit neighbors and friends — in fact on this occasion anybody can visit anybody else unannounced: it would be strange not to go to one another’s houses, knowing that each family has prepared sweets and cakes to share with others, such as the frittelle have described below. It’s a tradition which creates a wider family atmosphere, and it’s a beautiful one to have. 

During this pandemic, I thought to myself, “Why not make frittelle and share them with our neighbors?” And that’s what I did!

Easter, I think, is an equally good time to share out this delicious dish with family and friends.

This recipe, which I have had for many years, was given to me by a friend who received it from her grandmother. It works well every time, and the final product is a donut-type specialty. 

You could call it “St. Joseph’s treat,” but to me le frittelle means so much more: the memory of flavors and tradition, dance, laughter and celebration.

Le frittelle di San Giuseppe 

(serves 12–15)


8 cups all-purpose flour 

3 oranges, peeled and blended 

1 teaspoon saffron

6 eggs

2 heaped tablespoons dried yeast 

2 cups of milk

2 small glasses of Cointreau, Sambuca or any good liqueur

1 pinch of salt

Cooking oil for frying


Put the whole eggs, the blended oranges and the saffron in a large bowl and mix together with a whisk. Dissolve the yeast in a little lukewarm milk and a small amount of sugar, and add to the mix. Add the flour, a little at a time, then the salt, the remaining milk, the liqueur. Mix well. Place the dough in a large bowl and cover with a kitchen towel and two warm blankets (or leave in a warm place) to help it rise. This will take 50 minutes to an hour. 

Now you have to shape and deep-fry the frittelle. Heat a large quantity of oil in a large saucepan. When the oil is very hot, wet your hands with milk, take small amounts of the dough and form ring shapes. Lower them into the hot oil, a few at a time. After 2-3 minutes, the rings will turn golden brown. Fish them out and drain well on a kitchen towel, then sprinkle with sugar. Buon appetito!