Sweet Carnival: once upon a time in Puglia.

A lot of masks, a multitude of confetti, a bunch of fun and a dash of colour: this is the timeless recipe of the Carnival in Puglia.

Throughout the month of February, the impressive papier-mâché floats parade through the streets of the towns and the noisy voices of the children all around. Among the most famous and ancient carnivals and parades in Puglia there is Putignano, known all over the world, Gallipoli, which has origins in the Middle Ages and Manfredonia, dating back to the Roman period. The most recent but noteworthy, the Carnival of Massafra, where citizens and tourists can directly participate in the parade mingling with the masked crowd, and the new Carnival of Castellaneta.

Besides the parades, also the stories of the Puglian carnival delicacies have their roots in ancient times. The recipes of traditional carnival sweets are so connected with the past that each dessert has infinite shades of flavours and different names, according to the areas of Puglia. The reason is that the recipes were passed on orally from generation to generation, as a secret to be jealously kept.

The chiacchiere, with their magical sprinkling of icing sugar – among the most famous desserts in this period – are the great carnival classics as well as the Puglian zeppole, delicious choux pastry with a hole, enriched with pastry cream and black cherries, appear on the tables. Traditionally prepared for the feast of St. Joseph on March 19th, they delight adults and children throughout the whole Carnival period.

Leafing through the pages of the grandmothers’ memories, we can find other curious names, sweets with a thousand of shapes and flavours, tied to their place of origin. Starting from Salento, the stars turn into purcidduzzi, fried little gnocchi dipped in honey and decorated with candy sprinkles, which also shine on the Christmas tables. In the Bari area, you enter the heart of the Carnival, where children challenge each other in a confetti battle. A multitude of tenerelli, confetti with a surprising filling of hazelnuts and almonds, covered with chocolate and coloured sugar. Continuing the journey northwards and admiring the landscape of the Puglian countryside, the branches of the millenary olive trees become dita degli apostoli, an ancient sweet with a cannelloni shape, traditionally prepared only with egg whites and filled with ricotta, cinnamon and chocolate curls. Following endless narrow streets studded with dry stone walls to reach Gargano, every stone well placed on another becomes a farrata, baked sweet little panzerotto with a mixture of wheat or spelt, with a heart of ricotta, wheat and marjoram. The journey ends staring at the Puglian sky, getting lost in the deep blue, but some clouds dress up as a pettola, fried dough to dip, still hot, in sugar or in fig vincotto. Also called pittule or castagnole, sometimes flavoured with lemon or orange zest.

Frittelle di patata dolce del Salento e mosto cotto (fried Salento sweet potato dough and cooked wine) is an interesting version of Puglian pettole.

Photo credit: derbygrill.it