Cenci for Carnevale


You will love cenci at Carneval time and they are easy to make.

Happy Fat Tuesday. Carnival time is here, Lent is near so it’s time to make some Cenci for Carnevale, those scrumptious Italian pastries made from rich egg dough, deep-fried and then sprinkled with lots of powdered sugar.

These are cenci at carnevale sold by a vendor in Sansepolcro; cenci a great Italian recipe.

Some Italian cooks like to do fancy things with their cenci, like shape them into wagon wheels and butterflies. Show-offs. I took the picture above in my town of Sansepolcro at Carnival time and this is what the vendors were selling on the streets. But are WE going to make such complicated shapes? Uh, no. We’re just going to cut ours into strips and tie them into knots before we fry them up, then gobble them up.

Make Cenci for Carnevale

Start by making a dough ball for your cenci at carnevale.

Make the dough according to the directions below and knead 10 minutes until smooth. As you can see, I’m not an expert at pastry dough and that is as smooth as I could make my dough ball before I got bored kneading it. Let it rest in plastic wrap for 30 minutes.

Roll out your cenci for carnevale dough until it's paper thin.

Then roll out your dough until it’s paper thin.

Cut your cenci for carnevale into thin strips and tie into loose knots.

I cut mine with a pastry wheel but you can also use a knife. Then tie them into loose knots–easier said than done. Didya know cenci literally translates to “rags and tatters” and you will certainly find that out cutting them up. By the way, the Romans call these pastries frappe and the Venetians call them galani.

Fry your cenci 1-2 minutes in very hot oil before draining on a towel.

Keep the oil no less than 350 degrees so the dough doesn’t absorb too much of it. These babies fry quickly, in 1-2 minutes. Lift them out and let them drain on paper towels. After they’ve cooled, douse with lots of powdered sugar. These cenci will most definitely put more dolce in your vita!

Cenci are delicious at Carnevale.

The wild and woolly Italian town, Ivrea, celebrates Carnevale with the townfolk engaged in a yearly down-and-dirty food fight using tons and tons of oranges. You can read about it here in my Carnevale post of 2015. Incredibile.


Cenci alla Fiorentina

Yield: About 4 dozen

Total Time: One hour


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 2 whole large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons rum
  • powdered (confectioner's) sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • vegetable oil for deep-frying


  1. Place 1 3/4 cups flour in a large bowl, make a well and the eggs, yolks, rum, one tablespoon of the sugar and salt
  2. Mix with a fork (or your hands) until ingredients are incorporated then form the mixture into a ball
  3. Sprinkle 1/4 cup flour onto a large board and knead the dough for about 10 minutes, until the extra flour is mixed in
  4. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 30 minutes
  5. Heat 3 to 4 inches of oil to 350 degrees in a large heavy saucepan
  6. Roll one-quarter of the dough out at a time on a floured board until the dough is paper-thin
  7. Cut the dough with a pastry wheel or knife into strips 6-7 inches long 1/2 inch wide, then tie the strips into loose knots
  8. Deep-fry the strips 4 or 5 at a time for 1-2 minutes until they are golden
  9. Remove them oil with a slotted spoon and transfer plate to drain on a paper towel then repeat until all the cenci are fried
  10. Let them cool and before serving sprinkle generously with the powdered sugar

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