In Italy, as the Christmas and New Year celebrations are left in the past, a whole new pletora of sweet recipes appears in the windows of local bakeries and pastry shops... It is a slow progression, as we do celebrate the Epiphany on the 6th of January with "coal candies and cookies", but it is indeed a steady pickup from now until Fat Tuesday, the last day of our Carnival season. 

While I am personally counting the days I need to wait, to start wetting my fingertips with fried oil and powdered sugar at my town's favorite pastry shop, I figured it was a good opportunity to scavenge through my old recipes and share with you the one that through my youth has made me the happiest kid ever! 

Since I can remember in fact, every Carnival season my grandmother Lola used to deliver to our house a basket lined with a beautiful linen hand-embroidered cloth, full of Cenci she had been frying all day. While extremely simple and foolproof, these fried "Rags" are a once a year opportunity for gluttony, and I am sure that if you give them a go they will easily become staples in your house!

Serves: 8 / Prep Time: 20 mins / Inactive Prep Time: 30 mins / Cooking Time: 20 mins


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 Shot (1 1/2 ounces) of Vin Santo (or rum or brandy can do the trick as well)
  • Grated zest of 1 orange
  • 4 cups safflower , vegetable, or canola oil for deep- frying
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for garnish


  1. In a stand mixer, fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour, granulated sugar, melted butter, eggs, Vin Santo, and orange zest. Mix for 5 to 7 minutes, until the dough begins detaching from the sides of the bowl.
  2. Remove the dough from the bowl, seal it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  3. Lightly dust a working surface with flour, roll the dough very thin, almost as if you were making fresh pasta (in fact, in case you have a pasta machine, that would do the trick too; I though personally like to work with my old wood rolling pin).
  4. Use a pastry wheel or a pizza cutter to slice the dough into 5-inch long, 1- inch wide strips.
  5. In high-sided skillet, add the oil to a level of 2 inches. Heat the oil over high heat until the deep-frying thermometer reads 360 degrees F.
  6. Fry the strips of dough in batches (the cenci), flipping occasionally, for 4 to 5 minutes per batch, until they curl slightly and acquire a golden brown color.
  7. Transfer the cenci to a platter lined with paper towels to absorb the excess oil. Let cool off for a few minutes, then dust them with the confectioners’ sugar and serve with a glass of Vin Santo.