Fritelle Veneziane con Zabaione

Perhaps the most famous of the special Carnevale foods in Venice are frittelle. Little donuts, filled or unfilled, sometimes with the addition of grappa-soaked raisins, or pine nuts, served ubiquitously, and eaten on a pretty much daily basis by me! The most delicious (and correspondingly famous) frittelle in Venice can be found at the Pasticceria Tonnolo, nearby the Campo Santa Margarita. 

Unlike some frittelle, those at Tonnolo are absolutely chocked to the brim with filling, despite being quite daintily sized. Choose from Chantilly cream, chocolate, or a perfectly boozy, oozy zabaione (my inevitable favourite). The recipe I’ve included below is tribute to the Tonnolo Zabaione fritelle, which, given that these are only available during Carnevale, will have to do for me now until next year.

Frittelle say so much about the spirit of Carnevale – they are sweet, festive, and exceedingly naughty. It is perhaps a little naughty even, to post a recipe for them, given how tempting it could become to make them often, and not just occasionally. So, while I’ll provide the recipe, the self control bit is up to you…



(Serves 4 – approx. 16 medium-sized frittelle)

For the Frittelle

  • 180g plain flour – sifted
  • Scant teaspoon instant yeast
  • 2 egg yolks – lightly whisked
  • 2 tablespoons caster sugar
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • Pinch of salt
  • 125ml whole milk

For the Zabaione

  • 3 egg yolks
  • 70g caster sugar
  • 120ml sweet Marsala wine

In Addition

  • Sunflower or canola oil for deep frying – approx. 750ml
  • Extra caster sugar for dusting

It is helpful to have a heat-proof plastic squeezy bottle (i.e. a condiments bottle) for piping the filling into the frittelle. All the better if it has a fine nib. Failing this, a piping kit will work, however it is easier to keep the zabaione warm in a water bath using a squeezy bottle than a piping bag.


Slightly warm approximately 50ml of the milk and mix the yeast along with one tablespoon of the sugar into this.

In a large bowl, combine the sifted flour, salt, remaining tablespoon of sugar, the melted butter, and the remaining milk. Mix together, and then add the lightly whisked egg yolks. Mix again to combine, before adding the yeast mixture and stirring this through.

Your mixture should now have a batter consistency. If it doesn’t, and is looking more doughy than batter-like, add a little more milk.

The batter now needs to be set aside in order to allow the yeast to do its work. Cover with cling film or a damp tea towel and set aside in a warm place for approximately 2hrs.

Meanwhile, prepare the zabaione by mixing together the egg yolks, sugar, and the Marsala in a metal bowl. Place this over a saucepan of boiling water, and whisk constantly until the mixture thickens considerably, to a custard consistency. This can take a long time, 10 minutes plus – so hang in there! 

If you feel very confident of your custard making abilities, you can dispense with the double boiler method, and just heat the ingredients together directly in a small saucepan. Though the other advantage of whisking in a bowl is, of course, that it has rounded sides so allows you to easily reach into the corners without the need for a pointed whisk.

When the zabaione is thick and glossy, take it off the heat, and continue to whisk vigourously for another 3 minutes while it cools a little. Now pour into a heat-proof plastic squeezy bottle and keep this warm in a water bath over a very low heat. 

After two hours of resting, the frittelle batter should have risen considerably, and be bubbly in texture. Give it a quick stir to blend, and you are now ready to cook.

Fill a deep saucepan just over half way with sunflower or canola oil and heat to 160°C – the temperature at which a toothpick dropped in the oil will begin to bubble. Take care not to heat to a higher temperature than this as otherwise the frittelle will quickly burn.

Dip a small spoon in the hot oil, then use this to scoop up a dollop of the batter. Carefully drop the batter from the spoon into the oil. The frittelle should be ball shaped and not over-large.

Fry in batches, up to 4 at a time.

In theory, a perfect frittella will turn itself over at exactly the right time during cooking, but this doesn’t always happen, so if your frittelle are uncooperative, gently turn them over with a spoon when they are golden on one side.

Remove when golden on both sides, and drain on absorbent paper.

Roll the still-warm frtittelle in caster sugar to coat, then, using the nib of the squeezy bottle, inject a filling of warm zabaione into each frittelle.

Serve immediately, and, now you have the recipe, year-round!