A Carnevale ogni scherzo vale

By Patrizia Cucca

Carnevale derived from carne levare (remove meat), the name of the sumptuous dinner people hold the night before Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent. Over the years, Carnevale was gradually extended to cover the entire period from Epiphany to Ash Wednesday and is celebrated all over the world and also known as carnival or Mardi Gras. How exciting it is to walk the streets in Naples during Carnevale. So much fun, colored confetti falling from the sky while watching the parade of floats and all the amazing costumes of the children. Neapolitans have a huge fantasy and their costumes are often surprising. During Carnevale you have to watch out for jokes of neapolitan scugnizzi. The rule is at Carnevale every kind of prank is allowed and children enjoy playing funny and original tricks on adults. Don’t wear your best clothes, you could get dirty! Why all this merriment? Well, if you’ve ever been in the Northeastern part of Italy during the winter you’ll understand, there’s no sun, little sound, everything’s damp, and the thermometer stays pegged just above freezing for weeks on end. Seem familiar? People need something to take their mind off of all this, and what could be better than a party, or even a month of parties? Of course, the festivities always mean that there is going to be food. There are some savory dishes associated with Carnevale time: Along the Amalfi Coast and throughout much of the South there’s a migliaccio di polenta made with corn meal, sausages, and grated cheese, simply cooked over the stove. Naples has the sumptuous lasagne di Carnevale; in the past poorer families could only afford it once a year, which meant that every family made secret variations to the recipe and there was a great deal of argument over whose was best. Some people no doubt greeted Lent with relief. Throughout much of the Peninsula, however, Carnevale is an occasion for sweet pastries, usually fritters of one kind or another that are quick and fun to make, and especially fun to eat. Each region in Italy has its own special treats for celebrating the holiday. However they are often various forms of fried dough (such as cenci), fritters (such as frittelle di riso), or doughnuts such as bomboli . Neapolitans usually eat chiacchiere. Chiacchiere are a very famous dessert in Italy, but they are known with different names in several parts of the country. Chiacchiere consist of thin strips of fried dough with powdered sugar on top. Tuscan cenci and Roman frappe sound quite different but look and taste the exact same. Now, I love hot, fried dough sprinkled with sugar as much as anyone, but what I don’t love is deep frying them in my kitchen. For all of you who don’t like cleaning up grease spatters and wondering what to do with a potful of used oil, I want to share something a bit different: a cake called Migliaccio, as it happens just before lent (a time when, traditionally, Catholics eat less or at least give up some of the richest foods), the food is always decadent… and often fried. Migliaccio, typical of Naples and is similar to a baked cheesecake in consistency and is made with ricotta and semolina instead of flour.  It is very moist and creamy and it has a subtle lemon taste.  It is delicious and very easy to make. It well suited for an afternoon snack (merenda), tea-time, or even for breakfast with your cappuccino. E’ squisito!
Buon Carnevale everyone!
Ingredients
2500 ml – 2 cups milk
2500 ml – 2 cups water
250 gms – 3 ½ tbsp butter
2Peel of 1 lemon
21 pinch salt
2200 gms – 1 2/3 cups semolina
24 eggs
2300 gms – 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
2350 gms – 12 oz. ricotta
22 tsp vanilla extract
21 tbsp Limoncello optional
2Icing sugar to decorate
Instructions
1. Put the milk, water, butter, salt and lemon peel in a pot and bring to a boil
2. Remove the lemon peel and add the semolina while continuously stirring.
3. Cook the semolina for 10 minutes (keep stirring!). If you get any lumps, use a stick mixer to remove them. Let it cool down a little.
4. In the meantime, whisk the eggs with the sugar. Add the ricotta, vanilla extract and Limoncello (if you use it) and whisk well
5. Add the lukewarm semolina to the ricotta mixture and whisk to combine.
6. Pour the batter into a greased 22 or 23 cm – 9 inch round springform pan.
7. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180°C – 355°F for 60 minutes. It will be slightly wobbly, like a cheesecake.
8. Let it cool down completely, then unmould it, dust it with icing sugar and serve.

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