Carnevale is a time to whip up your most indulgent dishes and feast. I've chosen two of my favourite 'Fat Tuesday' vegan recipes: Zeppole and Walnut Ragu Lasagne. Perfect for your carnevale celebration.
Carnevale is a curious time of year in Italy - where celebration occurs along with religious traditions. This occasion involves gorging on all the rich, fatty and indulgent food you can handle.
So why does one do this? Well, as Lent approaches with its traditional forty days of fasting, it's also a tradition to ingest as much indulgent food as possible on the eve of this fast. With more strict Catholics, this involves abstaining from meat and other luxuries. It is a season of prayer.
From the Catholic Telegraph:
“Roman Catholics must fast and abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, Wednesday, February 22, 2023 and Good Friday, April 7, 2023.”
Interestingly, the word ‘carnevale’ translates from latin to ‘remove meat’. To give up meat.
So does this mean that vegans are always in a state of carnevale?
Carnevale is usually celebrated the first Tuesday before Lent and also goes by the name of ‘Fat Tuesday’ (Martedi Grasso) and is also known to many of us around the world as Mardi Gras, ('Fat Tuesday' in French). There’s also a Fat Thursday (Giovedí Grasso) as well as versions of carnevale all over the world.
The menu of the Carnevale season includes deep fried pastries rolled in sugar and rich meaty, meals like lasagne.
It is very much a sweet lover's heaven. Popular treats include:
Crostoli (also called, chiacchiere or frappe) - deep fried crispy dough dusted in icing sugar
Struffoli - small dense balls of dough deep fried, drizzled in honey
Zeppole - deep fried yeast dough, like doughnuts, covered in sugar
Cannoli - deep fried shells piped with sweet ricotta filling
To celebrate a vegan Fat Tuesday or Carnevale, I have included a sweet and savoury calorie-rich offering. Certainly not every day foods, but treats to celebrate nonetheless!
Here are my vegan friendly recipes for Zeppole and Walnut Ragu Lasagne.
I love this rustic Italian version of a donut. These misshapen deep-fried morsels are often made for special occasions like Christmas, Easter and Carnevale. Just as well, as they’re very much a treat food. My nonna would make piles of zeppole which she would leave plain, coat in sugar, or fill with an anchovy or two. I like to use a neutral-flavoured oil like canola or sunflower and approximately 1 litre for deep frying.
MAKES 20-25 | 20 MINUTES + PROVING
1 cup warm water
1 teaspoon dry yeast
¼ cup sugar + 1 teaspoon
2 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
oil for deep frying, like sunflower or canola
icing sugar or caster sugar to serve
In a small bowl, combine the warm water, yeast and 1 teaspoon of sugar. Stir to dissolve the yeast. Set aside for 5 minutes to activate or until it becomes frothy and bubbly.
Combine flour, ¼ cup of sugar and salt into a large bowl. Pour in the yeast mixture and add ⅓ cup of extra water. Stir thoroughly until it forms a sticky wet dough. Cover and leave in a draught-free place for 1 hour to rise.
Heat the oil in a small to medium saucepan to 170-180C. You can check this by using a thermometer or test by dropping in a small piece of bread. If the bread browns in 40-60 seconds, it’s ready.
Carefully drop approximately 1 tablespoon of the batter into the oil. You may need a second spoon to help the process. Fry zeppole in batches until golden brown, flipping over and cooking evenly. Remove from the oil and drain well on absorbent paper. Continue with the remaining dough.
Dust with icing sugar or roll in caster sugar. Best served fresh and warm.
WALNUT RAGU LASAGNE
Once on social media I asked my friends to list their favourite Italian dish. A majority chose lasagne. A spaghetti-lover myself, I wondered what it was about lasagne that makes it so many people's favourite. Perhaps it’s the layer upon layer of rich, meaty, saucy, creamy goodness. It's safe to say that you'll get the same indulgent experience with this vegan version.
SERVES 4-6 | 75 MINUTES
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, crushed
800g canned diced or crushed tomatoes
½ teaspoon salt
handful of basil leaves, optional
2 cups walnuts
1 ½ slices of stale bread
1 tablespoon ‘beef ’ style or vegetable stock powder
few drops of liquid smoke
handful of fresh parsley
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons vegan butter or margarine
4 tablespoons plain flour
3 ½ cups soy milk
½ cup nutritional yeast flakes or vegan parmesan
½ teaspoon salt
cracked black pepper
200g vegan mozzarella
250g dried lasagne sheets
In a medium saucepan, heat the oil and fry the garlic over a low to medium heat for 1 minute, being careful not to brown. Stir through the tomatoes, salt and optional basil. Cover and simmer while you make the walnut mince, stirring occasionally.
Add all the mince ingredients except the oil to a food processor and process until it resembles fine mince crumbs.
Heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large non-stick frypan. Fry the walnut mince for 3 minutes until browned off. Transfer the mince to the pomodoro sauce. Stir, cover and simmer on low for a further 10 minutes.
Preheat a fan-forced oven to 190C.
Place the butter in a medium saucepan, over a medium heat and allow to melt. Add the flour and stir to a smooth paste. Continue to stir for 2 minutes, allowing the flour to cook off but being careful not to brown. Gradually whisk in the soy milk 1 cup at a time until smooth. This will create a pouring consistency rather than a thick béchamel, however it will thicken a little once off the heat. Stir through the nutritional yeast flakes, salt and pepper. Simmer on low while stirring for a couple of minutes. Remove from heat.
Assemble the lasagne.
Grate the mozzarella or tear into small pieces.
In an ovenproof dish (I use a 30cm x 20cm dish) spread a large ladleful of the walnut ragu sauce. Follow with a large ladleful of the béchamel. Sprinkle over a handful of the mozzarella.
Cover with a single layer of the lasagne sheets. Depending on the size of your dish and/or pasta sheets, you may have to break some of the lasagne to fit.
Repeat the layering process, another 1-2 layers, ensuring the lasagne sheets are covered with sauce. Finish with a generous layer of béchamel and the remaining mozzarella. Cover and bake for 30 minutes.
Remove cover and bake for a further 10–15 minutes. To check if lasagne is cooked, insert a knife to test if it slides through the pasta easily.
Remove from the oven and allow it to cool slightly before serving.
What are you feasting on for vegan carnevale?