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A Guide to Authentic Carnival Foods in Italy

A Guide to Authentic Carnival Foods in Italy
Travel in Italy


Starting from the 5th of February and ending on the 21st of the same month in 2023, Carnevale is one of the most popular winter festivals in the whole world.

The Carnival is celebrated today throughout Italy with colorful parades, floats, typical carnival foods and fun events for children and adults.

Even though the roots of this festival reside in pagan history, Carnival has become such a successful celebration that it was adapted to the catholic religion over the centuries. This festival is directly connected to the 40 days of Lent (known in Italy as “quaresima”) that precede Easter when, according to catholic rituals, you should limit the consumption of sugar, meat and wine. Carnival serves as the last occasion before Lent to consume all kinds of tasty foods and drinks.

→ Do not miss our tour of Venice to discover its beauties and its famous carnival

The most popular Carnival foods in Italy

If you happen to be in Italy in February this year and are looking for traditional Italian Carnival foods, you’re in the right place!
Here’s a list of some things you can’t miss out on when it comes to traditional dishes!

Carnival’s traditional “Castagnole salate” is a particular and quickly prepared appetizer. It consists of small soft fried balls made with flour, eggs, butter and parmesan and usually flavored with a bit of white wine. They’re perfect for an aperitif with friends and great to try with some cheese and cold cuts.

A typical dish usually made in Emilia Romagna, “Gnocco fritto”, also known as pinzino or crescentina, is a square piece of leavened dough that is traditionally fried in lard, making it very crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. It is usually garnished with prosciutto and mortadella.

Traditionally made in the region of Liguria, “Panissa fritta” is another great appetizer that is very popular during Carnival. It consists of fritters made of chickpea flour and you can usually find it either in restaurants as a starter or more commonly as a street food.
There are many variations of this dish, the most famous one being the “Panella” served throughout the whole year in Sicily!

You may have already heard of “Lasagne al Ragu”, being one of the most popular main dishes in Italy, but you probably don’t know that they’re the most common main dish to serve during Carnival’s “mardi gras”! It’s a rectangular pasta placed in an oven tray and garnished with ragu alla bolognese, besciamella, minced meat and parmesan and cooked in the oven until crispy on top.
It’s one of the most delicious main dishes in Italy and you definitely can’t miss out on trying it!

The infamous Italian Roast Beef in Milk is a traditional dish that is quite common during Carnival.
It consists of thinly sliced roasted beef garnished with a spiced sauce made of milk that is very creamy and keeps the meat soft and tasty.
It’s usually served with roasted potatoes and it’s quite popular among Italian kitchens because you can easily prepare it in advance and serve it later by simply storing it in the fridge and warming it up later (just make sure to keep the meat and sauce apart until you serve it!).

Also known as “Frappe”, “Chiacchiere di Carnevale” is one of the most popular desserts in Italy during Carnival season and it’s usually eaten on mardi gras.
It consists of fried sweet fritters garnished with powdered sugar and “sanguinaccio”, a dark chocolate pudding that has quite an interesting history.

Sanguinaccio is a typical dessert made in Naples that, up until 30 years ago, was prepared with dark chocolate and pig’s blood. This was due to the fact that this pudding was made in honor of Saint Anthony Abbot, usually represented with a pig and fire.
Luckily though, the utilization of pig’s blood has recently become illegal and nowadays this dessert consists of only a dark chocolate pudding.

If you want to get to know more about Italy and immerse yourself in its typical Carnival foods, make sure to check out our blogs and book a private tour with us!

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