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Carnival Treats, from Molise to Canada

This is the story of a recipe that from Jelsi, a small village near Campobasso, traveled all the way to Canada and then came back with the addition of a "magic" ingredient.

Those beautiful treats are called "Nocche" and they are a variation of a typical sweet fritter made all over Italy during the Carnival season. In other parts of Italy they are called "Chiacchiere" or "Frappe" but they are essentially the same thing. It is a simple sweet dough made with flour, sugar, eggs, butter/oil, lemon zest and yeast. The dough is then deep-fried and served with icing sugar.

Traditionally "Nocche" look like long, flat stripes and they are quite crunchy. But the Nocche I had the privilege to try in Jelsi are very different: they are much bigger and puffed, with a beautiful crowned shape and they are very soft!

A friend from Jelsi, Michele Fratino, explained to me the story of this beautiful recipe. After the Second World War many families moved from Jelsi to Canada, specifically to the Montreal area. Of course they brought with them their cultural heritage and many recipes that they kept making and eating in their new home.

Naturally many ingredients that are very easy to find in Molise, could not be found on the other side of the world. At the same time, many new ingredients and uses were discovered by the Molisan cooks in the local market. So the nocche went through a beautiful transformation: with the addition of a local product, a yeast named Magik ("stronger" than the one used in Italy), they completely changed look and texture. This recipe was then brought back - along with a big supply of Magik - to Jelsi. When visiting, the families that moved to Canada showed the recipe to their relatives in Molise, which now prepare it every year during the Carnival season.

I think this whole story is beautiful: a new tradition was created adapting ingredients and connecting those families from very far sides of the world.


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