How do you spell sweet fried cheesy goodness? Casatelle. Pronunciation: (cah - suh- tel - leh) Making casatelle is a BIG deal. Casatelle are little fried pasta dumplings stuffed with sweetened ricotta and chocolate bits. Nonna makes them especially special and they are among the many things that I can easily engorge on twenty too many. Rice balls is in that category for sure.
When Melissa and I visited Sicily this summer (she is trying to forget about that trip), there were many casatelle to be consumed voraciously everywhere we turned. To be honest, I never tried one as good as Nonna's. They were all too puffy and soft. Nonna's achieves a crispy and fried sogginess that I encountered not once on our 10 day journey across the most insane island in the universe. I know that description does not sound good, but neither do many nostalgic dishes from our childhoods. Here's my motto: if it don't taste like Nonna's then it ain't good. This goes for sauce, lasagna, ziti, and pizza.
So Melissa invited me over (always a mistake) to "help" her make casatelle as she remembered it. But I had one agenda: to make it taste like Nonna's. And this is where the little old Sicilian lady war ensued.
Melissa and I always start out on a good foot ... sort of. I am always super overcharged excited at the idea of eating, and generally want to rush the process to satisfy my belly, whereas Melissa like to take her time and experiment and figure things out. Just get that fried sweet fried inside of my body!
First step is a sweet pasta dough. I think Melissa got it right, but the perfectionist she is never thinks she does anything perfectly. She thinks she should have kneaded the dough longer, instead of adding more water because it got very glutenous and basically had a life of its own on the rolling board. When I tasted it, it really tasted like Nonna's and I think I proposed to her over the dough.
Next, sweeten the ricotta. Recipes call for marsala wine or orange liquor. I think a little vanilla and some orange zest do the trick.
Then take that sweet ricotta and stuff it into the dough with chocolate bits and make little dumplings. This was very tricky and I think the point when Melissa yelled, "God I hate cooking with you!" She just can't accept that I know everything. Its a hard thing to grasp for most people. Those little f'ers were annoying and didn't want to stick together and were moving wherever they damn pleased. I was trying to get my paws in there and "help" but I was more there to just watch, she didn't really want my help or knowhow. Okay, maybe I am not a pastry chef like her, but I do have 29 years of eating casatelle under my belt which should hold a little weight, aside from on my ass.
A few were done and it was fry time. I am ALL OVER frying. It really is a specialty of mine that I am proud of. The deep fryer and I have a sweet love affair. Melissa wanted to do them one at a time! Boring. Get those little aholes in there. The faster they get fried the faster I inhale them. No. No. No. We had to test them and figure out which way was which the way we stuffed this or rolled that. God, all I wanted to do was eat them! And this is when Melissa yelled at me and called me a child. So I was stamping my feet over the deep fryer and trying to toss in as many as I could in one batch. Childish is rather a harsh term. Desperate is probably more accurate.
So I ended up with one darn casatelle for the whole evening. But it was oh so good. I wanted them well done, really brown and soggy with olive oil, but Melissa wanted them the way she had them in Sicily, which is not the way Nonna makes them. In my opinion, starch plus cheese and chocolate deep fried is heaven no matter how long you fry it. Until we casatelle again.