Italian Regional Recipes Starters

Pettole, Apulian Mini Fried Dough Balls

Pettole, an Apulian speciality prepared mainly during Christmas time, are mini balls of leavened dough fried in oil and strictly eaten hot: in the savoury version they are usually stuffed with anchovies and served as a starter, whilst in the sweet version,  just sprinkling some sugar on top to eat at the end of the meal.

You can play with this recipe and customise Pettole with a variety of ingredients: black olives, sun dried tomatoes or broccoli rabe just to name a few.

Being Puglia a land of durum wheat cultivar, Pettole are often also made by using durum wheat semolina flour for a more fragrant result.

As soon as they are dipped in boiling oil, they swell and become crispy with a beautiful golden colour.

They seem to have inherited the name from the word “Pitta“, which in Latin means small focaccia.

Makes about 20 | Preparation time: 20 mins + 2 h rising for the dough | Cooking time: 20 mins

  • Italian Flour “00” or Durum Wheat Flour or all-purpose flour/ plain flour:  500 g
  • Anchovy fillets in olive oil: 30 g
  • Fresh Brewer’s yeast: 12 g
  • Lukewarm Water: 350 ml
  • Salt: ½ tsp
  • Extra Virgin Olive oil or Peanut oil for deep-frying, 1 lt


Tip: it is essential that during the preparation, the batter is fluid and not too thick in order to get a fairly sticky dough.

In a deep and large bowl mix the flour with salt, yeast and water. Make sure to use lukewarm water to activate the yeast. Mix the dough with your hands for a good 20 minutes or until the dough is silky, smooth and quite runny.

Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen cloth or with clingfilm and leave it to rise in a warm place for 2 hours or until it doubles in size.

Tip: add anchovies – or whatever ingredient you’re going to use – only after the dough has risen and not before, otherwise you will stunt its rise.

Drain anchovies, chop them roughly, then add them to the dough. Oil your hands, knead the dough just about enough to spread the anchovies evenly. Don’t knead it too much or it will flatten.

Heat EVOO or Peanut oil in a deep saucepan, wait for it to be hot enough before deep-frying Pettole.

Clench a bit of dough in your fist and squeeze it through the small space between your index finger and your thumb. The dough will come out of your fist in a little sphere; pinch it at the base to detach it from the rest of the dough and let it gently fall in the hot oil, frying 3 or 4 at a time for a couple of mins or until golden.

Remove them from the oil with a skimmer, place on a plate lined with kitchen paper.

Eat them warm.

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