These little puffs of fried bread make a wonderful addition to any antipasto platter and could also double as a delicious side. Luca recommends serving his donzelle recipe with Italian cheese and salami, and perhaps a glass of Chianti or another Tuscan wine.

First published in 2016

I first had these pillows of puffy pizza dough in a restaurant in rural Tuscany. They came as part of the largest antipasto I had ever seen complete with what seemed like fifty shades of salami and a whole dairy farm’s worth of cheese.

Their name varies from village to village, but in the Tuscan Valtiberina they are called donzelle. I like to think that this derives from the fish of the same name – the Mediterranean rainbow wrasse in English – because that’s exactly what they look like when swimming around in the frying oil.

When dropped into the hot oil they will sink to the bottom, but within a few seconds they puff up and rise to the top. It’s best to turn them halfway through with a wire spatula to ensure they cook evenly.

A few of these go a long way, but they are moreish. You can serve them as part of an antipasto or with a cheese board but they are best eaten within a few minutes of being fished out of the oil.





  • 500g of 00 flour
  • 1 tbsp of sugar
  • 1 tbsp of salt
  • 25g of fresh yeast
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • 300ml of water
  • oil, for frying
  • fleur de sel


Place the flour into the bowl of a food mixer. Add the salt and sugar on one side of the bowl and crumble the yeast on the other side
Add the olive oil and mix on a low setting using a dough hook. Slowly add the water until the mixture comes together. Continue to mix for a further 5 minutes
Alternatively, place all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl, bring together with your hands and knead for about 10 minutes
Shape the dough into a ball (you may need to grease your hands with olive oil as it will be quite sticky) and grease a large bowl with olive oil. Place the dough in the bowl, cover the bowl with a damp tea towel and leave to rise until the dough has doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours
When the dough has risen, knock the air out of it then form it into a ball. Sprinkle some flour over the top, cover with a tea towel and leave to rise again for about 30 minutes
Place the dough on a floured board and roll out until about ½cm thick. Using a pastry wheel, cut into rectangles about 5cm by 2½cm
Preheat the oil in a large saucepan or deep fryer to 180°C
Carefully drop the donzelle into the fryer and cook for about 5 minutes, or until puffed and lightly browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Sprinkle with a little fleur de sel
Serve warm with Italian cheese and salami, and perhaps a nice glass of Chianti or other Tuscan wine

Discover more about this region's cuisine:

Luca Marchiori is a food writer, recipe developer and food historian. His blog Luca’s Italy is all about discovering authentic Italian food and sharing the recipes that Italians really eat.

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