Ricette Italiane ~ By Leelee

Finally, a recipe that Leelee can actually make!
I meant to run this recipe on March 19th. Other things got in the way.


z - March recipe

I had something for Ignazio in January and Gianluca in February, so I thought it was time to do something for Piero. Back in January, Piero posted a picture of what looks like what my family used to make, Zeppola’s (See Piero’s picture below. If they aren’t Zeppola’s, let’s just go with it anyway ?). This is also in honor of St. Joseph’s Day, March 19th.

z - march recipe 2

I remember the wonderful Italian feasts when growing up in New York, the most noted being the San Gennaro feast in Little Italy in downtown Manhattan, which still goes on until today. No Italian feast was without the Zeppola stands (my family pronounced them, mind you this is phonetically, as Tsay-po-lah). Boy that looks funny.

What is a Zeppola?
From Wikipedia: A Zeppola (plural: zeppole; in southern Italian dialects: zeppoli) is an Italian pastry consisting of a deep-fried dough ball of varying size but typically about 4 inches (10 cm) in diameter. This doughnut or fritter is usually topped with powdered sugar, and may be filled with custard, jelly, cannoli-style pastry cream or a butter-and-honey mixture. The consistency ranges from light and puffy, to bread- or pasta-like.
Zeppole are typical of Italian cuisine, especially that of Rome and Naples. They are also served in Sicily, Sardinia, on the island of Malta, and in Italian-American communities in the United States. Zeppole are known by other names, including Bignè di San Giuseppe (in Rome), St. Joseph’s Day cake, and sfinge.[1] Zeppole are traditionally consumed during the Festa di San Giuseppe (Saint Joseph’s Day) celebrated every March 19, when zeppole are sold on many streets and sometimes presented as gifts.
The custom was popularized in the early 19th century by Neapolitan baker Pasquale Pintauro.
There are many versions of the Zeppole. The St. Joseph traditional version is made with ricotta and eggs. You can find many versions on the internet.
St. Joseph’s Day
The feast day of St. Joseph is celebrated on March 19 every year.
St. Joseph’s Day is a Roman Catholic feast day commemorating the life of St. Joseph, the step-father of Jesus and husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary. People with very strong religious association, often those of southern Italian descent, typically celebrate St. Joseph’s Day. March 19 is said to be St. Joseph’s birthday.
During a famine in Sicily, when food was scarce and many people were starving, the poor people had only their faith to rely on. St. Joseph was known as the protector of the Holy Family and Italians had strong family relationships, so they prayed for St. Joseph to intercede for them so they could have successful crops. Their prayers were answered, and the famine came to an end. In gratitude, people promised to make annual offerings of their most precious possession – food – in St. Joseph’s honor.
Today, the faithful erect “St. Joseph Tables,” which are set to honor St. Joseph. They are filled with beautiful and often elaborate foods, including meatless dishes such as stuffed artichokes, pasta and fish, as well as breads, cookies, pastries, cakes and other delicacies. Each table is blessed by a priest and presided over by a statue of St. Joseph. A stalk of lily blossoms, votive candles and a lace tablecloth are other typical items used to decorate the feast table.
When you visit a St. Joseph’s table, you often receive gifts of fava beans and breads. Fava beans play an integral part of the celebration because this was the food that saved the Sicilians from starvation. The bean is said to bring good luck, and it is believed that if the St. Joseph’s bread is kept in the home, the family will never starve


Now for the recipe. This is the way my Mom used to make them. Now this is really complicated so get ready!!!

You can make these easily at home using pre-made pizza dough.
Heat a pot of oil to 375 degrees. Tear off 2 to 3 inch pieces of dough and carefully place them in the oil. Carefully turn them while frying. They will quickly brown and rise to the top. When they do remove them and drain. The Italian feasts usually shake the pieces in a paper bag with powdered sugar but my Mom just drizzled some honey over them.


21 thoughts on “Ricette Italiane ~ By Leelee”

  1. My very favorite pastry! I wait all year for these but they must come from a good Italian bakery. When I lived in the city in Chicago, people who had some one in their family named Joseph opened their homes to anyone with meatless dishes. It is a beautiful custom. Now many churchs have the St. Joseph table and restaurants contribute and people bring home made food. The custard zepole are yummy and I think the original.

    1. Sounds good to me! Anyone have a recipe for the custard? Or the dough from scratch? I have to say using pizza dough sounds like a real hassle free way of doing this. Looks yummy!

      1. Penina, I found a recipe for the pastry crème and the dough from scratch. For some reason, I cannot post the link here so I will spell it out. The website is themammahomemaker dot com. In the search bar at the top right corner of the website, type in zeppole. You will get a page with a link. Click on Zeppole di San Giuseppe and it will take you to the recipe. Good luck!

  2. Thanks, Lee Lee!! They ARE simple and sound like no one can eat just one! I’m wishing l could claim Italian heritage somewhere. They seem to have great fun, food and make beautiful music!! Think I’ll change to an Italian name. 😃

  3. This sounds delicious! I wonder if it would work with my Mama’s from-scratch pizza dough recipe…… Only one way to find out! 😀

  4. For anyone who wants an easy, from-scratch pizza dough recipe:

    4 cups bread flour
    2 teaspoons salt
    1 teaspoon sugar
    2 1/8 teaspoons yeast
    1 2/3 cups of warm water
    3 tablespoons olive oil
    Combine all ingredients in a mixer using a bread hook. Let it rise for at least an hour. Makes enough for two 14 inch pizzas and I don’t know how many zeppoli. One of my favorite recipes to make!

  5. Oh Marie Marie – you are soooo funny!

    To Ann, Penina, “Carola”, Linda, Isabel, Allene, and everyone else reading this, I’m so glad you enjoyed this recipe. It was truly a staple in my home growing up and I miss it much.

    Thanks everyone!

    1. Thanks for the website, I looked at the recipe and the custard looks do-able–I don’t think I would go with the dough in this recipe, I think I will try it with the pizza dough, Sounds very decadent!

    1. Loretta, after all this time? Of course you’re Italian. You’re an honorary member by association!

  6. Thank you LeeLee I am honoured. Now I’ll just HAVE to learn how to speak it. I particularly liked to picture above of the buns you posted, It reminded me as if I have seen them or something like them which were covered with sugar. yummy

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