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