Last time our good friend, Laura D’Amelio, asked us to write for her wonderful blog (An Italian Canadian Life) we discussed growing up Italian and the tradition of zeppoli. By popular demand, we’ve decided to post our recipe for these delightful dough-balls.
This widely known Sicilian street food is served year round but it is especially popular on March 19th for the Feast of St. Joseph. As legend has it, a severe drought in Sicily, around the middle ages, had many people pray to St. Joseph to bring the rain. When the drought ended the people celebrated and made these zeppoli as a tribute to the saint. It’s suspected that St. Joseph had worked as a baker making these very delightful sweets at some point in this life.
That’s the story I grew up with anyway. There might be other variations out there but one thing is certain, these fritters are absolutely delicious.
Zeppoli can be made savory or sweet. If savory they’re usually made with anchovies or lightly dusted with salt. If sweet there are many possibilities including drizzling honey, nutella, and cannoli cream or even just lightly dusting them with sugar, which is the traditional way to eat them.
Please keep in mind that this recipe has been in our family for well over 75 years. It’s been modified only slightly over the years. In Sicily, the recipe and the preparation varies depending on which region you’re in. I have found that most families have their own special way of making these. The beautiful thing is that you can have fun experimenting and coming up with something unique and special. As you read through the recipe remember to have fun.
Cooking should be a joyous occasion. Buon Appetito!
Zeppoli Ingredients (Yields about a dozen zeppoli)
1 package active dry yeast
1 cup of water
A pinch of sugar
4 tablespoons of oil
1 tablespoon of salt
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract (optional) *
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
Oil for frying
Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm water with a pinch of sugar. Set bowl aside for 10 minutes to proof. Stir remaining 1/2 cup warm water in bowl, add salt, vanilla extract and beat in the flour forming soft dough. Whisk the dough for about 5 minutes by hand and 5 minutes in a mixer with a dough hook on low speed.
Put the dough in greased bowl (use 4 tablespoons of oil to grease the bowl) and turn to coat. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 to 1 ½ hours. If the dough has an elastic consistency, you did it right!
Heat about 2-3 inches of canola oil to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Break off golf ball-sized of pieces of dough, with a spoon, and gently drop into the oil. Fry until light golden brown. Note – the dough balls will puff out immediately once they hit the oil. Be careful not to splatter as the oil is very hot. Drain on paper towels, and dredge with sugar while still hot.
*Note- you can choose to omit the vanilla extract from the recipe. It’s not required. Some people enjoy the added layer of flavor. We enjoy it too.
The zeppoli will keep up to 4 hours but they are best served warm. You can choose to apply any flavuoring you desire….sugar, honey, melted nutella, confectioner’s sugar. The possibilities are endless. Have fun experimenting!
Jerry Buccilli, is a 2nd generation Italian living in Niagara Falls, Ontario. He currently owns and operates Zeppoli’s – Italian Comfort Food, a catering company specializing in Italian regional cuisine.