What’s Cooking Wednesday: Calabrian Zeppole for St Joseph’s Day

whatscookingwednesday.jpgHappy St. Joseph’s Day! And to my dad, Happy Italian Father’s Day!

Perhaps you’re confused. That’s OK. You can read all about the Festa di San Giuseppe in last year’s post: Fava Beans and Cream Puffs. There you’ll also find a photo of my great-great-grandfather a.k.a. the reason I ended up in my charming village.

Auguri PapΓΉ and to all Josephs, Giuseppes, and dads out there!
Also to Giuseppinas, Josephines, and any others celebrating!

Also, if some of you happen to remember St. Joseph’s Day altars from childhood but are missing them right about now, check out this Virtual St. Joseph’s Day Altar. If you don’t have any idea what I’m talking about, read about this tradition.

Now . . . it’s time for zeppole.

Or as we say around here, zippoli.

As I noted in last year’s post, this word means many different things depending on where in Italy you are. This is a common phenomenon, and in fact, just last night I read a similar sentiment in Laura Schenone’s The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken: A Search for Food and Family:

PrescinsΓͺua cheese may mean one thing in the city, but to some contadini in the country it may mean something completely different.”

So, in that vein, some of you know zeppole as cream puffs, but there ain’t no cream in the Calabrian version. In fact, there are anchovies.

How’s that for una sorpresa if you’re expecting cream?

I have a very vague memory of my grandmother [perhaps] making these with anchovies when I was small, but the ones I remember best were simply coated in sugar while they were still hot.

Ah . . . zeppole memories . . .

Waiting patiently at my grandmother’s hip (seriously I was that high, or low I should say as she was under 5 feet tall) for these to cool down ever so slightly to dig in. She never got even near a platter-full before one batch was already gone. They’re that good.

Unfortunately for my recipe repertoire though, my grandmother didn’t make her own dough in her later years when kneading wasn’t possible; she always bought fresh dough from the *best* local pizzeria and bakery.

Indeed, she’d pick up the dough early Friday morning (during Lent especially), make pizzas throughout the day and then fry these babies up just as we were finishing up on the pizza. I cannot tell you how much I miss walking into that house on Friday afternoons after school.


So I went to a few sources for a recipe:

(1) P’s mom; (2) my friend Alida from nearby Isca sull’Ionio who I met in Philadelphia (she brought homemade biscotti to our first in-person meeting!); and (3) my dear friend Mary Amabile Palmer’s cookbook Cucina di Calabria: Treasured Recipes and Family Traditions from Southern Italy.

Between these wonderful women (grazie mille!), I am tasting exactly what I remember swiping off paper towels as a child. And now you can enjoy them too.

Zeppole con Alici o Semplice
(I Zippoli Calabrese)
Fried Dough with Anchovies or Plain

Calabrian Zeppole on Flickr

  • 1 package active dry yeast or 10 g of fresh yeast
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water
  • 3 cups all-purpose or “00” flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Splash of white wine
  • 1 small jar or can of anchovies
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • confectioner’s or regular sugar for dusting (if making plain version)

1. Dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup of warm water.

2. Put salt and flour in a mound on your working space, a wooden board if possible, although I use something like this like my grandmother used.

3. Make a well in the center and gradually add the dissolved yeast, remaining water, and wine pulling flour into the liquid as you go.

4. Knead for between 5 and 10 minutes until the dough is smooth, elastic, and “bella morbida” as my suocera kept saying–quite soft. If you’re used to making pizza, you may have recognized these ingredients; just make sure the dough here is softer than for pizza.

5. Put dough ball in oiled bowl, cover it with a towel, and put in a dry, warm place to rise for about 2 hours.

6. After the dough has doubled in size, take it out, and knead it for another few minutes. Then put it back in the bowl and allow it to rise again for another couple hours. This will make for fluffier zeppole, but if you don’t have time, just let it rise once. They’ll still be good.

7. In the meantime, if you’re using anchovies, prepare them by removing them from their container and draining oil. Cut them in two pieces so that they will fit into a pocket of dough that will end up being about the size of the palm of your hand once folded over.

8. Heat oil over medium heat.

9. Pull off small chunks of dough about golf-ball size, flatten, and stretch into a rectangle. Place anchovy or two inside and fold over, sealing edges well. If you’re making the plain version, simply stretch to dough to the size of the palm of your hand.

10. Fry in hot oil for 3 to 4 minutes, turning zeppole so they are lightly brown all sides.

11. Remove from oil with slotted spoon and place on paper towels to drain.

12. If you are making them without anchovies, dust them with sugar while they’re still hot–and if you’re like me and actually like the anchovy-filled ones with sugar as well (ssh–they think I’m very weird here for this), go right ahead!

Note you can also fill these with lots of other things. Raisins, for example, are delicious inside and then I recommend dusting with confectioner’s sugar.

Buon appetito!

47 Beans of Wisdom to “What’s Cooking Wednesday: Calabrian Zeppole for St Joseph’s Day”
  1. 03.19.2008

    Don’t forget all the Josephines and Giuseppinas out there too. πŸ˜‰
    I have great memories of eating zeppole as a child. My Mom would roll them in powdered sugar after they cooled off slightly. YUM!

    Giulia’s last blog post..Palm Sunday 2008

    Hmm…I just assumed the Giuseppinas and Josephines have their own saint day. No? What a rip-off.

  2. 03.19.2008

    Well, my Mom’s name is Giuseppina and she celebrates her onomastico today. I’m pretty sure that it’s for both the male and female version of the name… but don’t quote me on that. I am no expert on this stuff! lol

    Giulia’s last blog post..Palm Sunday 2008

    Well then auguri to your Mamma too! Of course I got curious then and looked up Saint Josephine–there is one, but she’s rather recent and I would imagine that older school Giuseppinas/Josephines needed someone to celebrate before St. Josephine Bakhita came along πŸ˜‰

    I’ve added the auguris Giulia! Thanks for the info πŸ™‚

  3. 03.19.2008

    Hmm yes we enjoyed our festivities with all my mothers yummy cooking on Sunday. It will always will be a fond memory for me. There is a link on my blog if you would like to see my Mothers alter.

    Vee’s last blog post..No News….

    Ooh thanks Vee! I’m editing to add a link to your post now πŸ™‚

  4. 03.19.2008

    I am sure I’d love the anchovy version!

    poppy fields’s last blog post..sentir (to smell)

    Oh and anchovies here are *so* good! I never even liked the things in the US, but here…YUM.

  5. 03.19.2008

    Mmmmm…I will take mine without anchovies!! I love zeppoli!!! I can find them here at Italian Festivals…with powdered sugar πŸ™‚

    My Melange’s last blog post..Meme, Meme and More Memes

    You’re most lucky my friend πŸ™‚

  6. 03.19.2008

    Hmmm…anchovies huh? You know, they get a bad rep, but with the way my tastes have “Matured”, I’m sure I’d actually like them now if I tried them.

    By the way, today I finally posted some answers to questions some of my readers asked WAY back, including one you asked. Stop on by if you get a chance!

    Karina’s last blog post..You Asked For It – Part 4 – Memories

    Excellent attitude Karina! And thanks for tipping me off to your post today–so lovely πŸ™‚

  7. 03.19.2008

    Oh, you have brought me back to my childhood! While my parents didn’t celebrate St. Joseph’s Day, they would still make these with Zeppole all the time. I can remember waking up on a Sat morning to the smell of the dough frying, and running downstairs to try to get a hot one.

    Grazie Mille

    pennucci’s last blog post..Easter Tradition

    Truly a pleasure–glad they’re good memories…and oh that smell….

  8. yum, yum, yum!

    nyc/caribbean ragazza’s last blog post..Outkast/Charlie Brown mashup

    Indeed πŸ™‚

  9. 03.19.2008

    My Giuseppe’s mum made these when I was in his village in Calabria, but she used sugar as I love sweet things and don’t eat anchoives… And so bad of me but I forgot it was San Giuseppe today, until MY Giuseppe took me out for for a coffee and cornetto and I saw a sign in the window…I think he took me there just so I could see the sign!

    Hah! They’re crafty those Giuseppes….

  10. 03.19.2008

    fried dough = happiness

    Geggie’s last blog post..Thai Love You, Shrimp

    Couldn’t say it better myself Geggie πŸ˜‰

  11. 03.19.2008

    I used to love zeppole at festas in NYC growing up! The type I had didn’t have cream, either – just fried dough rolled in sugar. As I’m a HUGE fan of anchovies, however, I can’t wait to try these. Thank you! And happy Italian Father’s Day to your Papa!

    jen of a2eatwrite’s last blog post..What’s Cooking Wednesday: Chocolate Covered Strawberries

    Lucky you–you were around Calabrians πŸ˜‰ And the anchovies really work wonderfully inside them–great appetizer!

  12. 03.19.2008

    Great recipe! I think they call them “frittelle” here in Milan. But anchovies and sugar?????? Well, I guess I shouldn’t talk since I love eating macaroni and cheese with plain yogurt and salt. Now that’s weird.

    Linda’s last blog post..How to feed a bratty bambino

    I’m big into the sweet and salty thing, what can I say? Chocolate and chips or french fries. Ice cream and pretzels. I’ve never tried that mac and cheese combo though…hmm….

    Oh and yes, these have different names as well as different methods; I just found this page with some recipes for zeppole, sfinci, and frittelle…and the zeppole have butter and eggs…so different than these. The frittelle on there have rice; are these as you know them?

  13. 03.19.2008

    I have never heard of St. Joseph’s Day, but those look mighty tasty… Not so sure about the anchovies, but I’ll take your word for it.

    Stefanie’s last blog post..Happy Birthday to Me

    Honestly Stefanie, I wouldn’t have eaten these with anchovies in the US–the anchovies that I tried there left *a lot* to be desired. Stick with the sugar if you must…I often do πŸ˜‰

  14. 03.19.2008

    Ah, we cheated then today…we had them from the bakery – with cream and a deep red CHERRY. That’s how we had them last year, too. Maybe my “crafty Giuseppes” just like sweets a bit more!

    BTW – try them with the cream and cherry. I’m sure they are a different taste, but a good one all the same!

    Cherrye’s last blog post..Festa di San Giuseppe

    How very appropriate for you! I think from the bakery, actually, they’re completely different–more pastry than simply dough, although I could be wrong–never had them from the bakery since I’m the only one who eats sweets around here πŸ™

  15. 03.19.2008

    Darn, those are just lovely…and decadent…I’ll have to try them πŸ™‚

    Culinary Cowgirl’s last blog post..H.E.’s Comfort Food

    Decadent for sure…enjoy!

  16. Fantastic, Michelle! My grandma made these too, (even though she was from Frosinone). I haven’t had them since I was little.

    This is too funny. I’m hoping to post about St. Joseph’s Day later today. My brother is a Giuseppe and my aunt is a Giuseppa! We made the cream puff, pastry version of the zeppole. I’m waiting to fill them right before dinner so they don’t get soggy!

    Susan at Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy’s last blog post..Baking With Mom, Part 2: No-Knead Easter Bread

    Looking forward to your post Susan! I love cream puffs too…mmm….

  17. 03.19.2008

    Michelle, I have a little gift for you today over at my blog. Enjoy!

    Geggie’s last blog post..Thai Love You, Shrimp

    Thanks Geggie!

  18. 03.19.2008

    Oh those look good! You’re making me want to stop by my local Italian bakery (Montilio’s) for a treat! ; )

    Anali’s last blog post..John Adams – The House

    Do it! I mean, if you want to πŸ˜‰

  19. 03.19.2008

    Yes, yes, yes, yes. Ever since I saw the pics on Flickr I have been salivating. I simply adore zeppole, and this looks like a fine specimen of the wonderful carbohydratey treat!

    Cakespy’s last blog post..Batter Chatter: Interview with a Pro and an Apprentice at Pink Cake Box of Denville, NJ

    You don’t get too much more carbohydratey than this my friend πŸ˜‰

  20. 03.19.2008

    zeppoli should have cream *or* anchovies in ’em. just dough, dough and more dough, covered in sugar.

    there are few things in the world i love more than zeppoli.

    michelle @ TNS’s last blog post..tacogate β€˜08: tasty pico and inauthentic refried beans

    I’m with you Michelle. So very with you πŸ™‚

  21. 03.19.2008

    My mother always makes “SPINGI” or how you say “Zeppoli” every year for St. Joseph’s Day. I liked to eat them hot out of the fryer dipped in honey or sugar. Honey was actually a treat back then.
    My mom is actually making them right now as I write this blog and as soon as I get home from work, I’m going straight to my sister’s to pig out!
    Thank you for the wonderful post. I’m so hungry right now!

    LUCY’s last blog post..Monday’s Sunrise Posted a Day Late

    Yum yum…have some for me too Lucy; I can’t get enough πŸ˜‰

  22. 03.19.2008

    A new twist for me, sounds great. my wife does something similar Nutella. In fact, she simplified it to a quick snack using won-on dough. I know, not the same. However I must try your recipe, thank you.

    Rob’s last blog post..Reflective Twist

    Well now that’s interesting Rob…I love new ideas to try πŸ™‚

  23. 03.19.2008

    Anchovies and confectioner’s sugar… hmmm. I wouldn’t have thought of that combination myself. But this recipe sort of reminds me of a more pungent version of a middle eastern pastry (bastilla?) stuffed with spiced ground chicken and likewise topped with confectioner’s sugar. I like anchovies; this sounds interesting.

    anno’s last blog post..Recipe for disaster

    Ooh, interesting stuff! I didn’t know about that Middle Eastern pastry…I’m sure there’s a link as lots of Calabrian dishes are Middle Eastern influenced. But actually, the anchovies and confectioner’s sugar actually *don’t* go together–I just happen to like regular sugar dusted on the ones with anchovies to cut the salt πŸ˜‰

  24. 03.19.2008

    Oh, they sound delicious! I’ll take mine dusted with sugar. I’ve got a big sweet tooth. Thanks for sharing!

    And thanks so much for your help on blog feeds!

    My pleasure Robin πŸ™‚

  25. 03.19.2008

    Who cares about our butts, let’s just fry the dough shall we. Hold the anchovies and pass the sugar. It’s been one of those days.

    amanda’s last blog post..Tufa

    Yes! That’s the spirit…although I’m sorry it’s been one of those days. I hate those.

  26. Michelle, every year of my entire life, my mother would purchase a huge box of zeppole (the sweet puffy ones filled with cream) from one of the many Italian bakeries in our neighborhood, then she’d deliver them to family and friends. I haven’t had once since I moved away over 10 years. Next year, I’m making homemade zeppole. I’ve never seen savory zeppole, but they sound like doughboys. My husband would love these. But I don’t think I’ll wait a year to make them. πŸ™‚

    Susan from Food Blogga’s last blog post..Bring Back The McDonald’s Shamrock Shake

    Oh these are definitely not only once a year treats…they’re *far* too good for that, and really quite easy to make, particularly if you’re used to playing with dough πŸ˜‰

  27. 03.19.2008

    You’ve got me thinking about grandma big time.
    In her area fo the Amalfi Zeppoli were plain and stuffed with the cream.
    I’ve had them with anchovie too – yummeee.
    Just adored this post.

    Frances’s last blog post..if I were in charge of things…

    So happy to bring back some good memories Frances; hope you got some goodies to celebrate πŸ™‚

  28. 03.19.2008

    All this talk of zeppole and frittelle is making me hungry.
    The frittella recipe on your link called for rice, not like the ones I’ve had here. From what I found on internet, the rice frittelle seem to be Tuscan. Sometimes my mother-in-law adds chopped apples to the batter. Ok, gotta go! Time to raid the fridge for my midnight snack.

    Linda’s last blog post..How to feed a bratty bambino

    Interesting…we need a Tuscan representative here! I love apples in anything, so I’d love them here too πŸ™‚

  29. 03.20.2008

    OK, I could not resist……..I got home from work and what did I do…….I made dough…….then I fried it and covered it in azΓΊcar glasΓ©……….oh, what a little piece of Heaven.

    Pennucci’s last blog post..Easter Tradition

    Oh that sounds *fabulous*!

  30. Gil

    Funny thing about you calling zeppole, I was talking to a former co-worker Wednesday afternoon and she said she just ate part of a ‘zippoli’ that another co-worker had brought in. She is of Sicilian and Spanish heritage but most important an attorney like yourself! Crazy coincidence I guess? I hope you had your fill.

    Too funny, and yes quite a crazy coincidence! I’ve definitely had my fill…but I don’t think I’ll be waiting a whole year until I have them again πŸ˜‰

  31. 03.20.2008

    All the different variations of Zeppole… Guess I’ll have to try them all!

    Jill’s last blog post..ZEPPOLE DI SAN GIUSEPPE

    Hah, I like the way you think Jill!

  32. 03.20.2008

    Ah, yes! My family’s tradition is much similar. We come from a small town outside of Messina, Fuimedinisi. The original recipe has been lost but my mother put one together that works well. We make a dough with raisins, fry them and roll in sugar. We make these instead because my family was too poor to make custard and thus would use scraps of bread dough to make them. I always loved this holiday because of it connection with my roots. Buona Festa di San Giuseppe!

    Ginny’s last blog post..I saw the sign…

    I hear that closer to Reggio Calabria (between me and Messina basically), they put raisins in these. I had a feeling that historically there was no custard in the versions in the deep south because of, ahem, funding πŸ˜‰

  33. 03.20.2008

    Oh my GAWD this is funny! I got to my sisters and they had gone out to the store with Nonna, my mom. So my daughter and I walked in and immediately went to the oven where I took out a whole pot of freshly made “SPINGI” fried dough. I started eating and dippiing into the honey they left on the table for me….then I stopped stuffing my face long enough to realize that they tasted different…they were whole wheat “SPINGI”! When my sister walked in on me with my cheeks were stuffed full of them. I then said “How could you make “SPINGI” out of whole wheat flour?” I looked at my mom with questioning sadness in my eyes! My mother was laughing, she replied “I told your sister this wasn’t proper!” My sister said “well at least they’re healthy!” My sister and mother told me to take them all home. Playing it safe, I left them behind…I didn’t want to turn into a “SPINGI”. My 10 year old daughter would not even try a whole wheat “SPINGI”…lol. Well today I welcomed my monthly friend and now know why I was stuffing my face with everything in site yesterday and all of last week. BUONA PASQUA! I am off until Tuesday!


    Oh dear. I’m sorry, but some things are just not meant to be healthy. Buona Pasqua!

  34. 03.20.2008

    I’ve decided that I have to make the Zeppoles tonight. Probably plain…I can hardly wait!

    Thank you for sharing these!


    Enjoy Cindy Lynn!

  35. 03.20.2008

    Wow! never imagined them as a savory! The ones we get in NYC are rolled in powdered sugar while they’re still hot… so baaaaad in the very best way! πŸ™‚ I made some recently that called for ricotta– just delicious.

    Your recipe sound really wonderful– must try it next time I make them!

    Ann’s last blog post..Sugar High Friday #41: Sweet Gifts

    If you like anchovies, I certainly recommend this as a way to enjoy them. Hope you like them!

  36. 03.20.2008

    My mom used to make these from a package of hot roll mix she bought in the supermarket. No anchovies though, and no sugar either. Just salt on top. Heaven! Thanks for sending me down memory lane. πŸ™‚

    Mary’s last blog post..First Day of Spring

    Ooh interesting. I’m sure my P would love them that way–he’s a salt fiend.

  37. 03.21.2008

    My mom and I were sitting in her kitchen today (the 20th) looking through recipes, for a particular cookie called teetoo’s which we couldn’t find, and all of a sudden looked at each other and said, “We forget St. Joseph’s day!” This is sad, because..my dad’s name is Frances Joseph (and he is a Saint) so we always made an event of the day..and lo and behold..we forgot. πŸ™
    We are so bad!
    ..but your Zeppole look beautiful! πŸ™‚


    Laurie’s last blog post..Country Irish Shepherds Pie

    Poor dad! You can always have a belated St. Joseph’s Day I suppose…I’ll take any excuse for zeppole πŸ˜‰

  38. 03.22.2008

    Anchovies in Zeppole! What a great idea. I never had them like that, mostly the cream puff kind fo us. Yours look wonderful!

    Marie’s last blog post..VEGETALI ALLA MARIE!!

    Thanks Marie πŸ™‚

  39. Oh those look delicious! I love bread and then to fry it just means heaven.

    Michelle at Scribbit’s last blog post..TheaC Photography Giveaway

    Hah! That’s an excellent thought Michelle πŸ˜‰

  40. 03.24.2008

    My grandmother used to make these too and my mother still makes them to this day!!!

    We also get them when we’re at the San Genarro Feast in Little Italy in NYC. Every September!!

    My step-father loves them with raisins.

    I like mine plain, with powdered sugar.

    OMG, I wish I had one now!!!


    Salena’s last blog post..What It’s Like To Bee Watched By More Than Twelve Million Eyes

    Yum is right. Once I get them in my head, it’s hard to get them out without actually indulging….

  41. 03.27.2008

    I am loving all the recipes on your blog, Michelle! I found the stuffed baby eggplant recipe I was looking for and now these Zeppoles!
    My husband and his family were from a town on the sole of the foot of Calabria called Gioisa Ionica. They seem to put boiled riced potatoes in a lot of their stuffed foods, including the dough of their zeppoles, and use some semolina flour in their recipe too. They never sweeten theirs, it’s always plain or with anchovy in the middle, and they were long and twisted.
    They were always served on Christmas Eve as an appetizer.
    Pat in NY

    Pat’s last blog post..A Day In Lower Manhattan

    Pat, I’ve seen those zeppole elsewhere on the internet; I showed them to P and he said he’d never seen them–amazing how things change from just a few kilometers away! Up here I don’t think they use as much potatoes in things, or at least P’s mom doesn’t (and neither did my grandmother, other than gnocchi of course). So interesting!

  42. I told you last year that you made my day, because I kept seeing all these recipes for zeppole, and they were filled with cream and I remember eating them as a child stuffed with anchovies….so again, I thank you Michelle! It makes me smile everytime now that the mystery is solved!

    JennDZ_The Leftover Queen’s last blog post..Jam-Packed Post: Friends From Faraway, Birch Ice Cream Recipe and a New Foodie Blogroll Update!

    Ah Jenn I remember that comment well; so happy to have solved the mystery πŸ™‚

  43. 03.20.2010

    Anchovies with sugar?That’s interesting!

    They think I’m a little crazy here πŸ˜‰

  44. Angela ten Lohuis (Miotto/Barbieri)

    I have just made these with my 100%Calabrese mother in Townsville NQ, Australia, and I can guarantee you, that the potatoes have been neglected in your recipe.

    Thanks for your comment, Angela; recipes vary not only from town to town in Calabria (and the rest of Italy) but also family to family. Here in this area (Badolato/Isca sull’Ionio in the province of Catanzaro– where most if not all of the long-time residents are also 100% Calabrese ;)), I assure you there are no potatoes in the dough. Please feel free to share your recipe, of course, as I’m sure it’s delicious also πŸ™‚

  45. 12.23.2011

    ah yes, I know some Calabrese from Cosenza area that insist on the addition of potatoes and they are just as yummy…you basically just add a cooked riced potato to the dough and proceed the same way. Another great post Michelle even though I am reading it a year later….We all have such fond memories of our nonna’s …we should really create a national nonna day in honor of these special woman that shaped all of our lives and created such wonderful memories (in our minds and mouths) You can bet I will be making Zeppole this christmas eve just 1 day away!!

    michelle Reply:

    Hope you enjoyed the zeppole! Paolo’s aunt brought us some over so I didn’t fry any up myself…. πŸ˜‰

  1. [...] eat bread with gluten.” I noticed, however, that she ate more than a few of my mother’s amazing zipp... diabetogenic.wordpress.com/2012/02/13/the-new-black



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