Feel the glorious sensation of perfectly cooked ZEPPOLE from its crisp exterior to the soft airy insides. This festive Italian donut can be served with your favorite sweet topping to make your own mouthwatering creations. A super light and fluffy snack made from simple ingredients you can easily get from the grocery store.
My friends often shared their traditions from their part of the world. One of them shared their tradition of celebrating San Giuseppe where they would prepare large banquets of meatless dishes.
The dish that captured my attention the most is the St. Joseph pastry topped with different sweets. So I thought that I should give one a try. Since booking a flight to Italy is really a pain in the neck, we’ll make our own Zeppole at home.
What is Zeppole?
Zeppole is a traditional donut-like fritter often served for the feast of Saint Joseph. The original shape of this dish is ring-like but it is made differently from a donut. it is made from a thin dough strip with both ends meeting, similar to that of a sleeping snake. You can add toppings for additional aesthetics and flavor.
As the story goes, the people of Sicily experienced a very long drought so they prayed to their patron saint. They promised to throw a big banquet if he brought rain. Rain poured and the people kept their promise to this day. The star of the banquet? Zeppole!
Variations of Zeppole
Just like donuts, Zeppole can be made in different shapes. You could consider cream puffs as a distant cousin of this dish because they are both made from choux pastry.
Donut pops are a popular variation of Zeppole. The airy insides of the pastry will give you enough space for fillings. This variation is what we’re going to do today.
This is where you can make it really your own. A popular filling for this is ricotta cheese. Its mild flavor raises the taste of the fried dough.
A savory serving of this dish is also a well-loved variant. Fill it with anchovies! And you’ll have a traditional Zeppole served for lent in a different part of Italy.
Zeppole and Beignets
You might think that Zeppoles are just Italian Beignets and I have to agree, they have a lot of similarities. However, these two have a fine line that differentiates them both.
Zeppole originated from Italy while beignets are from France, we don’t want these two to get mixed up.
Both are fried, Zeppoles are cooked in a donut shape or in pops while Beignets are often in squares. But you can always top both of these pastries with powdered sugar for a sweet coating.
You won’t get enough of these light snacks, whichever one you prefer.
What are Zeppoles Made From?
The ingredients for Zeppole are easily found in any groceries. Although at first glance, you’ll think that these are just basic ingredients for bread. Wait ‘til you see how we prepare the dough.
Flour, Eggs, Salt, and Baking soda
These are basic dough elements that we will make today. If you look at the beginning of this post you’ll see that we want our Zeppole to be soft, light, crisp, and airy. We’ll use baking soda to achieve this effect. The more air it produces; the more air pockets we will yield.
This spice gives off a tender earthy taste to our dish. The woody flavor and natural fragrance make the aroma have a more holiday vibe. The Spice will add flavor to the Zeppole itself so you can enjoy it as it is.
Two Types of Sugar
We’ll be using two kinds of sugar for this Italian donut recipe, that’s an assurance that we’ll make something sweet. We’ll use granulated sugar as part of the dough and powdered or caster sugar as a topping. It’ll give a snowy effect over our finished products making them pleasing to the eyes.
This ingredient can be used in different ways in this recipe. You can use it as a filling or, in this case, as a part of the dough. This basically fortifies our dough to make it thicker with a mild touch of creaminess.
Your choice of oil will affect the overall finished product. I suggest using an unflavored oil such as vegetable oil for deep frying. Some of my friends used olive oil which costs more and the flavors didn’t really go well with the sugar. This oil might work better for savory Zeppole.
Pro Tip: Get a wooden spoon to check if your oil is hot enough. Dip one end in the oil and if it rapidly bubbles, this means it’s ready to go.
Storing and Making Ahead Instructions
You can make Zeppole ahead of time. You don’t have to worry about the excessive rise of the dough since we are not using yeast for this recipe. Simply cover the bowl and refrigerate then scoop it out when you’re ready. The dough should be good for about 1-2 days.
Alternatively, you can scoop out balls of the dough and place these on a tray lined with parchment paper. Cover it with cling wrap and freeze it until you are ready to fry. Take it out of the freezer 1-2 hours before frying time so that it can reach room temperature. The frozen dough will still be edible for about 2-4 days.
If you’ve already fried your Zeppole, you can simply store it in an airtight container and refrigerate it. It is best to let it cool down to room temperature before refrigerating to lessen the chances of moisture forming. Simply reheat it in the microwave when ready to eat. Refrigerated Zeppole will last for about 1-2 days.
More Italian Dishes to Love
If you loved this recipe, you’ll surely live for these other dishes. Complete your homemade Italian experience with these recipes below.
How to Make Zeppole
Heat oil in a deep fryer or cast-iron skillet to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). The temperature will drop once you add the dough. In a large bowl, stir together flour, nutmeg, baking soda, and sugar. Form a well then add eggs, ricotta cheese, vanilla extract, and salt. Stir until the dough comes together. The dough should be thick.
When the oil is hot enough, use a spoon to scoop the batter, and another spoon or spatula to drop it in the oil, like the shape of a ball. If you can, use your hands to drop the dough. It does not have to be perfect. Fry on one side for about 2 minutes, then flip and fry on the other side for 2-3 minutes or golden brown or the doughnuts are cooked through. This all depends on the size of your dough – it might take longer or less time, adjust accordingly. Remove the dough balls from the oil and drain on paper towels. Repeat until all the dough has been used up. If desired, sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve warm.
Watch How To Make It
- 1 cup (125g) all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon (0.5g) ground nutmeg
- 2 teaspoons (8g) baking soda
- 3 tablespoons (37.5g) sugar
- 2 large eggs , beaten
- 1 cup (250g) ricotta cheese
- 1 teaspoon (4.2g) vanilla extract
- 1 pinch salt
- powdered sugar , for dusting
- vegetable oil , for frying
- Heat oil in a deep fryer or cast-iron skillet to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). The temperature will drop once you add the dough.
- In a large bowl, stir together flour, nutmeg, baking soda, and sugar.
- Form a well then add eggs, ricotta cheese, vanilla extract, and salt. Stir until the dough comes together. The dough should be thick.
- When the oil is hot enough, use a spoon to scoop the batter, and another spoon or spatula to drop it in the oil, like the shape of a ball. If you can, use your hands to drop the dough. It does not have to be perfect.
- Fry on one side for about 2 minutes, then flip and fry on the other side for 2-3 minutes or golden brown or the doughnuts are cooked through. This all depends on the size of your dough - it might take longer or less time, adjust accordingly.
- Remove the dough balls from the oil and drain on paper towels. Repeat until all the dough has been used up.
- If desired, sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve warm.
Tips & Notes:
- Please keep in mind that nutritional information is a rough estimate and can vary greatly based on products used.