Zeppole for Saint Joseph

Danielle Oteri

by Danielle Oteri on March 19, 2010

Today is the Feast of Saint Joseph. There’s not a whole lot known about St. Joseph (he’s sort of the strong silent type in the New Testament), and one of the few places where his cult is widely celebrated is Italy where today is also Father’s Day. Revered for being dutiful, hardworking and dedicated to his family, Saint Joseph is also the patron saint of Sicily.

Even though the feast of St. Joseph usually falls in the middle of Lent, the Sicilians, not known for restraining from pleasure, pay him homage with light-as-air fried cream puffs called zeppole. That fried dough you’ve had at street fairs and carnivals is the poor man’s version of this good stuff.

These zeppole, made at a wonderful Italian bakery in Boston's North End, were squeezed into spirals from a pastry bag.

The Sicilian version is a fluffy batter squeezed through a pastry tube into a circle, fried in oil and then stuffed with a sweet ricotta cheese cream and topped with a cherry. I can only describe them as a cannoli cream sandwich. In Rome they call them bigne and in Naples they are sfingi.

Call ‘em what you want, but you have to do them right because like so many Italian-American pastries there are a lot of bad versions out there. If you take the time to make these right (or get yourself to the North End in Boston or Arthur Avenue in the Bronx), you will surely agree with me that these pastries are nothing short of heavenly. Here’s my own version, by way of Sicily…


zeppole, italian, pastry

zeppole frying in a vat of hot oil

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Fran March 19, 2010 at 7:09 pm

Do you squeeze the dough from the pastry bag right into the hot oil? They look so perfect in the photo. It seems like they’d lose their beautiful shape if you try to move them from waxed paper or parchment paper to the oil? I want to try them, but don’t want to make a mess first.

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Danielle March 22, 2010 at 1:03 pm

Those perfect looking ones were made in a bakery in Boston’s North End. My recipe has you plopping the batter directly from your wooden spoon into the hot oil. If you want to use the pastry bag but are nervous about frying them, you could also bake them as my mom does!

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