In my column today in the Sun Sentinel, you’ll find a recipe for zeppole – or sfinge. This Old World Italian recipe was requested by one of my older readers who remembers her mother making these fried dough treats; now, all those who had the recipe from her family’s version have passed on. (Moral of story: write down and pass along your family recipes!)
Zeppole variations are so numerous, it was hard to choose only one to print. Most hail from Southern Italy, though like most recipes of a country, they migrated, with the new cooks adding their own spins. Many call for ricotta cheese and no yeast – they rely on baking powder instead. Some recipes have raisins or dried fruit bits; others are actually savory – and contain dried fish or anchovies.
These are all regional quirks; some specific to holidays, too – St. Joseph’s Day in the U.S., and New Year’s Day are popular days to serve them after a big meal.
Below is the ricotta cheese version; visit the Sun Sentinel food page to get the yeast dough type that my reader specifically requested.
Zeppole with Ricotta Cheese
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- pinch of salt
- 2 teaspoons sugar (or to taste)
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese, drained
- few drops vanilla or lemon extract (optional)
- vegetable oil for frying
- For coating: honey, powdered sugar or cinnamon-sugar mix
Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a medium bowl. Add beaten eggs, ricotta and extract, if using. Beat slightly to combine to a smooth dough. (Dough will be somewhat soft.)
Heat oil in deep, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Using two spoons, drop dough by rounded teaspoons-full into hot oil, and fry until golden, about 3-1/2 minutes; turn if needed with slotted spoon. Do not crowd pan; fry in batches. Remove to a paper-covered tray for draining. Drizzle warm zeppole with honey, or toss in powdered sugar or cinnamon-sugar mixture. Serve warm.
To reheat leftovers, wrap zeppole in aluminum foil and heat in 350 oven for 10 minutes.
Makes about 16 zeppole.