Zeppole di San Giuseppe / Happy Italian Father’s Day!

La Festa di San Giuseppe, the Feast of Saint Joseph, is celebrated by Catholics worldwide, but it is especially important in Italy; it serves as Italian Father’s Day, Giuseppe, of course, being the man who stepped in to be the earthly father of Jesus.

The holiday is particularly special in Sicily, where St. Joseph is honored for saving the island from famine during the Middle Ages; the population survived on fava beans, which is why fava beans are also part of the celebration in Sicily.

Since food plays a role in nearly every Italian holiday, what does the rest of Italy eat for St. Joseph’s Day?

The simple answer is zeppole, but then it gets a bit more complicated as zeppole versions vary greatly throughout the peninsula, particularly in the South.

The most widely known outside of Italy seem to be the cream-filled version from Naples, often called “St. Josephs’ Cream Puffs” (pictured above) or similar fritters served with cream known as St. Joseph’s Fritters:

Zeppole Fritters for St. Joseph's Day

Click for recipe with video for Zeppole Fritters for St. Joseph's Day by Academia Barilla

Here in Calabria, zeppole are deep-fried dough and trust me, addictive; although my grandmother dusted them in sugar to make them sweet, the more traditional way around here is to stick an anchovy inside–decidedly not the sweet delectable treat with cream you may have been looking for!

So Happy Italian Father’s Day to all the dads out there, and auguri to all the Giuseppes and Giuseppinas as well! Be sure to have una zeppola since zeppole calories don’t count today ;)

Do you make zeppole? Feel free to share your recipes or simply describe them in the comments!

* Top image by News21-USA on Flickr (CC license)



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8 comments

  1. Yum! I’ve only seen the sweet Zeppole di San Giuseppe around the Amalfi Coast. But given the love of anchovies here, I wouldn’t be surprised if you could find them that way around Naples, too. Sounds a bit too odd for me though. I’ll stick with the sweet ones! :-)

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    Gemelli Press Reply:

    Truth be told, I usually opt for the ones without the anchovy (they are formed with a hole in the middle so you know they’re vuote) then I coat them in sugar, which horrifies those around me because they just don’t do that in this town (home of my great-great-grandfather), BUT they do in the next town over (home of my great-great-grandmother and great-grandmother) SO I’m with the ladies on this one hahahaha……..

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  2. My mother being Calabrian, made the zeppole with anchovies which were a must a Christmas. In fact on her last Christmas she was very ill but insisted we make them together.
    She taught me how to make the choux pastry ones, like the S.Giuseppe style too which we’d have on special occasions all year round.
    My husband taught me the Amalfi Coast way of putting raisins and orange peel in the zeppole and drizzling them in honey :http://bellavventura.blogspot.com/2011/12/donut-beauty-pageant.html . So you can imagine the kilos I put on over the holidays with all this variety!

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    Gemelli Press Reply:

    Yes yes yes, Rosa! YUM! Zeppole (the Calabrian way, of course) are fairly common festival food no matter the celebration around here. And I don’t complain one bit :P

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  3. ah, so a rose by any other name smells just as sweet, but a zeppole by the same name can be sweet or savory!! I grew up with the Calabrian version at Christmas but will gladly make them today in honor of Italian father’s day and San Giuseppe! Thanks for the reminder! Beautiful site and btw I am with the ladies on this one too!! p.s if you don’t mind the christmas music watch my zeppole “recipideo” for my family recipe here?? http://youtu.be/Ra_g9z7RqeE

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  4. marie concetta

    my mother, who was an American born Calabrian, took handfuls of leftover dough, flattened them a bit, fried them in oil, then dusted them with sugar. Loved them!!!!! We called them, “sugar babes”. Unfortunately I can no longer handle sugar or flour. It is not easy to be a thin Italian.

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    Gemelli Press Reply:

    Sounds delicious though! :)

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  5. John

    This post has started a conversation around here about the lack of Italian pastries available. Maybe I’ll open a shop.

    [Reply]

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