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Zeppole fritte napoletane

Zeppole fritte napoletane

The Neapolitan "zeppole", in Naples also called "graffe" (from the German "krapfen", a very similar preparation), not to be confused with the "zeppole di San Giuseppe", are sweet, fluffy fried pancakes, rolled in sugar, absolutely delicious and typical of the Carnival period. In Naples of course, and in many other areas, "zeppole" can be found throughout the year and are a common feature in pastry shops and bars, where can be eaten as an alternative to a cornetto (croissant) with a hot espresso or cappuccino.

The dough of the Neapolitan tradition is made of flour and boiled, mashed potatoes. The dough is soft and a good rising is the true secret. For optimal success, the "zeppole" should be fried at the right temperature and turned several times, so as to swell and melt inside and reach that typical dark golden color that contrasts with the white sugar where they are rolled. To the dough, in the video-recipe below, a liquor was added, the famous "Strega", a herbal liqueur produced since 1860 by the "Strega Alberti" of Benevento, whose recipe is secret.

Etymology - But where does the word "zeppola" come from? Over the past two centuries various etymologies have been suggested:

  • from the Latin "cippus", the Italian "zeppa", or wedge, a piece of wood used to solve small leveling problems of furniture. The wedge is small like a "pinch" of that dough that is then put to fry in hot oil;
  • from the Latin "serpula", small snake, from the shape of a snake curling on itself;
  • from the Latin "cymbala" a donut-shaped river boat with a flat bottom;
  • from the Latin "saeptula" used for objects generally round in shape;
  • from "Zi' Paolo" (=uncle Paul), the name of a street fryer in Naples, who, according to some, might have invented the modern "zeppola".

History - Pancakes similar to today's "zeppole" are recorded in antiquity. Since around 500 BC, on March 17 in Rome the Liberalia were celebrated, festivals of the gods of wine and wheat, and in honor of Silenus, the tutor of Bacchus, people drank wine added with honey and spices and ate wheat pancakes fried in hot lard. The current Neapolitan "zeppole" recipe might go back to Pasquale Pintauro, the host of a tavern opposite Santa Brigida, in Via Toledo, Naples, who in 1818 opened the "Pintauro" pastry shop where he began to prepare the "sfogliatelle di Santarosa"; later on, revisiting the ancient Roman pancakes and following the advice of Ippolito Cavalcanti, he began preparing the current zeppole, enriching the dough with eggs, lard and various flavours, and giving them their typical curled-snake shape.

In "Cucina teorico-pratica" by Ippolito Cavalcanti, Duke of Buonvicino (the 9th edition of 1852 is available on Google Books), the recipe is reported on page 180 as follows: "Per fare le zeppole [...] farai con libbre due e mezzo ed once tre (che corrisponde al rotolo di Napoli) la pasta bugnè; fatta questa pasta, la porrai sulla tavola di marmo, o sul pancone verniciato d'oglio, e rimenerai la pasta, della stessa ne farai tanti tortanetti, non molto piccoli, e li friggerai con strutto bollentissimo, potrai ancora con oglio; appena fatta una piccola crosta li rivolterai, e con un ferro puntato espressamente, o con un puntuto di legno li pungigherai dovento vuotarsi così, ed allora le zeppole saranno ottime, le rivolterai di bel nuovo finché giunga il loro punto di cottura biondo perfetto, le farai sgocciolare, l'accomoderai nel piatto proprio a piramide; farai un giulebbe strettissimo, ce lo verserai per sopra, e poscia polverizzerai da per tutto di zucchero, e così saranno servite le zeppole".

[English translation:] To make the zeppole [...] you'll make with two and a half pounds and three ounces (which corresponds to the "rotolo" of Naples) the dough; after making the dough, you'll put it on the marble table, or on the wooden plank greased with oil, and you'll knead the dough, will make from it so many small pieces, not very small, and you'll fry them in hot boiling lard, or otherwise oil; as soon as a small crust is made you shall turn them, and with a pointed iron or with a pointed wood you'll sting them since they must be emptied, and then the zeppole will be fantastic, you'll turn them afresh until they reach the cooking point, perfectly blonde, you shall drain them, then place on a plate in the form of a pyramid; prepare a very dense julep, pour it over them, and afterwards powder sugar all over, and in this way the zeppole will be served".

The video is a creation of [You Tube channel: kayenna].

[The video is not seen well with Internet Explorer 8 - in case watch it on YouTube directly.]
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0:00
Cari amici, buongiorno! Oggi prepariamo le zeppole fritte. Ecco gli ingredienti.
Dear friends, and good day! Today we'll be preparing the "zeppole fritte". Here are the ingredients.
0:16
800 grammi di farina, 500 grammi di patate, ben calde, 5 uova, 100 grammi di burro, 3 cucchiai di zucchero, 3 cubetti di lievito, un pizzico di sale, la buccia del limone grattugiato, un bicchierino di "Strega", e l'acqua calda per sciogliere il lievito.
800 grams flour, 500 grams very hot potatoes, 5 eggs, 100 grams butter, 3 tablespoons sugar, 3 small cubes of yeast, a pinch of salt, grated lemon zest, a glass of "Liquore Strega", and warm water to dissolve the yeast.
0:52
Cominciamo! Versiamo la farina, [....] mettiamo il burro, schiacciate le patate lesse ben calde sul burro, in modo che si possa sciogliere.
Let's start! Let's pour the flour, [....] let's put the butter, mash the hot potatoes over the butter, so that it will melt.
1:35
Adesso mettiamo tre cucchiai di zucchero, 5 uova: apriamo le cinque uova singolarmente in un piatto, e le versiamo nell'impasto.
Now let's put three tablespoons of sugar, 5 eggs: we'll open the five eggs one by one into a dish, and pour them into the dough.
2:00
Un pizzico di sale, la buccia del limone grattugiato, la "Strega", e adesso aggiungiamo i tre cubetti di lievito sciolti nell'acqua calda, un cento grammi di acqua calda, nel caso non dovesse bastare, si aggiunge man mano che si impasta, un'altra po' d'acqua calda.
A pinch of salt, grated lemon zest, the "Strega", and now let's add the three cubes of yeast dissolved in warm water, about one hundred grams of warm water, if not enough, you'll add, while you're kneading, another bit of warm water.
3:20
E si procede ad impastare! Se vi accorgete che l'impasto è un po' morbido, si può aggiungere altra farina.
And we'll proceed to knead! If you realize that the dough is a bit too soft, you can add more flour.
3:30
Quando la pasta è diventata bella morbida, si sbatte un poco, e si cominciano a formare le zeppole, mettendo un poco di farina sul tagliere, in modo che man mano le zeppole non attaccano.
When the dough has become pretty soft, you'll bang it a little, and then begin to form the zeppole, putting a little flour on the cutting board, so that, as you go on, the zeppole will not stick.
4:00
Si staccano dei rotolini, si formano le zeppole, si mettono allineate ad una certa distanza, perché nel crescere raddoppiano di volume. Si incrociano, e si mettono a crescere per due ore.
We'll cut out small cylinders, form the zeppole, we'll place them in a line at some distance, because when they raise, they'll double their volume. You cross the two arms, and let them raise to for two hours.
4:38
Dopo circa due ore, le zeppole sono cresciute. Adesso noi nel frattempo abbiamo messo a riscaldare l'olio, che deve essere bello caldo... in questo momento le ricopriamo, appena l'olio è caldo noi cominceremo a friggere le zeppole, poi le passeremo nello zucchero semplice, e alcune nello zucchero e cannella, secondo i gusti, come piace.
After about two hours, the zeppole have raised. Now in the meantime, we put the oil to heat, which should be very hot... at this time we'll cover them, as soon as the oil is hot, we will begin to fry the zeppole, then pass them in just sugar, and some in the sugar with cinnamon, to taste, as you like.
5:05
Prepariamo lo zucchero con la cannella, per coloro a cui piace la cannella, e quindi lo zucchero semplice, a chi non piace.
We'll prepare the sugar with cinnamon, for those who like cinnamon, and also simple sugar, for those who do not like [cinnamon].
6:15
E questo è il risultato finale delle zeppole con zucchero e cannella! Mi auguro che vi piacciano!
And this is the end result of zeppole with sugar and cinnamon ! I hope you like them!