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Saint Joseph's Zeppole

Today, the 19th of March, is Saint Joseph day. In Italy and other countries with a strong Catholic presence, this day coincides with Father’s day. Joseph is the putative father of Jesus and represents the perfect model of fatherhood: he is present, loving and patient.

Baked Zeppole made by my brother at Le Palme Pasticceria in Cisterna di Latina (Lazio)

In Italy, like any other important celebration, Father's day has a variety of recipes and food traditions dedicated to it. My favorite is definitely the "Zeppola di San Giuseppe", a delicious pastry filled with custard and topped with a candied cherry.

The pastry can be fried or baked, it is light and fluffy and always sprinkled with powdered sugar.

My dad attended the "Zeppola d'oro" Championship in Nov 2021 at the food fair "Gustus" in Naples

The legend says that this tasty treat was made by Saint Joseph himself. After fleeing from Egypt with Mary and Jesus, he had to drop his job as a carpenter and start to sell sweet fritters to support his family. The truth is that we don't know exactly when and where the recipe originated.

What we know for sure is that the first "official" recipe of Zeppole was written in Naples. In 1837 the gastronome Ippolito Cavalcanti, the author of the famous cookbook "Trattato di Cucina teorico-pratico" add this recipes in his extensive collections of recipes and cooking techniques from Naples and surrounding areas.

And in Naples, till not too long ago, in the alleys of the city centre was possible to find "Zeppolari di strada", street food vendors specialized in frying and selling tasty Zeppole.

From Naples the tradition spread all over the kingdom, the Regno delle due Sicilie, which united all southern Italy at that time, including Molise. Nowadays it is possible to find fried and baked Zeppole all over Italy and at different times of the year but one thing is for sure: they taste way better on Father's day, especially once you know all the incredible history behind it!

Nowadays you can find all sorts of sizes and variations of Zeppole. This is one made by my brother in his shop: with a mouthwatering Pistachio custard filling!


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