Making Calabrian Zeppole

Calabrian Zeppole

On a recent trip to the Bronx to investigate winter damage to fig trees, I had fun learning to make a Calabrian version of Zeppole with Caterina Borromeo. Caterina is from the town of Palermiti, province of Catanzaro and came to the US in 1958.

Zeppole are a fried dough pastry with regional variations that range from sweet and cake-like to savory and bready. They are a staple of Italian American street fairs and feast days, so since I was visiting the Little Italy section of the Bronx during the yearly St. Anthony festival, a zeppole lesson seemed appropriate. Maria’s recipe consists of four basic bread ingredients, flour, water, yeast and salt. Zeppole also known as crispelle in southern Italy where they are often served on New Year’s Eve sprinkled with powdered sugar or drizzled with honey. A savory version is made stuffed with anchovies.


1 cup flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup warm water
1 pkg dry yeast
Enough vegetable oil for 2 inches in frying pan

Dissolve yeast in warm water until yeast begins to foam. Add flour and salt, mixing to form a sticky, almost runny dough. Allow to rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Heat oil in deep frying pan. Scoop up small amount of dough with your hand and drop into hot oil. Fry until lightly golden brown, turning once. Serve warm sprinkled with powdered sugar or drizzled with honey.


Shaping the dough
By adding a bit more flour, the sticky dough can be formed into various shapes.


zeppole frying in oil
The dough puffs as it hits the hot oil.


Patient cooks
The most difficult part of this recipe is waiting for the tasty treats to be browned to perfection before eating.

Grazie, Caterina, for sharing your tradition with us!


Martha Gaertner

Thanks for sharing this recipe! I feel strongly about carrying on tradition. Food/recipes & gardening handed down & shared so they are not lost.
Keep up the excellent work.

Michael Bianco

Once a week when my mother would bake her bread she would fry dough and in some she would roll an anchovy. The taste was something to behold. It was a Calabraze tradition. She is gone now and I still do the same. We called them pete frete Spelling may be wrong

Mary Menniti

Eating warm fried dough is one of my most pleasant memories from childhood too, Michael. We referred to it similarly as pizza frite. Good for you for continuing the tradition.


My Mom (now aged 97) was born in US (parents from Aversa outside Naples) and called the fried dough she made pizzelle. It seems very similar to recipe above. I am gluten free, as is my daughter, and would love to find a recipe that works without wheat.

Joe Roberti

Seems to be several names for the same thing. My parents were from Calabria and Sicily. We always called them SFINGE OR SFINGI

Audrey Oliphant

I’ve been looking for these recipes for a couple YEARS. MY Grandmother was from Norway and later South Dakota. She pulled the dough into flat disc like pieces (like Indian fry bread) and shook them in a bag with in sugar. She called them DOODADS. I absolutely loved them. Thank you for letting me know how she did it.

Silvana Corsetti

Both sides of my family came from the Abruzzo region of Italy. And both of my grandmothers made a fried dough with yeast. In our neck of the woods they refer to them as “zeppe”. They almost look like a flattened doughnut. My grandmothers would usually make them when they made pizza. Using some of the left over pizza dough, they would stretch it out into a circle and then poke a hole in the middle with their finger. Then they would be fried until golden brown on both sides. After draining if paper towel, they would be dusted with granulated sugar or,as my dad likes the savory, with salt and pepper. They are a delicious treat, no matter which recipe you use!


My family is from the province of Reggio Calabria, although I’ve lived in Canada most of my life. Last night I was privileged to eat fresh “zippuli” as my aunt pulled them out of the deep fryer. Just amazing, crispy outer shell with a steaming light inside and a surprise. My aunt uses a similar recipe as Caterina with the exception that she uses an equivalent amount of sugar instead of salt. It seems the yeast rises more with sugar and consequently the dough is fluffier. My cousins and wife enjoy the zippuli plain and covered with honey. My favorite is the dry version, with one lovely anchovie inside whose flavour explodes in your mouth when you bite into it. Sometimes, once I’m stuffed, I top off the flavours by choosing one from the honey covered bowl and close off with a hot espresso.


An Italian family in Chicago had a similar recipe but it was called a Gadutti or Gadooti. I’m not sure of the spelling but I spent so much of my early life in their kitchen enjoying these. The kitchen was in the basement as most were at that time and the entrance to the home was directly to the kitchen/basement. Many fond memories. Thank you for resurrecting them.


I love realblie old standby recipes – they always come through! I think anybody would be happy to receive these! They are as lovely as they appear to be tasty!


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