These crispeddi di riso, also known as zeppole, are traditionally eaten in Catania on 19 March but are delicious any day of the year.
19 March in Italy is the feast of San Giuseppe (Saint Joseph), the husband of Mary and the foster father of Jesus. In the south of Italy it’s a really big deal since it doubles as Father’s Day and there are often processions of statues through the streets. .
A good excuse to celebrate
The feast always falls in Lent, a period in which traditionally people fast or give up sweet things. So, it’s always been a welcome excuse to forget the fasting for a day and to eat special sweets to celebrate Father’s Day and San Giuseppe. These sweets come in many shapes, sizes, and flavours and are often called zeppole, a corruption of the name Giuseppe.
Crispelle, crispeddi, or zeppole?
In Catania, Sicily, the specialities for San Giuseppe are known as crispelle di riso (or crispeddi in Sicilian dialect) in the city and zeppole in the rest of the province of Catania. They are made from rice, flour, and yeast and are flavoured with orange and cinnamon. Like most Sicilian sweets, they are deep fried in oil and then they are bathed in honey. The result are sweet, crispy little fingers which are delicious at any time of the day.
Did I mention where they are from?
I first had these in Catania a few weeks ago (they start early) and then researched several versions of the recipe to come up with my version below. These are almost identical to the ones I had in Catania.
A few notes …
A few notes on the recipe: shaping the crispeddi can be tricky as the mixture is very sticky. However, coating your hands in flour and rolling the crispeddi in more flour with the palm of your hand will do the trick. I’ve seen some recipes where the dough is cut into strips which are then hoiked up with the knife and dropped into the oil with a flick of the wrist. This is probably impressive to watch but sounds like a recipe for having your kitchen splattered with dough and you getting splashed with boiling oil. My method also gives more regular shapes.
You need to fry these as gently as possible, because some of the flour will wash off into the oil and could start to burn at the bottom of the pan. I therefore use peanut oil since it has a very high smoke point. If you are worried about allergies, you can use any other kind of vegetable oil but be careful because most have lower smoke points and the flour will burn more easily.
You can use any rice but Italian short grain or risotto rice works best as it absorbs liquids easily. I used Vialone Nano rice for the ones in the pictures.
So, enjoy these crispeddi and have a great Festa del Papà!
300g (10 ounces) short grain rice 1 liter (4 1/4 cups) milk 5g (1 teaspoon) salt 1 orange zest 1 teaspoon cinnamon 2 tablespoons sugar 15g (1 tablespoon) fresh yeast 150g (1 cup) plain flour peanut oil for frying 200g (3/4 cup) honey icing sugar
300g (10 ounces) short grain rice
1 liter (4 1/4 cups) milk
5g (1 teaspoon) salt
1 orange zest
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons sugar
15g (1 tablespoon) fresh yeast
150g (1 cup) plain flour
peanut oil for frying
200g (3/4 cup) honey