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zeppole con alici
Zeppole con Alici (Molisani Zeppole with anchovy, fried yeast dough; Christmas Eve fritters)
Originated from: Cantalupo, Isernia, Molise, Italy
Occasion: Christmas Eve
Contributed by: Mrs. Carmella Romano

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1 kilo flour
1 packet Fleischmann's traditional dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons), proofed in 1/2 cup lukewarm water
1 container of anchovies in oil (e.g., Pastene brand)
1 egg
2 teaspoons salt
about 1 1/2 cup lukewarm water

Vegetable oil for deep frying (preferably Sunflower oil)


o Proof yeast in 1/2 cup lukewarm water. Stir. Let rest for about 15 minutes.

o Beat egg.

o In a large bowl, mix flour and salt.

o Make a well in the seasoned flour and add the proofed yeast along with 1 cup of lukewarm water. Mix.

o Add beaten egg.

o Add a touch more water [about 1/2 cup] until the resulting batter looks similar to one used to make pancakes (The resulting mixture should be a thick batter, rather than a soft dough).

o Cover the container with the batter with plastic wrap. Place a kitchen towel over the container.

o Place the covered container in a warm room (about 80 F degrees), or keep in an oven (that is Not turned on).

o Let the batter rest for 2 to 3 hours (It should increase in size).

o Meanwhile, remove the anchovies from their container. Drain excess oil. Cut each anchovy in half.

o When the batter has risen and one is ready to fry the zeppole, heat up the vegetable oil (preferably Sunflower oil). To see if the oil is hot enough, add a piece of bread. If the piece of bread zizzles, then it is the right temperature.

o Using a tablespoon (or one that is a touch larger than a regular tablespoon) scoop up the batter in it. Place the anchovy [cut in half] in the batter.

o Drop the batter which contains the anchovy in the hot oil.

o Fry the zeppole until golden.

o Remove the zeppole and drain on kitchen paper towels.

o Repeat the steps until all the dough has been processed (keeping in mind that the zeppole do not have to be uniform in size -- in fact, the more diverse in shape they are, the prettier the presentation).

o Serve warm or at room temperature.


The word, zeppole, refers to a variety of foods, anything from pastries to fried yeast dough. It seems prior to World War II the word "zeppole" usually referred to fried yeast dough -- sometimes it was sweetened, and sometimes it was not. However, nowadays, in North America as well as in Italy, the word, zeppole, often refers to pastries served on The Feast Day of San Giuseppe. In the 1940s when Mrs. Carmella Romano was growing up in Cantalupo, Molise "zeppole con alici" were made for Christmas Eve and only for Christmas Eve (No other time!). Nowadays, she makes them whenever the mood strikes her. She recalls that her late mother also made zeppole for The Feast Day of San Giuseppe but those fritters differed substantially from the ones made for Christmas Eve. As she was not particularly fond of the San Giuseppe zeppole popular in her hometown of Cantalupo she did not continue to do them when she immigrated to Canada. In any case, she doesn't have a recipe for them. For the Feast Day of San Giuseppe Mrs. Romano buys her zeppole at an Italian pastry shop. And those zeppole are less like fritters, and more like cup cakes.... The zeppole con alici shown in the photo were made by Mrs. Romano; the photo was taken by Mary Melfi.

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