Italian Zeppole Recipe

Beneath the golden fried crust of zeppole lies a delightfully light and fluffy centre. These irresistible treats are an Italian twist on the ever-popular doughnut

Italian zeppole recipe

Recipe, words and photo by Mario Matassa

My grandfather kept chickens for eggs in a large coop behind the house in Ireland. As a child, I loved going into the coop and collecting the eggs. I still do.

Sometimes my grandmother would crack them straight into a bowl, add flour and start kneading.

Other times, she’d hand me the whisk while she threw onions and courgettes into a large cast iron skillet.

Whether it was fresh pasta or a frittata for lunch, eggs were the cornerstone. They are an essential ingredient in the Italian kitchen.

There is no tiramisù, no panna cotta, no cotoletta, no tagliatelle, no ripieno (stuffing), no frittata… No cucina without eggs!

They are quite simply that fundamental.

When it comes to something sweet, one of the best things to make with eggs is this version of zeppole that we make in the restaurant throughout the spring.

Like all things food-related, they go by other names depending on which part of the country you happen to live here.

Zeppole fritte, zeppole povere, graffe, ciambelle, to name just a few.

In the end, I like to think of them as the Italian take on doughnuts – because that’s essentially what they are.

Zeppole | Zeppole

➤ SERVES: about 20
➤ PREPARATION: 20 minutes
➤ COOKING: 25 minutes


  • 500ml water
  • grated rind of 1 unwaxed lemon
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil (plus oil for frying)
  • 300g plain flour
  • ½tsp baking powder
  • 4 medium free-range eggs
  • granulated sugar
  • cinnamon


  1. In a medium-sized pot, bring the water, lemon rind, salt and a tablespoon of oil to the boil. Lower the heat to a gentle simmer and gradually sprinkle in the flour, mixing continuously to avoid forming lumps. Keep stirring for about 3 minutes until the dough comes away clean from the sides of the pan and forms around the spoon (in the way you would make choux pastry).
  2. Transfer the dough onto a clean, cold surface and allow to cool. Once it is tepid, flatten out by hand, sprinkle over the baking powder and crack the eggs directly on top.
  3. Start mixing by hand, until a dough starts to form. It’s going to feel too wet. Don’t be tempted to add flour. Persevere and keep mixing. It will come together.
  4. Put a heavy-based deep-sided frying pan on the heat and add a few inches of oil. Cut off lump sized pieces of dough and roll out into snakes about the thickness of a middle finger. At this point in the process you can add a sprinkling of flour to help you work if you find the dough too sticky.
  5. Cut the dough and form into doughnuts. Alternatively, you could form other shapes. It’s important that the dough is rolled out into the thickness of fingers.
  6. Gently fry the shapes in oil, half a dozen at a time. They’ll take about 2 minutes, turning once in the oil when golden. Prepare a tray with granulated sugar mixed with the cinnamon. As soon as the zeppole are cooked, dust liberally in the sugar and allow to cool on a tray with kitchen roll. They’re good warm or cold!

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