Zeppole Recipe: The Tucci Family’s Must-Have Snack

Zeppole Recipe: The Tucci Family's Must-Have Snack

(CNN) — For the Tucci family, no party is complete without one Italian staple. Zeppole are fried donuts that Stanley Tucci calls “addictively delicious.”

During the shooting of “Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy”, he met his Italian relatives in Calabria – the southwestern “toe” of the Italian peninsula. They had cooked for days to prepare for the meeting and prepared some of the family’s favorite dishes.

The beloved zeppole stole the show.

Similar to fritters, but denser, these delectable morsels, which can be served as a savory appetizer or sweet dessert alongside coffee, have always been a family hit.

“Every time my mom started roasting them, the whole family unknowingly started moving closer and closer to the stove until we were all sitting around her, practically gasping with a hunger we didn’t know we had until she started cooking,” Tucci wrote in his memoir, “Taste.”
“Once they’ve cooled down enough to handle, they’re devoured by whoever can grab one the fastest,” he remembered in his book.

Italians often serve puffy and golden zeppole with a generous amount of powdered sugar, but the Tucci family prefers a savory version, with anchovies incorporated into the dough.

These Italian donuts come in all kinds of variations: you can fill them with salami and sprinkle with salt, or for a sweet version, fill them with cream, including hazelnut, chocolate or lemon, and top with honey and chopped pistachios. Tucci has experimented with different toppings, including sautéed peppers and goat cheese, served alongside a green salad and beer.

Even the shape and size of this finger food varies from recipe to recipe.

There is one consensus on the internet: they are best baked fresh. But as most Italians will tell you, eat these Italian donuts before they can cool.

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Potato Zeppole

This family recipe calls for frying in vegetable oil, but for a more traditional preparation, you can use olive oil. Look for 00 flour, which is finely ground Italian wheat flour, at online baking or Italian specialty stores.

Makes 30


¾ kilogram | 5 ¼ cups yellow potatoes, peeled and diced

½ kilogram | 4 cups flour plus more for the surface, preferably type 00

15 grams | ¾ tablespoon table salt

12 ½ grams | 1 ½ tbsp brewer’s yeast

60 milliliters | ¼ cup warm water

Oil-packed anchovies, drained, patted dry and diced, or diced salami (optional for savory)

Olive oil for frying

Powdered sugar or honey (optional for sweet)


Potato masher or potato press

Deep fryer or large pan

Deep-fry thermometer (optional)

After you have cooked the potatoes, you can put them in the can of a potato press in batches.  Or use a pestle as an alternative.

After you have cooked the potatoes, you can put them in the can of a potato press in batches. Or use a pestle as an alternative.


1. Cook the potatoes in a large saucepan until soft, about 10 minutes. Drain the potatoes and place in a large bowl and mash with a potato masher while still warm. (If using a potato press, load them into the container in batches and press the potatoes into the bowl.) Combine ½ kilogram (or 4 cups) of flour and salt with the mashed potatoes.

2. Dissolve the yeast in warm water to activate, then add it to the mixture.

3. Knead the ingredients together in the bowl until the mixture is a smooth, dry dough.

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Knead the mixture in a bowl until it becomes a smooth, dry dough. Let it rest until it has doubled in volume.

4. Cover with a cloth and let the dough rest until it has doubled in volume, about 3 hours.

5. When it has doubled in volume, turn the dough over onto a floured work surface. With wet hands, divide the dough into small pieces and form donut-shaped rings about ½-inch thick. You can adjust the size according to your personal preference.

For a savory version, add a few diced anchovy fillets or diced salami to the dough as you shape it if desired.

6. Pour the oil into a large saucepan to a depth of 5 centimeters (or 2 inches) and heat over medium heat. Dip a piece of dough to check if the oil is hot enough; if it stays on the bottom, it’s still cold. When the dough comes to the surface and starts frying, the oil is ready. If the oil turns dark, it is too hot and you should lower the temperature by removing the pan from the heat. (You can also heat oil until a deep-fry thermometer registers 149 degrees Celsius or 300 degrees Fahrenheit.)

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Flip the donuts halfway through frying. They are ready when they are puffy and golden brown.

7. Bake the donuts in small batches, turning them halfway through, until puffy and golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes in total. Transfer the donuts to a plate covered with absorbent kitchen paper for a few seconds with a slotted spoon to soak up the excess oil. Change the oil halfway through frying.

8. Serve hot. You can eat them neat or with toppings if you wish. For a sweet version, add powdered sugar or honey to the warm zeppole.

This recipe comes from the Ventra family (relatives of Tucci).