Zeppole di San Giuseppe

As with most cultures, Italians have their share of celebrations. And where there is cause to celebrate, there is always food. Take, for example, March 19th. For the average North American, it’s the day before spring. In my world it meant Zeppole di San Giuseppe.

Zeppole di San Giuseppe

Only as an adult did I truly appreciate how food, tradition and culture form some sort of “triforce”. Family gatherings were centered around a celebration that always included food. Some celebrations were obvious (like Christmas and Easter), but some might be unknown to many North Americans. March 19th, for example, is a day to celebrate Saint Joseph, protector of the family and father of all fathers. (In Italy, it is also Father’s Day.) Saint Joseph’s day always included this Neapolitan treat, hence the name, Zeppole di San Giuseppe (Saint Joseph’s Zeppole). Did you know that March 19th is also the name day to honor anyone named Giuseppe (Joseph)? Another reason to celebrate!

Zeppole di San Giuseppe

A few weeks before March 19th, Italian pastry shops begin to mass produce the extremely popular zeppole. Meanwhile, around the dinner table, family and friends start arguing (in a nice way) about who makes the best zeppole, and which is the better filling: ricotta or Italian pastry cream. The original Neapolitan treat was made with a lemon infused pastry cream piped over a fried (in lard – gasp!) shell, and topped with an amarena (which is basically a sour cherry in a sweet syrup). Nowadays, a variety of fillings are offered, with the most popular being a sweetened ricotta. (And thankfully a healthier, baked version of the shell is now available.)

I will share with you my attempt to honor the tradition of Zeppole di San Giuseppe by making the Neapolitan version of this dessert – minus the part about frying in lard. (No way that was happening! I baked mine.)

Zeppole di San Giuseppe

As you may have guessed, the Zeppole di San Giuseppe is the product of two recipes – pastry cream and cream puff. I have provided you with some visual steps for the cream puff. (If you are interested Deb, who blogs at gluten-free farina has made a gluten-free version).

Zeppole di San Giuseppe

It’s crucial that the eggs are incorporated one at a time and that they are well beaten.


Origins of the Recipe For Zeppole di San Giuseppe:

The neighborhood I grew up in had a wonderful pastry shop that specialized in zeppole, and so this was a yearly treat for us. I thought it would be fun to make this recipe. As was mentioned, there are two parts to this recipe. The lemon infused pastry cream recipe was one that my Mom would often make for desserts (ex. Italian Cake.) I made the pastry shell using a basic recipe that I’ve been using for years to make cream puffs.  The next time I make these, I will definitely use a larger star tip (I’m thinking 1/2 inch tip) in order for the pretty ridges to keep their shape once they are baked. (I think I was the only one that noticed the lack of ridges in the zeppole. They were so good that they quickly dissapppeard.)

A big hug goes out to all the Giuseppe’s, Joseph’s, Joe’s, Joey’s, Giuseppina’s, Josie’s, Yossef’s, Yusuf’s, José’s and Peppino’s! (And all the spellings in between!)

Happy Name Day!

Zeppole di San Giuseppe

Zeppole di San Giuseppe
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Italian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12
You must have Zeppole di San Giuseppe on March 19th; a Neapolitan treat made with a lemon infused pastry cream piped on a shell, topped with a sour cherry.
  • 1 cup flour, all-purpose
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup butter, room temperature
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 12 amarene (cherries)
  • icing sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 400℉. Place rack in the center of oven.
  2. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Whisk together flour, salt and sugar. Set aside.
  4. In a large heavy saucepan, over medium high heat, combine water and butter. Bring to a boil.
  5. Remove saucepan from heat.
  6. Add flour mixture all at once, and stir with wooden spoon.
  7. Lower heat to medium low.
  8. Return saucepan to the stove and continue to stir until mixture forms a smooth ball (1-2 minutes).
  9. Remove from heat.
  10. Let cool for about 2 minutes.
  11. Transfer mixture to the bowl of stand mixer or large mixing bowl.
  12. Beat with paddle attachment or hand held mixture for a few minutes in order to cool down the mixture (1-2 minutes).
  13. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
  14. Spoon dough into pastry bag fitted with open star tip.
  15. Pipe dough into 2" nests on parchment paper.
  16. Place in pre-heated oven for 35-40 minutes, until golden brown.
  17. When shells are cool, use pastry bag fitted open star tip to pipe pastry cream(see recipe below) onto the shells.
  18. Top with an amarena (cherry) and a dusting of icing sugar.

Lemon Infused Italian Pastry Cream
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Italian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2 cups
  • 2 cups milk (whole or 2%)
  • lemon rind of 1 organic lemon
  • 2 whole eggs + 1 egg yolk (room temperature)
  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • ⅓ cup all purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • pinch of salt
  1. In a medium saucepan, over medium heat, combine the milk and lemon peel.
  2. When milk starts to steam, remove from heat (do not allow milk to boil.) Let stand for at least 10 minutes allowing the lemon peel to infuse the milk.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk eggs with sugar.
  4. Sift flour,cornstarch and salt together.
  5. Add dry mixture to egg mixture. Continue whisking.
  6. Remove lemon peel from the milk.
  7. While whisking continuously, add a few tablespoons of hot milk to the egg mixture.
  8. Continue to gradually add all the hot milk while whisking.
  9. Transfer to saucepan and over medium heat whisk continuously for 1-2 minutes. Mixture will thicken. Do not boil mixture.
  10. Transfer pastry cream in a glass or ceramic bowl and place a piece of plastic wrap touching the top of the pastry cream.
  11. Refrigerate until ready to use. (Should be used within 3 days.)

Thanks for dropping by.

Ciao for now!

Maria 🙂
Zeppole di San Giuseppe

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    • Thank-you Nicoletta! Such a festive treat and a fantastic opportunity to get together with friends and family. Hope you guys had a great day! I’m off to see your zeppole ♥