They look like hush puppies, but they are not. They are castagnole or little Italian fried pastries. In Naples there’s a similar version called zeppole, while in Sicily you can find sfingi di San Giuseppe, this time filled with ricotta cheese. Castagnole are usually made for carnival days and also for Saint Joseph’s day on March 19, which is actually Father’s Day in Italy.
People in Italy are highly devoted to Saint Joseph, partly because during medieval times it was Saint Bernardino of Siena – one of the most beloved Saints in Italy – who promoted the veneration of baby Jesus’ father. And also because according to legend, again during medieval times, Saint Joseph heard the prayers of little Sicilian children and he sent rain after several months of a terrible drought. People from Sicily brought this festivity to America, and now it’s one of the best known Italian-American traditions.
Ingredients (about 50 castagnole)
2 cups flour
6 Tbsp butter, room temperature
½ tsp baking powder
¼ cup sugar
Zest of 1 orange
Pinch of salt
4 Tbsp Confectioner’s sugar
In a bowl, mix the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder and a pinch of salt. Add the eggs, the butter and the orange zest. Mix using your hands and shape mini balls. The dough is a bit sticky, so put some flour on your hands while shaping the balls. Deep-fry in enough peanut oil (at least 4 cups depending on the size of your saucepan), over medium heat, until nice and golden. Drain off the excess of oil using paper towels. Put the confectioner’s sugar inside a paper bag, then put the fried mini balls inside the bag, shake and enjoy!