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Celebrating St. Joseph's Day with zeppole

Zeppole, also known as St. Joseph's cakes

Zeppole, also known as St. Joseph's cakes Credit: iStock photo

On St. Joseph's Day, I'm in deep thought about zeppole and sfingi.

These are the great pastries made to honor the patron saint of Sicily. Among my favorite things, they definitely pull ahead of raindrops on roses.

There's always a debate about which is which, or whether one name should cover the two. But as any taster knows, the choices for filling the fried pastry shell are either the sweetened, delicate ricotta impastata, sometimes with citron added or with candied citrus peel for garnish; and lush pastry cream, or custard, usually with a cherry on top.

When controversy erupts, sfingi generally applies to the ricotta version; zeppole, to the custard. I've known many participants who resolve the matter with ease. They skip definitions and eat both.

I'm in the ricotta camp and plan to consume as many as possible. Actually, I started early, first spotting the pastries at bakeries in late February. No doubt there are establishments that produce them year-round. I'm ready for them, too.

To go with, or after, these sweets, I'd stay with a taste of Sicily: the 2008 Pellegrino Passito di Pantelleria ($28). It comes from the must, or pulp, skins and seeds of moscato grapes, and from the island of Pantelleria. The isle is south of Marsala, the Sicilian city that gave its name to the classic fortified wine, and where Pellegrino started in 1880. It has an orange-yellow hue and an aroma of dried fruit. Try a glass, slightly chilled.

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