Repeatedly described as one of Italy’s most beautiful Carnivales, this is likely thanks to the intricate floats decorated with fresh flowers, adding beauty and perfume to the streets. Allegorical paper mache’ floats parade down the baroque streets of Acireale during Carnevale season but the awe is in the beautiful flower floats. Way back in the16th-century, revelers once celebrated Carnevale in Acireale by throwing rotten eggs and lemons. However, this was officially banned at some point and these games were replaced by a much more cultured pattern: folk poets known as “abbtazzi” who improvised verses on the streets of the city. The streets began to be filled with float sand poets as you will witness this year if you are lucky enough to be in Acireals for Carnivale. Street stands will be selling fried sweets, among them Sfingi and Zeppole
ZEPPOLE – (A Sicilian Dolce)
This is a dessert made traditionally for the Feast of St. Joseph on March 19th. For this Feast Day, the dough is piped in to a ring, deep fried and cooled. Then the ring is spit in half and a custard ream is put in the center and topped with a stemmed cherry.
- 1 ½ Cups Warm Water
- 1 Envelope Yeast
- 4 Tbs Sugar
- 4 Cups Flour – all purpose
- 2 Eggs – large, slightly beaten Confectioners’
- Sugar – for dusting
- Vegetable Oil – for frying
- Stir sugar and yeast in warm water to dissolve and set aside way from drafts to get frothy.
- Sift the flour into a large bowl.
- When yeast is ready, add to flour along with the eggs and mix well to form a dough.
- Cover bowl and set in a warm area that is free of drafts. Check in about an hour to see if dough has risen.
- If dough looks good heat oil and drop by teaspoons into the oil until golden brown. Drain on paper towel and sprinkle with sugar.
Zeppoles and Fava Beans For the Feast Of St. Joseph
March 19th is a very special day for Italians because it honors the Feast of St. Joseph. In some parts of Italy it is also
celebrated as a sort of Father’s Day. Now we know that St. Joseph was not Italian. In fact he was Judean. But St.
Joseph is very important to Italians, especially Sicilians. In the middle ages there was a drought in Sicily. Italians are
very religious people and they prayed to St Joseph to bring them rain. In return they vowed that they would
celebrate with a large feast to honor him. Their prayers were answered, and they kept their word. They feasted on
local foods such as fava beans, which thrived after the rains, as well as many sweets. Because the cattle at the
time of the first feast were lean, the meal was meatless and that is the way it is still celebrated in many Italian homes today. One of the most favorite and customary sweets is Zeppole or Sfing.
Sfingi – A Sicilian Dolce
This is a Sicilian treat that I learned from my Mother-in-law. For our first Christmas in our house in Smithtown and, as an inexperienced cook, I wanted to surprise everyone at dessert time. I made several batches and carefully put them in an airtight container to preserve until dessert. When I opened the container all that was in there was a soggy mess in a sea of oil. They must be eaten right away. Big disappointment for the new cook trying to impress family and namely, in-laws.
- 1 Lb Ricotta – whole milk, drained
- 3 Eggs – large
- 3 Cups Presto Flour
- 3 Tbs Sugar
- 2 tsps Baking Powder
- Pinch of Salt
- Hot Vegetable Oil – for frying
- Powdered Sugar – for dusting
- This is a type of Sicilian fritter very similar to Zeppole.
- Mix ricotta, eggs, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt all together in a large bowl.
- In large pot or deep fryer, heat oil to 375°.
- Drop by Spoonfuls carefully into the hot oil. Not too many at a time. If crowded they will not brown and crisp.
- And if the oil is not kept hot they will just absorb the oil and be soggy.
- Remove from the oil, carefully, with a slotted spoon or metal strainer and sprinkle with powdered sugar. I’m not sure if Presto flour is still available. If not, any all-purpose flour should do.