Zeppole di San Giuseppe are traditional Italian cream filled pastries which are made for the Feast of St Joseph. Use this step by step Zeppole di San Giuseppe recipe for perfect results every time.
Originally published on March 18, 2016.
You know that Italians have particular dishes and recipes for every special day, event, holiday, celebration, etc., right?
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St. Joseph’s Day is no exception. March 19th is dedicated to St. Joseph and you may recall that last year, I posted these delicious rice fritters for the occasion.
While not as well celebrated in the US as St Patrick’s Day, just two days earlier on March 17th, there are still many Italians and descendant who carry on the traditions of food and holidays.
I’m so excited to add these pistachio cream zeppole for you to try! (Directions below.)
This year, I’d like to introduce you to an Italian pastry with cream filling that’s made especially for St. Joseph’s Feast Day. They are named after him: zeppole di San Giuseppe. Giuseppe is Italian for Joseph. Although there will be a zeppole di San Giuseppe recipe that varies from Italian to Italian, they are mostly all very similar. They are usually baked, but some like to fry the dough.
There are Christmas Eve zeppole, too! They are also called frittelle (Italian doughnuts).
However, I will remind you that all of my recipes are honest to goodness, tried and tested in my kitchen. I just found a photo of my zeppole with another recipe–its so wrong! You will not get these results with a different recipe. Why are they using (stealing) my photo? Obviously, theirs is either not a tested recipe or they didn’t turn out well, right? Sadly, this happens a lot.
What are Zeppole di San Giuseppe?
Zeppole di San Giuseppe are made from a very slightly sweetened choux pastry. They are filled and topped with pastry cream (crema pasticcera), dusted with powdered sugar and crowned with a syrupy Italian cherry. Nothing super fancy, and overall, zeppole are quite simple to make.
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How do I Make Zeppole di San Giuseppe?
First, make the pastry dough, pipe it out on a cookie sheet and bake. While they’re baking, you’ll make the pastry cream filling and fill the baked zeppole when they’re cool. Dust with powdered sugar and top with an Italian cherry! Follow my step by step directions for the pastry, filling and assembly below for perfect results every time. Let’s get right to the zeppole recipe.
Use almost the exact same recipe to make profiteroles!
Can I Make Zeppole di San Giuseppe in Advance?
While it’s not recommended, there are ways to get around not making and baking them just before serving. First of all, the dough can be made and kept refrigerated with no adverse affects, for up to two days. Secondly, once baked, there is a way to “revive the zeppole puffs.
If perchance, you have leftover shells the next day, I have discovered that popping them in an airfryer for a minute or two will bring them back to (almost) perfection. Just check them to make sure you don’t dry them out too much as you just want a non-soggy shell, not crispy.
Zeppole di San Giuseppe Recipe
(St. Joseph’s Day Traditional Italian Pastries)
Adapted from my cream puff recipe. Makes 16 zeppole.
FULL PRINTABLE RECIPE BELOW.
Heat oven to 400ºF (200ºC)
Begin preparing the choux pastry by placing the butter, sugar and water in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat. Bring it to a rolling boil.
Next, add the flour all at once, and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon for about a minute until the mixture forms a ball.
Remove from heat, keep stirring to cool the dough. When cooled slightly, add an egg and beat well until well incorporated, before adding the next. Repeat with remaining eggs until the batter is smooth and satiny.
Next, place the mixture in a piping bag with a 2D or other tip, or spoon onto a baking tray lined with a silicone sheet or parchment paper. Pipe or shape into small puffs, about 3″ apart. If piping, shape the upper part of the pastry so there is a small hole in the center, or make one with the back of a teaspoon.
Bake for about 30 minutes. Turn off oven, and leave for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack.
While the cream puffs are baking, make the filling.
How to Make Crema Pasticcera
Place the egg yolks into a medium sized pot OFF THE HEAT.
Add the sugar, potato starch, salt and vanilla and whisk together.
Begin pouring in the warm milk, then turn the burner on a low heat.
Continue whisking and pouring, and gradually increase the heat. Cook until the mixture thickens and is cooked (it will be a few minutes). Cool the pastry cream stirring occasionally.
How to Assemble Zeppole di San Giuseppe
Make a hole with a skewer into the side of the choux pastry bun and fill with pastry cream using a piping bag.
Now, pipe more filling onto the indentation on top and dust with powdered sugar.
(PISTACHIO VERSION: If making the pistachio cream version, instead of topping with more of the pastry cream and a cherry, simply pipe the pistachio cream on top and sprinkle with chopped pistachios. I love this version, maybe even more than the original!)
Finally, top with a cherry, or whatever you’d like to use.
Repeat with the rest of the pastries, and enjoy! I’m adding the option for these pistachio cream zeppole, as inspired by Gran Caffè Gambrinus in Naples.
Please let me know what you think of my Zeppole di San Giuseppe recipe if you make them. I love to hear from you!
Zeppole di San Giuseppe (St. Joseph's Day Traditional Italian Pastries)
Traditional Italian pastries made for St Joseph's Day festivities and celebrations.
Ingredients for pastry
- (4 oz) 1/2 cup butter
- 1 teaspoon of sugar
- (8 oz) 1 cup water
- (5 oz) 1 cup flour
- 4 eggs at room temperature
- powdered sugar to sprinkle
- Fabbri cherries (optional) use an organic maraschino or omit
Heat oven to 400ºF.
Make the Choux Buns
- First prepare the choux pastry, by placing the butter, sugar and water in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat, until it comes to a rolling boil. Add the flour, all at once, and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon for about a minute until the mixture forms a ball.
- Remove from heat, keep stirring to cool the dough. When cooled slightly, add an egg and beat well until well incorporated, before adding the next. Repeat with remaining eggs until the batter is smooth and satiny.
- Place in piping bag or spoon onto a baking tray lined with a silicone sheet or parchment paper into small puffs, about 3" apart. Pipe the upper part of the pastry so there is a small hole in the center, or make one with the back of a teaspoon.
- Bake for about 30 minutes. Turn off oven, and leave for 10 minutes, then place on cooling rack.
- While the cream puffs are baking, make the pastry cream.
- (See recipe card below).
- Make a hole with a skewer, into the side of the choux pastry and fill with pastry cream using a piping bag. Pipe more filling into the indentation on top and dust with powdered sugar.
- Top with a cherry, or whatever you want to use. Repeat with remaining pastries.
- If you like a lighter filling, fold in 2 or 3 heaped tablespoonfuls of stiffly beaten whipped cream. Even better, add 1 Tbsp Grand Marnier to the cream before folding in the cream.
- These are definitely best consumed the same day (see next tip for reviving instructions). Even better, fill them, decorate and serve immediately, if you can, for the best flavor and presentation.
- If perchance, you have leftover shells the next day, I discovered that popping them in an air fryer for a minute or two will bring them back to (almost) perfection. Just check them to make sure you don't dry them out too much as you just want a non-soggy shell, not crispy.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 16 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving:Calories: 241Total Fat: 8gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 85mgSodium: 74mgCarbohydrates: 15gFiber: 0gSugar: 8gProtein: 3g
Nutrition information is only estimated.
Pastry Cream Recipe (Crema Pasticcera)
Simple Italian pastry cream recipe (crema pasticcera) that is used for filling countless desserts and pastries.
- 4 egg yolks (organic)
- ⅓ c (75 g) sugar
- 3 Tbsp (30g) potato starch (if using corn starch add 1 more tsp)
- pinch of salt
- 14 oz (415 ml) milk
- 1 tsp vanilla or ½ tsp pure vanilla powder or paste
- Place the egg yolks into a medium sized pot (off the heat).
- Add the sugar and potato or corn starch and whisk together until uniform.
- When the mixture is smooth, place the pot on the stovetop. Begin pouring in the warm milk whilst whisking. Turn the heat on to medium.
- Continue whisking and gradually increase the heat. The pastry cream will thicken as it heats up.
- When the mixture comes to a boil, let it cook for about 3 minutes then remove from the heat. Add the vanilla and keep stirring as it cools so that it doesn't form a skin. Move into a large bowl and set the bowl into a larger bowl with ice water (if you need to cool it quickly), then refrigerate covered until completely chilled.
- Use as desired.
- If you want a lighter version of this pastry cream, whip 4 oz of heavy whipping cream until stiff and then fold into the chilled pastry cream.
- You can add more or less cream to your liking, and also add a little sugar to the cream when whipping (I prefer it without).
- Adding a tablespoonful of Grand Marnier makes a lovely addition, too.
- Pastry cream can be kept refrigerated for 1 or 2 days, but consume promptly once the pastries are filled.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving:Calories: 108Total Fat: 3gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 76mgSodium: 33mgCarbohydrates: 11gFiber: 0gSugar: 8gProtein: 2g
Nutrition information is only estimated.
Pistachio Cream (Lighter Pastry Cream Recipe)
A lighter, pistachio flavored Italian pastry cream.
- ½ recipe of the prepared crema pasticcera, chilled
- 1 large Tbsp cream of pistachio (see notes)
- 8 oz good quality heavy whipping cream (the highest fat you can find)
- 1 Tbsp powdered/confectioner's sugar
- 1 or 2 Tbsp chopped pistachios (unsalted)
- (optional: green food coloring)
- SPECIAL EQUIPMENT: piping bag and tip (I use 2D)
- Mix one half of the pastry cream recipe with 1 large tablespoon of pistachio cream. Add the food coloring if using, and fold gently.
- Whip the cream and confectioner's sugar until very stiff.
Fold the cream into the pastry cream mixture until uniform in color.
- Prepare the zeppole by filling the center with the plain pastry cream, as in the original recipe, but pipe the top with the pistachio cream, then sprinkle with chopped pistachios.
- Only add food coloring if you need the green color to be more prominent.
- Cream of Pistachio (use code CHRISTINASCUCINA10 for 10% discount on your entire order).
Nutrition Information:Yield: 16 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving:Calories: 67Total Fat: 7gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 19mgSodium: 19mgCarbohydrates: 1gFiber: 0gSugar: 1gProtein: 1g
Nutrition information is only estimated and for one serving of pastry cream (not with a zeppola).
Getting ready for an Italian Easter? I have recipes for that, too. Try these wonderful Individual Italian Easter Bread Rings (they double as a great table decoration.)
Columba di Pasqua is a traditional Italian sweet dove bread. Plan ahead and buy the proper paper mold for this one or you’ll have to improvise like me.
And how about putting Welsh Cakes for St. David’s Day on the calendar for next year? (March 1st)
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May I ask what kind of milk you use? regular whole milk, heavy cream or evaporated? Mahalo!
Oh, if it says “milk” in my recipes I always use organic, whole milk. I will specify if it’s anything else (cream, evaporated, condensed, etc.) Hope you enjoy these beauties! :)
Mahalo for the reply, hope i’m successful :)
Of course! Just let the mixture cool long enough before adding the eggs, I think that could be the only issue. Going to add an extra warning as someone messaged me about this yesterday. Let me know how they turn out!
Why did my feeling turn off the consistency of tofu?
Do you mean it was too hard/stiff?
Hi Christina, I made your St Joseph filling recipe and followed the instructions just as the recipe said. I refrigerated the filling, but it was thin and runny. Any idea why? It’s 3 egg yolks, right? Just asking because the picture shows 4 egg yolks. I LOVED the flavor, so I just want to get it thicker. I have to prefect this for my daughter who was born on March 19th. This is going to be her birthday dessert! Thank you!
Hi Colleen, I am so sorry, I was wondering where you saw the three egg yolks as there are 4 in the crema pasticcera recipe, then I realized I had different amounts in the original zeppole recipe. So thanks for catching that. I have edited the recipe to point everyone down to the other recipe card, which hopefully makes everything more clear and easier to make. It is 4 egg yolks, and you’ll see the recipe below the zeppole card. Sorry again and happy birthday to your daughter! :)
I am looking forward to trying out your recipe! Growing up in NY I took for granted of great Italian baking. Currently living in the PNW where there isnt any bakery I know of that does these. Question for you, as for the potato starch, is there a benefit one way or the other in using starch v flour? Thank you for your time and help!
Hi TJ, I don’t think you’ll miss the bakery version once you make your own. :) The potato starch is what they use in Italy and it is definitely more effective than the corn starch which is why you need more. If you end up making two batches, why don’t you try each one and see which you prefer? I think it’s a matter of taste. Let me know how they turn out!
Hey Christina!! These are some of the best zeppoles I’ve ever had! Loved trying the potato starch. I’m not sure if I can taste the difference when I tired them side by side. They were both very good. The cream didn’t thicken up as much as I’d like. I’m going to try again and maybe leave it on the heat longer. I’m up for any suggestions, but these are a homerun!
Whoops! Sorry Brian! 1/4 cup of liquid is TWO ounces.
You say 1/2 cup of butter (4 oz.). But 4 oz. = 1/4 cup. Which is it?
This is not a question I will answer, but will refer you to a site. I am posting these recipes for free and do not have time to teach simple math. I am not being rude, just tired of doing this for 10 years. PLEASE BUY A SCALE. https://www.thecalculatorsite.com/cooking/cups-ounces.php
AMEN lol and thank you for the great content
I “have a scale” (and excel at math) and can understand his confusion on the amount of “butter” to be used.
Your site and recipes are “inspiring” and “free” as are so many others available on social media today.
It was unfortunate that a question to ensure the success of your lovely recipe was so upsetting to you!!
Hi Ann, I think you need to re-read his question. How can you understand his confusion AND excel at math? Since when is 4 oz equal to ¼ of a cup?
I have answered (literally) thousands of real questions on all of my recipes. You are welcome to look and see that I am as helpful as I can be. However, someone telling me black = white is not something I can be helpful with. Also, not clear on your usage of quotation marks?
Hi Brian! You’re mixing liquid vs weight measurements. You are correct; 4 LIQUID oz. are indeed 1/4 cup. However, 1/2 cup of butter is 1 STICK of butter out of a pound package and WEIGHS 4 ounces. I hope that clears things up.
There are 8 oz. in a cup (fluid). 1/4 cup would be 2 ounces (8 divided by 4 equals 2.)
Combining the above excellent answers, 1/4 cup of liquid is 2 fluid oz. If an ingredient is dry, use a dry measuring cup of the right size and fill to the top using a spoon. Finally, one stick of butter in solid form generally equals 1/2 cup (or eight tablespoons, as marked on the wrapper) and weighs 4 oz.
Can these be made the day before?
Yes they can, but I wouldn’t advise it for best results. If you do, keep the shells in a tin and fill them just before serving.