Top photo: Zeppole are deep-fried donuts that can be served as sweet desserts, as pictured here, or as savory entrees. For more recipes, travel tips and insight into Italian culture, sign up for CNN’s Unlocking Italy newsletter. This eight-part guide will have you packing your bags in no time.

Janelle Davis, CNN

For the Tucci family, no feast is complete without an Italian staple. Zeppole are deep-fried donuts that Stanley Tucci describes as “deliciously addictive”.

During the filming of “Stanley Tucci: In Search of Italy”, he met his Italian parents in Calabria, the southwestern “tip” of the Italian peninsula. They had been cooking for days to prepare for the gathering and whip up some of the family’s favorite dishes.

The beloved zeppole stole the show.

Similar to donuts but denser, these delicious bites, which can be served as a savory starter or a sweet dessert with coffee, have always been a family hit.

“Each time my mother started frying them, the whole family would unconsciously start moving closer and closer to the stove until we were all huddled around her, practically gasping with a hunger we didn’t know we had. not that we had until she started cooking.” Tucci wrote in his memoir, “Taste.”

“As soon as they have cooled enough to handle, they are then devoured by whoever can grab one the fastest,” he recalls in his book.

Italians often serve puffy, golden zeppole with a generous coating of powdered sugar, but the Tucci family prefers a savory version, incorporating anchovies into the batter.

These Italian donuts have all kinds of variations: you can stuff them with salami and sprinkle with salt, or for a sweet version, fill them with cream, especially hazelnut, chocolate or lemon, and cover them with honey and chopped pistachios . Tucci experimented with different toppings, including sautéed peppers and goat cheese, served with a green salad and beer.

Even the shape and size of this bite varies from recipe to recipe.

On the Internet, there is a consensus: they are better freshly fried. But as most Italians will tell you, you’ll gobble these Italian donuts before they get cold.

Zeppole Potato

This family recipe calls for frying in vegetable oil, but for a more traditional preparation, you can use olive oil. Look for 00 flour, which is finely ground Italian wheat flour, in online bakeries or Italian specialty stores.

Give 30

Ingredients

¾ kilogram | 5 ¼ cups yellow potatoes, peeled and diced

½ kilogram | 4 cups flour plus more for the surface, preferably type 00

15 grams | ¾ tablespoon of table salt

12 ½ grams | 1 ½ tablespoon brewer’s yeast

60 milliliters | ¼ cup lukewarm water

Anchovies in oil, drained, patted dry and diced, or diced salami (optional for savory)

Olive oil for frying

Powdered sugar or honey (optional for sweet)

Equipment

Potato masher or potato masher

Fryer or large pot

Fry thermometer (optional)

Instructions

1. Boil potatoes in a large saucepan until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and transfer the potatoes to a large bowl and mash them with a potato masher while they are still warm. (If using a potato masher, batch load them into the box and extrude the potatoes into the bowl.) Mix ½ kilogram (or 4 cups) flour and salt with the mashed potatoes.

2. Dissolve the yeast in lukewarm water to activate it then add it to the mixture.

3. Knead the ingredients together in the bowl until the mixture is a smooth, dry dough.

4. Cover with a tea towel and let the dough rest until it has doubled in size, about 3 hours.

5. When it has doubled in size, turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. With wet hands, divide the dough into small pieces and form doughnut-shaped rings about ½ inch thick. You can adjust the size according to your personal preference.

For a savory version, add a few diced anchovy fillets or diced salami to the batter as you shape it if desired.

6. Pour oil into a large saucepan to a depth of 5 centimeters (or 2 inches) and heat over medium heat. To check that the oil is hot enough, dip a piece of dough in it; if it stays at the bottom, it’s still cold. If the batter rises to the surface and is fried, the oil is ready. If the oil turns dark, it is too hot and you will need to lower the temperature by removing the pan from the heat. (You can also heat the oil until a frying thermometer registers 149 degrees Celsius or 300 degrees Fahrenheit.)

seven. Fry donuts in small batches, turning halfway through, until puffed and golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes total. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the donuts to a plate lined with paper towel for a few seconds to absorb excess oil. Change the oil halfway through cooking.

8. Serve hot. You can eat them plain or with toppings, if you like. For a sweet version, add powdered sugar or honey to the hot zeppole.

This recipe is courtesy of the Ventra family (parents of Tucci).

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Top photo: Zeppole are deep-fried donuts that can be served as sweet desserts, as pictured here, or as savory entrees. For more recipes, travel tips and insight into Italian culture, sign up for CNN’s Unlocking Italy newsletter. This eight-part guide will have you packing your bags in no time.

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