March has always been one of my favourite months. Winter is almost over, days are slowly growing longer, and there is no pressure of any kind for presents (be it Christmas or Valentine's Day).
But there's also another reason to love March: the frittelle di San Giuseppe. On 19th March, the first day of Spring equinox, every family in Italy celebrates the day of Saint Joseph or Fathers' Day, la festa del Papa'. In many towns, particularly in the countryside, bonfires are lit to sign the end of the cold and the dark and, in the north of Italy, leftover rice kept in larders during the Winter are used to make little cakes to celebrate the day and break Lent.
These little fried rice balls fill many squares in Siena and Il Campo, which despite being huge retains all the fragrant smells of vanilla and orange. They are still served in a paper cone which at no point absorbs the grease of the oil and heavily snowed with icing sugar - I would not worry about calories intake, as soon as your teeth break that fragrant crust to then find a soft heart of rice all your thoughts on weight vanish.
This rice version is totally typical of Siena, many other variations of course exist. Florence for example fills them with custard, Naples (which calls them zeppole) makes them out of dough and fills them with pastry cream or a butter-and-honey mixture. But believe me, you will fall so in love with these cutie lightly golden rice balls that it'll be difficult to stop till you lick your fingers covered by the end of the paper cone of sugar.
My mother has never missed a single year making frittelle. And as you need to make the rice mixture the night before I loved sneaking into the kitchen after dinner and steal some of the sticky rice already full of orange and vanilla flavour.
As they are really easy to make I would encourage that you make them this time and celebrate Father's Day a few months' in advance - I think you'll find the excuse well worth it!
500g pudding rice
2 litres of water
2 pinches of salt
Rind of 1 orange
1/2 spoon of vanilla (not essence)
5 tbsp caster sugar
250ml frying oil
Cook the rice adding the salt and the orange rind. When it starts boiling, add the sugar and vanilla, and then lower the heat and let it cooked until all the water has been absorbed. It will become like a big lump. Leave it to set over night.
At the time of preparing the frittelle, add the flour and mix well. Make, with the help of a tea spoon, small balls and drop them in hot oil and let them cook turning them regularly with a slotted spoon until they have a golden colour.
Drain the frittelle and leave them on a plate with kitchen paper. Sprinkle icing sugar immediately. My advice is to make a few at the time so that you can enjoy them, as they should be, very hot.
Happy San Giuseppe to all the fathers of this world!