The Mint Shop

The Mint Shop

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Le frittelle di San Giuseppe for Father’s Day

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
75g flour
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!


  1. Thanks for the share. I really have to try these, even though I generally try to avoid deep fries.

  2. Thank you Mette! I also try to avoid deep fried food but these little cuties are irresistible and if only eaten once in a while almost "healthy"! ;D

  3. Kristin bought me one for Fathers Day, from a fancy bakery in Rome. It was lovely. I had one a couple of years ago at the place in Siena pictured in the photo! Molto molto buono!

  4. Hi James

    Glad you enjoyed your "Festa del Papa"'s treat! Well deserved I am sure.

  5. Francesca,
    I love you! I have been searching for this recipe for over 10 years. My son and I were in Sienna at the Piazza del Campo in 2002. Not only did you provide me the recipe for this scrumptious delicacy but also brought me on a journey down memory lane with the picture of the exact vendor we bought the friitelle from. Thank you so much for your postings and website.

  6. You're welcome Joanna! Glad you enjoyed the frittelle so much and hope you will go to Siena again soon! :D