9th Day of Christmas: Italian Fried Donuts

We dare you to eat only one.

By: Tony Traficante, ISDA Contributing Editor

Tradition mandates these goodies be made during the Christmas holidays, but there’s no reason not to enjoy them year- round. Why torture oneself to wait 11 months?

Good friends — the Falvo and Miceli families, a Grandma and Mom team — made these delicious fried potato delicacies in the shape of doughnuts. They were to die for. They called them “grispelle,” aka, “crespelle.” “zeppole,”or “fritelle.” But no matter, if they are made with potatoes, they are delicious!

It seems crespelle are a hybrid sort of bakery item. Some consider the crespelle a pastry item, and others say they are a simple flour dough product. There are offshoots of the pastry, which are stuffed with cream, jelly or another type of filling.

In Basilicata, they have a distant relative to the crespelle, called “Pettole.” They, too, are deliciously fried pieces of dough, which can be coated with granulated sugar, or filled with bits of anchovies.

Every Christmas season, Bob Miceli — who was like a brother — invited me to enjoy these freshly baked goodies. We waited in the basement of their home, where all the heavy cooking took place, to taste a few as they came right out of the oven. It was hog heaven.

But, as the saying goes: All good things must come to an end. And so it was with these annual tasting get-togethers of freshly fried crespelle doughnuts. I was called into service by the Army and left the area.

But wait! It wasn’t over. The Miceli family suspected sooner or later I had to pass thru as I moved to the next military assignment. So, when I did come home for a brief leave, imagine my surprise when the considerate Mrs. Miceli invited me to their home for lunch, then as I was leaving presented me with a couple dozen frozen Calabrese grispelle. I could have cried. Instead,I hugged her and jumped for joy!

Fortunately, their son, Bob, retained a copy of the original family recipe and he has allowed us to share it.

Even though the Christmas season will soon be over, why not do a little practicing and sharpen your baking skills for next Christmas season?

And then again, it could be a recipe for all seasons.

Good Luck!


6 lbs. of potatoes (They used red potatoes)

5 lbs. of flour

1 ½ level tbsps. salt

1 ½ level tbsps. sugar

3 eggs beaten at room temperature

2 ½ envelopes dry yeast, or ½ large cake of yeast, diluted with a little warm water

½ qt warm milk

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Peel and boil potatoes. Put through a ricer. Make a large ring of the flour. Make an inner circle of potatoes. In the center, add salt, sugar and dilute with warm milk. Add the eggs, and diluted yeast.

Mix and knead until dough is smooth and non-sticky. Add flour as needed to keep dough from sticking. Cover and let stand at room temp for about ¾ hour.

Roll dough into rope and shape into donuts. Lay on a floured table, cover and let rise until doubled.

Heat oil in a deep-sided pot for frying. Fry donuts until golden brown, remove, place on paper towels to drain excess oil and taste them while warm. (And we dare you to eat only one).

Makes about four dozen depending on the size of the donut.

Editor’s note: ISDA’s “12 Days” run from Dec. 14-Dec. 25 to promote Italian and Italian-American traditions, art, literature, stories and more. Per the Christian calendar, the actual 12 Days of Christmas are celebrated from Dec. 25 to Jan. 5.

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