Saturday Snacks: Let’s Make Via Napoli’s Classic Zeppole di Ricotta!


Happy Saturday, everyone! Today, we're turning our Disney snack-loving hearts toward a classic recipe from a time-honored Walt Disney World fan favorite dining location: EPCOT's Via Napoli.

We'll be grabbing cooking oil by the truckload and frying up a sweet snack to top all fried sweet snacks: Via Napoli's Zeppole di Ricotta. These delightful, diminutive Italian doughnuts are comin' in hot this morning (literally), and they're right in time. Even though the classic dessert isn't on the current menu at the restaurant, you and I can invite that fried Disney goodness into our kitchens at any time, and there's no time like the present!

The ingredient list doesn't call for anything too out of the norm. You and I will need to grab a big container of ricotta cheese and a fresh bottle or two of vegetable or canola oil at the store. Thankfully, the rest of the supplies are probably hanging out in your pantry or cabinets.

Today's recipe comes to us from Kitchen Magic with Mickey: Favorite Recipes from the Disney Parks and Cruise Ships. When I came across this recipe, and gazed my eyes upon the fried snack majesty shown in the accompanying picture, I knew we needed to make it and could totally handle it. We've done much more complicated recipes, right? Whipping up a pastry batter and dropping pieces of the dough into hot oil should be a piece of cake...err, well, doughnut.

Our stand mixers get the day off for the zeppole recipe, as all we'll need is a large bowl and a large stockpot. After a run around the internets, I discovered that families in Italy enjoy making zeppole during the season of Lent, so this delicious Disney snack is also a timely one. How perfect is that?

I got down to business by grabbing my largest mixing bowl out of the cabinet and tossing in 1 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup of granulated sugar, 4 teaspoons of baking powder, and a pinch of salt.

I grabbed my favorite whisk out of my way-too-jam-packed utensil drawer, and gave everything a good swish to make sure that all of the ingredients were combined.

Once the dry ingredients looked good, I added in 2 1/4 cups of ricotta cheese, 4 eggs, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

I stirred everything to ensure that the wet ingredients were fully incorporated, and set the bowl aside.

The recipe asks us to pour 2 quarts of vegetable oil into a 3- or 4-quart stockpot and bring it up to 350 degrees. I have a 6-quart stockpot and a 3-quart pot, so I opted to go with the 3-quart and call it a day. I had canola oil on hand instead of vegetable oil, and I declared it to be good enough to fit the bill. And it was.

I kept a sharp eye on the temp of the oil by using my candy thermometer. I couldn't believe the ease with which everything was coming together. Ahhh...a super easy Disney recipe is such a lovely thing. If only.

Once the oil came up to temp (it took a while, so my sharp eye didn't have to be quite so sharp), I used a cookie dough scoop to drop heaping teaspoonfuls into the hot oil as the recipe instructed. Unfortunately, due to the batter's runny consistency, the teaspoonfuls didn't stay together in round, doughnut hole shapes like they should have.

Mine looked like blobs and squiggles. Or internal organs and lower intestines. You choose. Regardless, they looked like anything but delicately fried Italian doughnuts. Anything. But.

I went back to the internets and scoured other recipes and found all of the other home cooks gleefully dropping rounded, heaping teaspoonfuls of batter into hot oil that turned into picture-perfect zeppole. Augh. Thanks, everyone. Not.

I tried the two spoon method, the ice cream scoop method, and just about every other method I could to try to get my zeppole looking like they were supposed to. Nope. Nopity. Nope.

My gut told me that sticking the batter into the fridge would help it to hold its shape just a bit better when it hit the hot oil, and even though my new friends on the internet didn't have to do this step, and the recipe didn't call for me to do it, I did it anyway. I had to try something. Anything. I couldn't have my zeppole looking like something from an anatomy class. Eww.

While the batter was getting nice and chilly in the fridge, the oil on the stove was heading in the opposite direction. Little did I realize, but while I fussed over my squiggly, oddly-shaped zeppole, the oil on my stove had reached a temp that couldn't be registered on my candy thermometer. I turned down the heat, and the oil's temp remained incredibly high. I turned it down lower, and the oil didn't budge. Down to low, and nope...still scalding hot. I finally pulled the pot half off the low heat, and the oil slowly started to respond. Whew.

When the oil came down to 350 degrees (it took quite a while), I pulled the batter out of the fridge and, with bated breath, dropped the first scoopful into the oil. The batter dropped to the bottom and slowly rose in a somewhat circular shape. It was more of a teardrop shape than perfectly rounded, but at this point, I didn't care. It was close enough.

I followed that first scoop of batter up with several additional scoops until I had a dozen happy little zeppole getting golden brown in the pot. The zeppole tend to turn themselves over when it's time (thanks for finally helping me out, little zeppole), but if they don't, we can just give them a turn after a minute or so.

Be sure to leave the zeppole in the oil until they're completely cooked through. This step is tricky; if you don't them cook enough, the zeppole will look finished on the outside but be filled with uncooked batter once you cut into them. And that's not fun.

Friends, it may have taken a bit to get to the point where I had lovely, roundish Italian doughnuts emerging from the stockpot on my stove, but once I did, it was heavenly. Transfer the fried zeppole to a plate or platter lined with paper towels, and give them just a minute to drain.

You can sprinkle your hot zeppole with confectioners' sugar, and, if you like, you can dunk them in whipped cream or chocolate sauce.

I opted to stick with a simple dusting of lovely powdered sugar.

The zeppole were the perfect combination of toasty on the outside and light and fluffy on the inside. They have a delightful sweet and creamy taste.

Once you get the hang of the hot oil versus cold, thicker batter, you'll be good to go. The zeppole are completely poppable, and while Via Napoli's version of the snack only came with nine or so, your at-home version can come with as many as your little heart desires since the recipe makes roughly 40. That's some of the beauty of making Disney snack magic at home; when it tastes like more, you can have more. In my book, that's adulting at its finest.

I hope that your weekend is filled with some of your favorite things, a few glorious first signs of Spring, and a whole lot of magic. Thanks so much for taking the time to stop and sit at our virtual kitchen table today. May you and yours have the best Saturday yet.

p.s. If you're new to Saturday Snacks, welcome! You can click here to catch up on all of our snacking fun.

Ready to channel Via Napoli's golden, sweet and toasty magic? The recipe for Zeppole di Ricotta is below:

  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 1/4 cups ricotta cheese
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 quarts vegetable oil, for frying
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
  1. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add ricotta, eggs, and vanilla; stir well to combine.
  2. Pour oil into a deep fryer or 3- or 4- quart stockpot and heat to 350°F.
  3. Drop batter by heaping teaspoonful into hot oil, a few at a time. Fry until golden brown, turning once, 3-4 minutes.
  4. Drain on a plate lined with paper towels. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and serve hot.