L’Aquila Potato Doughnuts with Blood Orange (Zeppole Aquilane)

L'Aquila blood orange zeppoleThese delicious potato doughnuts are a blood orange variation on the Zeppole that are eaten in L’Aquila to celebrate Father’s Day. Rather than the traditional coiled snake in shape and stuffed with custardy patisserie cream, these celebrate San Giuseppe Day by incorporating the famous local potatoes of the province. Potatoes do get around here, do seek out local bread that uses them if you are visiting the province, they give a richer flavour and longer-lasting softer crumb. The L’Aquila zeppole were traditionally rolled and shaped into a loopy bow before being deep fried, it seems mine are always made in haste so they are fried as small balls.

Blood Oranges

Blood Oranges

Over the winter Blood Oranges are my markers used to count down and wave goodbye to SAD. I pounce on them the first time I spot them at the market and the blood orange flavour ice cream that marks the gelateria counter opening once more. Aperitivo for a time means substituting delicious nibbles for a cone of this, sitting bathed in a cool but low afternoon golden light if I ever get the chance.

My little boy tucks into them, demolishing them like Clementines, half a sack a day. Easy to peel, with a surprise inside, we used to guess together what we’d find, a smidge or smudge, stripe or streak or toddler-style blots of red. Now he’s older it’s a silent observation but still that before devouring. Their names Tarocco, Moro, and Sanguinello, bring back memories of a time long before this little boy: exploring Morocco with my oldest friend, breakfasting each day on their delicious sweet juice with a hint of the juicy red berries to come.

As the Earth Begins to Bask in the Spring Sun

Most of those eaten in Italy are grown in Sicily, their characteristic red markings created by anthocyanin.  This pigment is a simple thermal reaction to fruits that enjoy warm sunny days as they grow in the valleys below a snow-topped Mont Etna which are then buffered by cold nights as the sun goes down.  The greater the temperature extremes, the redder the oranges become.

The first time I tried out these zeppole last year as in the photo I tried them out using just the zest. Now it’s zest and the juice from the orange which is topped up by the milk. Today’s batch I tried after frying with a magical drizzle of pine cone, needle and bay leaf syrup that I had been itching to have a go at along the lines of Mugolio, definitely a pairing that works!

L'Aquila Blood Orange Doughnuts

L’Aquila Potato Doughnuts with Blood Orange (Zeppole Aquilane)

Sam DunhamSam Dunham
Doughnuts that burst with Vitamin C! An adaption of the potato doughnuts known as zeppole that are famous in L'Aquila and historically used to celebrate fathers!
Prep Time 2 hours 5 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4


  • 1 1 Egg
  • 150 g Boiled Potato Finely Mashed
  • 80 ml Orange Juice
  • 120 ml Milk
  • 330 g Flour (Ideally 230 g type 0, 100g type 00)
  • 20 g Semolina
  • 1 Zest from Blood Orange
  • 1 tsp Honey
  • 50 g Butter
  • 50 g Sugar
  • 1 Pinch Salt


  • Boil the potato in its skin. Afterwards, peel and finely mash the potato in a bowl.
  • Dissolve the fresh yeast in room-temperature water at room. Put the potato, flour and semolina, sugar, grated orange zest and honey together in a bowl and mix.
  • Then add the liquids: gently warm the milk first a little if using straight from the fridge and mix the yeast in and add the orange juice. Mix before adding the salt and a beaten egg and the softened butter in small pieces.
  • Put the mixture to rise in a dry place for about 2 hours, until it doubles in volume.
  • Move the dough onto a floured work surface. Spread the dough out with your hands, take small pieces and roll them into balls or take parts roll them into small thin vertical pieces, cross to the ends to make a bow shape and squeeze gently to keep together when frying.
  • Leave to rise for another 30 minutes minimum and then fry the doughnuts in hot seed or nut oil.
  • Once cooked, drain them on kitchen paper before rolling them in the granulated sugar.
Keyword doughnuts, blood oranges, L'Aquila
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
Sam Dunham
Author: Sam Dunham

Sam is a very lucky midlife 'mamma' to A who is 12 and juggles her work as a self-employed freelance SEO food and travel copywriter and EFL teacher. She is the founder of the Life In Abruzzo Cultural Association, co-founder of Let's Blog Abruzzo. she is the founder of the 'English in the Woods' initiative, teaching English outdoors in a forest style school.

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