from the kitchen of Antoinette Merenda
This recipe is from my aunt Margaret Merenda. Sfinge is a popular dessert in Sicily (in Naples, they call it zeppoli). My grandfather made sfinge often in the fall and winter. He would use pumpkin in place of ricotta. I loved it so much. Aunt Maria Carbone has a book from the Aeolian Islands that has a recipe for sfinge that was probably close to what my grandfather used. My family used to call these “belly busters,” but the ricotta version is lighter. My grandfather made a special syrup from grapes and poured it over them. The syrup is kind of messy to eat but so good—it’s similar to honey. When I was in Sicily, one of my Lo Schiavo cousins gave the syrup recipe to me, but you can’t get that kind of stuff here in this country.
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons sugar
a pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
Canola or vegetable oil (enough for frying in a deep pan)
Powdered sugar for sprinkling
Beat 3 eggs with 1 cup ricotta. Blend well. Add the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and vanilla. Blend well. Heat oil in deep pot or fryer. The oil must be hot before you drop in the ricotta mixture by the tablespoon. The spoonfuls will roll around naturally. They will swell, so it is important not to overcrowd or they will not really fry. When they are a deep golden color, remove with a slotted spoon to a dish covered with a paper towel, to drain any excess oil. Keep them warm—I just pop them in my oven set at 150 degrees when I make them.
When all are done, sprinkle with powdered sugar. Enjoy while warm.