Recipe for Fastnacht Day (Donuts!): Graffe Napoletane

Why is the day before Lent called Fastnacht day? It means, “the night before the fast.” Christians observe Lent from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday and during that time, fasting is often observed. Lent is the forty days leading up to Easter, representing the forty days Christ spent in the desert before his Crucifixion. Christians often observe Lent by giving something up, like coffee, Facebook or candy. You can also do something extra like go to mass every day or pray the rosary daily. So, the day before Lent was a day to stock up on all the sweets and treats and eating in between meals that you wouldn’t be doing during Lent.

Alessandra Aiello shares her Italian donut recipe, Graffe Napoletane con Patate, with us. Zeppole di Patate is a sweet from Naples, Italy. These can be sprinkled with sugar when cooked, but I like them with salt! Try them both ways and see what you like.

Tuck this recipe away for Fastnacht Day next year, make it to celebrate Easter or enjoy them anytime you want a special treat for your family!

Graffe Napoletane con Patate Recipe | Italian Donuts

8 cups of flour (1 kilo)

1 lb of potatoes peeled and cubed (3 cups)(500 grams)

1 cup room temperature milk(240 ml)

2 tsp dry active yeast

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 tsp salt

4 eggs

1 stick butter (4 ounces) (112 grams)

2 teaspoon vanilla

Zest of an orange Zest of a lemon

3 1/2 round cutting ring

1 1/2 round cutting ring

Frying: 4 cups or more oil for frying vegetable/canola/sunflower

Coating: 1 1/2 cups of granulated sugar for coating graffe/donuts


  1. Peel and cube the potatoes.
  2. Boil them until soft and let them cool. About 8 minutes.
  3. Use a ricer or masher to mash the potatoes. A fork can be used to.
  4. Pour the flour on a work surface.
  5. Create a well.
  6. Proof the yeast by adding half the sugar to the milk, add the yeast and check that it bubbles. That means the yeast is alive and active.
  7. Now add to the flour well the remaining sugar, salt, lemon zest, orange zest.
  8. Add the potatoes.
  9. In the middle slowly pour the milk/yeast and pull the flour from the sides towards the middle incorporating the fry to the wet.
  10. Add the eggs and with the tips of your hands break and continue mixing.
  11. Add the vanilla.
  12. Now slowly mix in the melted butter and keep gathering the flour from the outside towards the inside until a smooth dough is created. Work gently for a few minutes.
  13. Create a ball and place in a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let it rise until doubled. This should take 2 to 3 hours.
  14. Move dough to work surface and roll about 1 inch thick.
  15. Use the large cutter to make circles and the small cutter to cut a hole in the middle of large circle creating a donut.
  16. Place all the donuts on a tablecloth or kitchen towel that’s been lightly floured.
  17. Cover and let it rise for an hour. The small cut-out circles are perfect for donut holes that once fried you can fill with Nutella.

You can also make traditional graffe by rolling the dough in 3/4 thick logs; cut at 8 inches and fold over each end creating a script letter “E.”

In a wok or deep frying pan, bring oil to 365 degrees; gently add the donuts/graffe and fry on each side for a few minutes until golden. Drain on paper towel and roll in granulated sugar before they cool (otherwise the sugar won’t stick!)


Tried them? Let us know how you enjoyed them!

Angela DiCicco, The Italian Grandmama

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