Graffe Napoletane


on January 29, 2013 | 4:45 pm | 1 Comments

Graffe NapoletaneA donut by any other name…

Would taste just as sweet!

Be it Ciambelle Fritte, Zeppole di Patate or Potato Donuts, no matter what you call them, and here in Napoli they are known simply as Graffe, they will still be every bit as sweet, delectable, and delightful.

A staple in pretty much every pasticceria and caffè in Naples, the fatta in casa, the home made version of these donuts is usually reserved for Carnivale.

As decadent as the holiday itself, Graffe are not especially difficult to make. But they do require a good deal of time (and patience), at least 4 – 6 hours, because the secret to the perfect graffa, is in the leavening.

Three leavening periods to be exact, the yeast, the dough, the donuts.

Do it correctly, and you will have donuts that are as light as a feather. Rush the process, and you will end up with soggy bricks.

A time consuming task that requires a delicate hand, Giuseppe called on his big sis Anna, who shared her Pastiera recipe with us last Easter, to stop by and whip up a batch of her “to die for” graffe.


120 ml Milk
1 Cake (.6 oz) fresh yeast or one package or 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
500 Grams Flour, in Italy Farina “0” di grano tenero (soft wheat)
300 Grams Potatoes
3 Eggs + 1 Egg Yolk
60 Grams Sugar, plus more for dusting
1 tsp Honey
Zest of half a lemon
100 Grams Butter
Frying Oil

Graffe Napoletane  Graffe Napoletane
Graffe Napoletane  Graffe Napoletane


Put whole unpeeled potatoes in large pot and cover with water
Cook over medium-high heat until the potatoes are tender

Prepare the Yeast
Heat the milk in a small sauce pan (or microwave) over low heat until warm (not boiling)
Break the yeast up with your hands into a small bowl and add about 1/2 tbs of sugar
While mixing the yeast and sugar with your hand, add the milk a bit at a time
Continue mixing the yeast mixture with your hand and slowly add in about 150 grams of the flour a bit at time, until the mixture reaches the consistency of a thick pancake batter
Cover the bowl with saran wrap and let it rest until it doubles in size, about 30 minutes

Prepare the Dough
Put the remaining 350 grams of flour in a large bowl and make a well
Peel the potatoes and run them through a potato ricer into the well
Add the sugar, a pinch of salt, the lemon zest, the honey, the eggs, and the egg yolk
Mix well with your hands until the mixture comes together
Add the butter and mix well until combined
Depending on the water content in the potatoes, you may have to add more flour until the dough is no longer sticky
Cover and let rest until it doubles in size, about 1 hour

Graffe Napoletane  Graffe Napoletane
Graffe Napoletane  Graffe Napoletane

Form the Donuts
Turn the dough onto a floured board and knead for just a few minutes
Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces
Roll each piece out, one at a time with a rolling pin
With a small glass or other round cutter, cut out the donuts
Use an apple corer or other small cutter to cut the donut hole
Put donuts onto floured towels
Cover with with towels and let rest until they double in size, about 1 hour

Fry the Donuts
Fill a flat-bottomed, tall-sided sauté pan about half full with the frying oil
Heat over medium-high heat until the oil is very hot, about 190°C or 375°F
Fry the donuts in batches a few at a time until they are golden brown, turning them frequently in the oil
Remove to paper towels to drain
Dust with sugar and serve immediately

Graffe Napoletane

Buon Appetito!


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A native Neapolitan, Giuseppe Topo is a hairstylist and one of the owners of Noi Salon, Naples only English-speaking salon. A passionate cook, when he's not styling hair Giuseppe can be found in the kitchen cooking up one of his favorite Neapolitan dishes, which he proudly features on his regular series for Napoli Unplugged, Cooking with Giuseppe.
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1 review

  1. Theresa, April 20, 2016 5:59 am - Graffe Napoletane

    These look amazing! I’m wondering, since they take some time to make, can the dough be made in the evening and refrigerated until morning, in order to fry the doughnuts for breakfast?

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      Bonnie Alberts, April 26, 2016 7:53 am - Graffe Napoletane

      Hi Theresa – you could probably refrigerate the dough after the first rise – “Cover and let rest until it doubles in size, about 1 hour”. You’ll want to punch it down and wrap it up. You won’t want to form the donuts as they may dry out in the frig and you can’t control how much they rise. Form the donuts in the morning and let them rise “Cover with with towels and let rest until they double in size, about 1 hour”.

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