Virgin’s Breasts & Sfingi  

Mammelle di Vergine -Minni di Vergine 

Since ancient times, the end of winter and the beginning of spring is celebrated all over world. 

In the Scandinavia Peninsula pigs were roasted as a sacrifice to the deities to wish abundant crops, good fishing and strong offspring. 

In the Judeo, Greek and Roman tradition, the sacrifice of the lamb was offered to the gods; the fields were prepared for the coming seasons, seeds were planted, and offerings made to the deities to get their blessings and to wish for abundant harvests. 

The Greek offered to Demeter and the Roman Ceres (goddesses of fertility) the early produces of the land, also fritters in the form of breasts of a virgin and eggs, which are the symbol of birth, hoping for blessings and healthy new born babies. 

With Christianity the pagan feasts endured and were transformed into Christian holidays.  

As time went by, the fritters evolved from simple fried or baked dough sprinkled with honey into more elaborate and delightful pastries. 

New ingredients were added to the preparation of these cakes: ricotta, almonds, candied fruits, various creams, preserved fruits and other components along with the talent of the local professional and master bakers, the inventiveness of the housewives, and the skill and experience of the nuns in the convents. 

With time, the breasts of virgin changed their characteristic, assuming different names from region to region and executed preferring the use of local products readily available and abundant; these changes always improved their distinctive taste and popularity. 

Basically there are three styles of preparation for this dessert: homemade by the housewives, traditional by the nuns in the convents, and professional by the master bakers. 

 

The Homemade Virgin’s Breasts – The Sfingi 

 

The homemade minni di vergine also called sfingi, are mostly fried, usually sprinkled with honey or sugar and occasionally stuffed with cream. 

There are many versions of the homemade minni di vergine, differing not only from town to town, also from family to family.  

The basic easy recipe for homemade sfingi is as follows: 

Mix 4 cups of flour with 3 large eggs, add 1 oz. of bakers yeast diluted in ½ cup of warm water and some zest of orange or lemon; combine all ingredients until well blended and a soft dough is obtained. If it is too dry add some water or milk, or else some flour if mixture is too wet.  

Make a ball and with a sharp knife make a cut crosswise on the top to facilitate the dough to rise; cover and set aside in a warm place until it almost doubles in size, 1 to 2 hours.  

Divide into 2 pieces and roll the first piece to 1/8 of inch thickness. Approximately cut into 2 inches square and fry at 350 degree. Transfer onto paper towel and sprinkle with powdered sugar. 

 

The homemade sfingi recipes in our site: 

Ricotta Fritters or Fritteddi or Sfingi di Ricotta 

Ricotta Cream Turnover – “ Cassateddi” 

The Crispeddi di Ricotta –Fritters with Ricotta 

Sfingi Casarecce - Frittedde - Homemade 

 

 

 

 

 

Ricotta Fritters or Fritteddi or Sfingi di Ricotta 

Frittedde, fritters are a combination of ricotta, sugar and flour; it is an easy recipe. This mixture is prepared in no time and often without measuring the ingredients.  

The "frittelle" are made all over Sicily, and are very popular. 

 

Ricotta Cream Turnover – “ Cassateddi” 

The cassateddi, small turnover filled with ricotta cream are fried or baked. 

The Cassateddi were originally made with bread dough, ricotta and honey; 

As per our recipe, the delicious filling wrapped by the crunch and delicate dough makes this pastry a preferred dessert or a perfect snack.   

 

The Crispeddi di Ricotta –Fritters with Ricotta 

The Crispeddi are made exclusively in the province of Catania and are another derivative of the breast of virgin.  These fritters can be made in a salted version, served as appetizers and in a sweet version served as dessert.   

This round shaped sweet type pastry is fried dough filled with a rich ricotta cream loaded with candied fruits, chocolate and covered with granulated sugar or honey. 

 

Sfingi Casarecce 

These are the minni di vergine that my mother made: they consisted of fried “pastella”, a batter made with flour, milk, eggs expertly prepared plain and sometimes stuffed with primosale a fresh soft cheese or with ricotta.  

After frying, the fritters are sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon.