Italy TravelItalian Christmas Dessert Recipe: Struffoli

Italian Christmas Dessert Recipe: Struffoli
Published on Wednesday, December 5, 2018 by

struffoliNothing says Christmas in Italy quite like a pile of struffoli on an Italian table. The marble-sized dough balls are deep-fried to a golden hue, coated in honey and tiny hard sprinkles. While the traditional recipe calls for deep-frying the balls, some modern recipes call for spreading the struffoli on a cookie sheet and baking them in the oven.

The origins of the dish reach way back to the 4th century B.C. where Archestratus, a Greek poet in Sicily, described fried dough balls covered in honey and called them stróngylos which means rounded. Traditionally a Neopolitan favorite, struffoli are also made in other parts of central and southern Italy where they take on names as diverse as the dialects of the different regions.

In Calabria, the dish is called pignolata, whereas in Abruzzo it is called cicerchiata. In Puglia and Basilicata, the struffoli are known as purceddhruzzi since their round, plump form calls to mind the shape of little pigs or porcellini.

Usually brought as gifts to the host of the holiday meal, struffoli are arranged on a platter in a mound, in the shape of a wreath with a hollow center, or even sometimes as a Christmas-tree shaped cone. Every family has their own tricks to making the fried dough crunchy, airy, light, golden and shiny underneath the thick layers of honey.

Whatever the sweets are called, they are a staple on Italian Christmas tables, especially in the south of the country. Popular in North America and elsewhere, these sweets are a time-trusted tradition carried by Italian immigrants all over the world and are ever-present on Italian-American Christmas menus. Here’s our recipe so you and your family can share in the tradition:

For the Dough:
3 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
pinch salt
Zest of half a lemon, grated
3 cups vegetable oil for frying

For the Topping:
2 cups honey
¼ cup small colored sprinkles


Stir the flour, sugar, lemon zest and salt together in a bowl and place on a clean work surface. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the eggs and butter. With your fingertips, work the eggs and butter together until blended, then begin working in the dry ingredients. Continue working the dough until it is evenly blended. Gather the dough together into a ball, flour lightly and knead the dough until smooth. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature 1 hour.

Pull off a small piece of the dough and roll it out with your palms and fingers to a rope about 1/4 inch in diameter. Repeat with the remaining dough. Cut the dough ropes crosswise into 1/4 -inch lengths. Roll the pieces of dough between your hands into balls.

Pour the oil into a wide, deep frying pan and heat over medium heat until a dough ball gives off a sizzle when slipped into the oil. Carefully place 1/4 of the dough balls into the oil and fry, turning and immersing them with slotted spoon, until golden brown on all sides, about 4 minutes. Transfer them to a paper towel-lined baking sheet to drain, first allowing any excess oil to drip back into the pan. Repeat with the remaining dough balls.

Drizzle the honey over the balls and mix well until they are coated. Scatter the sprinkles over the mound of struffoli until it is colorful. This will keep well for several days in an air tight container

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