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If you’ve ever been to a Christmas eve or Christmas day feast at the home of Italians or Italian-Americans who hail from Southern Italy, struffoli – fried dough balls bathed in honey and covered with sprinkles – are sure to appear at dessert time.
They’d also be perfect for the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah, which features fried foods and whose first night coincides with Christmas eve this year.
I didn’t grow up eating these, but my friend Lily, who is from Salerno (near Naples), introduced me to this Neapolitan treat years ago.
Last year, my father brought them for dessert following our fish extravaganza on Christmas eve.
He followed a recipe from Lidia Bastianich’s book, “Lidia’s Italy in America.”
What’s on your dessert table this holiday?

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recipe from Lidia Bastianich’s “Lidia’s Italy in America”
serves 8 to 10
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 1 T. sugar
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
finely grated zest of 1 orange
1/4 t. cinnamon
pinch kosher salt
4 large eggs
1 t. vanilla extract
2 T. unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 cups honey
vegetable oil, for frying
sprinkles, for garnish
Pulse together the flour, 1 T. sugar, the lemon zest, orange zest, cinnamon and salt in a food processor. Whisk together the eggs and vanilla in a separate bowl. Pour the egg mixture into the food processor with the motor running, and then drop in the butter pieces. Process until a smooth dough forms, about 30 seconds. Knead the dough on the counter a few times, then wrap in plastic and let rest at room temperature at least one hour.
Make the syrup: Combine the honey, the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and 1/3 cup water in a medium skillet over medium heat. Bring to a boil and cook until syrupy, about 6 to 7 minutes.
In the meantime, heat 1 inch of vegetable oil in a pot or straight-sided skillet to about 365 degrees F., or until a piece of dough sizzles on contact. Pinch off a golf-ball sized piece of dough, and roll into a rope about 1/2 inch wide. Cut the rope of dough into pieces the size of a hazelnut and roll into balls. Repeat until all the dough is used.
Fry the struffoli in batches until puffed and golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes per batch. Drain on a paper-towel-lined baking sheet, and repeat with the remaining struffoli.
Toss the struffoli in the hot honey syrup, in batches, as many at a time a you can fit without crowding. Roll the struffoli in the syrup until well coated, then scoop them up with a slotted spoon or strainer, and drain off the excess syrup. Stack the struffoli in layers on a plate to form a cone, or circle, sprinkling each layer with the sprinkles as you stack. Repeat until all the struffoli are coated in the honey syrup and covered in sprinkles. Drizzle the completed stack of struffoli with any remaining syrup, if you wish.
This Post Has 10 Comments
  1. My parents are from Calabria and every year to commemorate them my sisters and I make stuffoli. Though ours do not contain the citrus and spice flavorings they look just like the ones pictured on your blog. For us however, stuffoli are just a form of what we call Turdilli. Turdilli are made in the same way with exactly the same recipe as stuffoli but their shape is larger — more like X', S's or O's. Stuffoli to us are the small bits that we gather into a wreath served at Christmas day dinner.

    My mother used to make enough Turdilli to fill a 4' x 6' table, a full, hard day to make them. She and my father would then make packages that contained the turdilli, his homemade wine, a box of torrone, crochette (fig & nut treats) and her homemade fruit cake they would then deliver to friends and family. These are memories of my childhood I will always cherish. Thank you for sharing these treats. On Sunday my sisters and I will make this years turdilli/stuffoli.

  2. I make them each year for Hanukkah & Christmas as well as for Rosh Hashanah. Teglach is a Jewish dessert, essentially the same thing as Struffoli prepared at the new year. Honey is the key ingredient at this time to help usher in a sweet year. You post reminds me that it is time to switch gears from baking to frying.

  3. I did grow up with these. Although my cousins always joke about the tasteless nuggets and all we really wanted was the honey and sprinkles. Not positive that was true. I remember loving the way they looked and Grandma's smiles when we grabbed them. She really did make them tall and pretty like a Christmas tree. I've tried making them – I never seem to have the patience. But every time I see a photo of struffoli, I smile. Just like I'm smiling now.

  4. Struffoli is a Christmas treat that is on my cooking 'bucket list' to make someday. Our family never had them, but they look so pretty and delicious! I love the wreath shape too.
    Buon Natale, Linda!!!

  5. Brings back memories of my childhood! My grandmother Angelina used to make her "honey balls" every Christmas. I loved them but my sister didn't…. in fact, she hated them but to get on my grandmother's good side, told her how good they were. Next Christmas, remembering what she had said, my grandmother made her an EXTRA large bag of her "honey balls"!

  6. In my husband's Italian town's dialect they call them pignolata. We don't make them every Christmas as the gluten free memebers of the family can't enjoy them. I am getting good at finding good GF recipes for traditional Christmas cookies so maybe one year I'll try making these GF too! 😉

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