Struffoli – A Beautiful Dessert – Betcha Can’t Eat Just One

Hey, welcome back. I have been researching more Italian Desserts and I am coming across some with which I’m not familiar. The research is exciting and I’m finding recipes that I plan to prepare. Anyway, Struffoli is one of those “new to me” desserts that I am going to share with you. Wikipedia defines Struffoli as “a Neapolitan dish made of deep fried balls of dough about the size of marbles”. These balls of dough are crunchy on the outside and light and airy on the inside.


Now for the history of these interesting little balls of dough, here is what I’ve gleaned from my research. The name Struffoli comes from the Greek “strongulos” which means “round in shape”. Okay, the name fits but how does that fit into the history part? Well, according to the Italian Trade Commission website, Struffoli are round little donuts (without the hole…or maybe IS the hole) that are drenched in honey then covered with a sprinkling of cubed candied fruit that has the appearance of confetti. These must be pretty tiny “cubes of candied fruit” if the donut itself is only the size of a marble…and who gets the job of “cubing” something that small? Not a job I want; that’s for sure! Anyway, I digress, so let’s get back to the history of this cute little Italian Dessert. Struffoli apparently comes right from the heart of Naples, Italy and where it has experienced the influence of successive waves of Greek, Roman, French, English and Spanish conquerors over the centuries.


It is touted to be “truly legendary” by the Italian Trade Commission. Okay, so where is the legend? Oops, sorry, I digress again. These tasty little morsels used to be prepared in convents by sisters of the various religious orders. They were distributed to the noble families “as thanks for acts of charity”. Apparently, though the ingredients do not change, there are many variations that have been created over the years. I guess I am missing something here but seems like there just HAS to be something romantic or exceptional about these little dough balls! I still don’t see much legend here.


Checking another source supports the preparation of them by the nuns and it seems it was a Christmas kind of thing. They symbolized abundance and were given at Christmas as a “Thank you” to the aristocracy for charitable work. Well, now, we may be getting somewhere FINALLY…maybe this was the origin of making sweet treats for Christmas to show appreciation and friendship…huummm.

I also found that a similar version was made in Rome and is typically stuffed with candied fruit and chopped almonds…again…just HOW do you STUFF something the size of a MARBLE? This is obviously done by people with way more patience than me. These desserts are called cicerchiata in Rome. The pictures I have found of both of these Italian Desserts are quite pretty. The Struffoli are stacked pyramid style and they stick together because they are coated with honey or caramel. The confetti cubes of candied fruit are sprinkled over the whole stack, adding lovely color to this amazing little treat. And…each Italian family has a cherished and closely guarded secret recipe for this dessert that is pulled out each year for the preparation of this Christmas delight. Then, it is tucked away to be guarded until next year….

My research continued as I attempted to find a recipe or a method for stuffing the tiny cicerchiata balls. But alas! No recipe or method could be found for the “stuffing” part of this tiny Italian Dessert.

So here is the basic Struffoli recipe that I found and liked the best. It seems decorative enough to scream CHRISTMAS, this Holiest of all Seasons.


  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 fluid ounce of whiskey (rye, bourbon, or Canadian is fine but not Scotch)
  • 3 cups honey (traditionally the Golden Blossom brand has been used but if this is not available, then use pure clover honey)
  • Oil or shortening for deep frying
  • Multi-colored sprinkles (use the little round hard sprinkles instead of the softer, elongated ones used on ice cream cones)
  • Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl.
  • To this dry mix, add the liquid ingredients except the honey.
  • Mix liquid and dry ingredients together to form dough.
  • Knead the dough until all ingredients are mixed thoroughly together.
  • To make the dough balls, divide the dough into smaller portions and roll each portion into a long strip approximately ¼ inch in diameter.
  • These strips should resemble pencils in diameter.
  • Make angled cuts in the rolled strips of dough to create smaller pieces, keeping in mind that the smaller the pieces at this stage means the smaller the dough balls will be when finished.
  • You can roll the pieces into balls between the palms of your hands like tiny meatballs or you may leave them in the shape in which you have cut them.
  • This recipe makes a more decorative dessert so you might also like to roll some of the dough out and cut it into flat strips approximately ½ inch wide.
  • Using a pastry wheel cutter that has crimped edges adds a more decorative touch to the “ribbons”.
  • These strips will be the “ribbons” for our finished product. With the flat strips, form loops and bows with the dough.
  • You’ll need to deep fry the “ribbons” and “bows” separately from the dough balls as they will cook to the beautiful golden brown color more quickly since they are not as thick.
  • Deep fry all of the different shapes to a golden brown.
  • Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels or other absorbent paper.
  • Heat honey in a deep pot until it begins to thin and becomes pourable.
  • Remove it from the heat.
  • Dip bows and ribbons in warmed honey and set them aside.
  • Add balls to the honey and toss them gently to coat.
  • Transfer balls to holiday platter and top with the ribbons and bows.
  • Or you can mound the balls to look like a Christmas tree and decorate with bows on the sides.
  • Sprinkle with multi colored sprinkles.

Experiment with different ways to “dress” up with pretty little Italian Dessert. Come up with your own secret family recipe that can be closely guarded and passed down through your family. Start your own family tradition this Christmas Season. It’ll be a wonderful legacy to pass along to your children. And, most importantly, HAVE FUN WITH THIS!

And our next dessert topic will be Zeppole, since we’re in the donut neighborhood. Come join me for another adventure into the Wonderful World of Italian Desserts.

Bon Appétit!

Article Source by Vicki Fassler

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