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Making Perfect Struffoli

Making Perfect Struffoli

Michele Scicolone (December 18, 2011)
Struffoli, Pignolata or Honey Balls

No matter what you call them, it just wouldn't be Christmas with struffoli, pignolata or honey balls. Here is a link to a recipe and some tips.


 Every year about this time, I hear from cooks with questions about struffoli.  These little honey covered nuggets of fried dough are made in many places in Italy, but are most popular in Naples and the South.  To many Italian Americans and Italians, it just wouldn’t be Christmas without them.

 Making struffoli is a great tradition to pass on to the next generation.  I have given the recipe before, and it is in several of my cookbooks, but  if you don’t have it, here is a link.  This is a recipe from my book 1,000 Italian Recipes.

Now that you have the recipe, I thought I would pass along a couple of tips.

This year, my cousin Jo-Ann wrote and shared a great idea.  She always makes several batches of struffoli and gives them as gifts during the holidays.  But the struffoli made in advance have a tendency to soften up and lose their fresh-made texture.  So last year she decided to make some and freeze them before coating them with honey.  Then, when she was ready to use them, she heated the honey, added the thawed struffoli, and decorated them as usual.  I haven’t tried this method, but it seems like a great idea.  Jo-Ann and her mom, who was skeptical of the idea, both agreed that they were just like freshly made.

One question I often hear from struffoli makers is “How can I get the honey to stick and not pool underneath them on the plate”?  My suggestion is to heat the honey just to a simmer.  When it is hot and bubbling, remove it from the heat.  Don’t let it cook.  Stir in the fried and drained struffoli and continue stirring it occasionally until the struffoli are well coated and the honey has cooled.  As the honey cools it will thicken up again and coat the struffoli.  Then pour the struffoli out onto the serving plate.

It is best to keep struffoli at room temperature so that the honey does not harden.  Cover them with an overturned bowl that will protect them without sticking to the honey.

Colored candy sprinkles are always the finishing touch to struffoli at my house, but some people like to decorate them with toasted nuts or candied fruits.   Add the sprinkles at the last minute if possible so that the honey doesn’t melt them.

Wishing you a very struffoli Christmas!  Buon Natale!


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