Struffoli Recipe

December marks the arrival of struffoli at Italian pastry shops in Brooklyn, and I imagine in all Italian-American neighborhoods. Sometimes struffoli appear as early as Thanksgiving. In our family, struffoli appeared just one day of the year—New Year’s Day. My aunt Barbara doled out bowls of them as a parting gift after we ate our weight in her lasagna. So, with these last remaining days of 2020 I decided it was finally time to share my struffoli recipe.

I’ve no idea how close this is to my aunt’s recipe, and not even sure anyone knows her recipe. Aunt Barbara passed away earlier this year but it’s actually been almost 15 years since we’ve had her struffoli. She suffered a stroke in 2005, or it might’ve been 2006, and was wheelchair bound. New Year’s Day at her house was always a much-anticipated event because in addition to struffoli, it was the only the day of the entire year in which she made lasagna.

For years, I kept a container of her gravy—Italian-American speak for tomato sauce simmered with whole cuts of meat and meatballs, in my freezer, a relic found while cleaning out her apartment. It traveled to two apartments and when I made the move from Brooklyn to Olivebridge, I decided it was time to finally let go. I always think of Karen’s ziti from The Sopranos when I think of this story.

Struffoli recipe | In Jennie’s Kitchen

What are struffoli?

For those unfamiliar, struffoli are tiny fried balls of dough scented with lemon and orange zest and coated in honey and decorated with nonpareils. While my aunt served them in bowls, it’s common to shape them into a wreath. I’ve heard some people shape them as cones to resemble trees but have never seen them presented that way.

What kind of honey do you use in your struffoli recipe?

I prefer clover honey but you can use wild flower if that’s what you like. I wouldn’t use buckwheat, personally, since it’s a strong flavor. Warming the honey slightly makes coating the struffoli a little easier but it’s not totally necessary. My aunt never heated it and I can assure you there were never any struffoli leftover.

Struffoli recipe | In Jennie’s Kitchen

Is this struffoli recipe easy to make?

Well, that all depends. Easy is relative depending on your skills in the kitchen. If frying isn’t your thing, you might want to choose a different recipe. I know air fryers are popular but don’t have one, and not sure if they’d work in there. If anyone reading has made them in the air fryer, please share your results.

Struffoli recipe | In Jennie’s Kitchen

Why are struffoli served on New year’s Day?

While it was common for our family to enjoy struffoli on New Year’s Day, I’m not sure anyone really knew the reason why. Being Italian-American can be interesting, as my experience has been we often do things “because that’s the way it’s always been done” without knowing the reason why. My guess is the meaning gets lost as generations pass. It turns out eating honey-drenched stuffoli is a symbol of prosperity and the hope for it in the year ahead. Perhaps my family knew this and just never mentioned it.

What I do know is that I continue to be eternally thankful for the way the kitchen connects me to my past and keeps the people I love alive long after they’re gone. I hope you all find quiet moments of joy as the year that felt like a decade ends. My wish is for 2021 to arrive gently with renewed hope for our collective future.

Struffoli recipe | In Jennie’s Kitchen

On the Sweet Side

10 years ago Mom’s Gingerbread Cookies | Peanut Butter Bon Bons | Brown Butter Apple Pie
5 years ago Italian Rainbow Cookies | Gingerbread Scones | How to Make Brown Sugar
1 year ago Funfetti Cookies | Black & White Cookies | Pie Fries

On the Savory Side

10 years ago Homemade Vegetable Wontons | Creamed Corn | Lentil Ricotta Meatballs
5 years ago Slow Cooker Lentil Soup | Seriously Delicious Ribs | Shredded Cabbage, Apple & Toasted Sesame Salad
1 year ago Butternut Squash Lasagna | Homemade Taralli | Easy Sheetpan Chicken Fajitas

Struffoli Recipe

Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: Makes 200 bite-sized balls

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 ½ tablespoons (15 grams) olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons (10 grams) sugar
  • Freshly grated zest of 1 lemon
  • Freshly grated zest of ½ orange or 1 clementine
  • 2 cups (260 grams) flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • Neutral oil for frying (canola or sunflower)
  • Honey, heated until warm, if desired
  • Colored nonpareils

Instructions

  1. Add the eggs, olive oil, sugar, lemon and orange zest to a deep bowl and whisk until frothy.
  2. Add the flour, salt, and baking powder. Sir with a fork until mixture forms a soft dough.
  3. Scrape dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for a few minutes until dough is smooth. Divide dough into 8 pieces.
  4. Roll each piece into a ¼-inch thick rope. Cut off pea-sized pieces of dough. Using the palm of your hands, roll bits of dough into rough balls (they don’t have to be perfect). Arrange in a single layer on a floured sheet pan.
  5. Heat ½-inch oil in a shallow skillet until it reaches 360ºF (180ºC). Fry a few pieces of dough at a time, stirring constantly for even cooking, until golden all over and they float up to the surface of the oil. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a paper towel lined plate and let drain. Repeat with remaining dough.
  6. Cooked, drained & cooled balls of dough may be stored in an airtight tin for up to 1 week.
  7. At least 4 hours before ready to serve (and up to 1 day I advance), add the struffoli and honey to a bowl. Mix until struffoli are well coated. Spoon into a serving dish and sprinkle nonpareils on top. It’s also traditional to form these in the shape of a wreath to serve.

11 Comments

  • Gabrielle

    Seeing your struffoli is such a huge blast of nostalgia for me .
    Until you said it I hadn’t remembered but yes! My honorary Brooklyn nonna did sometimes shape hers into a tree-like tower. Struffoli was definitely always there at the holidays when we visited her In Sheepshead Bay.
    Xx

  • Rachel

    This Christmas it was just me and my husband, and we took the opportunity to make a traditional 7 fishes feast the way my Italian Nana and Nonno used to when I was growing up. Struffoli was a Christmas Eve tradition when I was growing up and I was sad that I wasn’t able to recreate that experience along with the other dishes. I gasped when I saw this, and can’t wait to try it. Thank you for sharing!

  • Maria

    oh my gosh. I still remember eating struffoli as a little kid at my Italian grandfather’s house. When we found it in Italy over the holidays a few years ago we were so happy. Thank you for sharing your recipe! I remember my grandfather’s tasting a tiny bit like anise. Do you ever add that?

  • vittoria virdo

    my grandchildren love struffoli and i make them every year but we also have another name
    we call them (pignolata)

  • Jennie

    Oh, one day I hope to come back and visit. I think I remember you making them last time I was there, Vittoria. xoxoxo

  • farmerpam

    Late to the party here…..Struffoli was part of my mother’s Christmas cookie line up. And interestingly enough I loathed them as a child, lol, and still do. I do recall being very, very young and having sticky honey all over me, I mean head to toe, not only did I hate that feeling, worse, I was in “trouble”. So perhaps the display of unhappiness from my mother plays a part. To this day I run when I see Struffoli. But the Sfogliatella, Canoli, ………… 😉 (Here for a celebratory Inauguration recipe……yes!!!!!!!) Enjoy this day!

  • jodi

    just curious, how does one eat strufoli?
    with your hands? a spoon?
    however they’re eaten, they sure look fun and tasty!

Leave a Comment

Rate this recipe:  

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.