Nana’s Christmas Struffoli

At my house, Christmas is not Christmas without struffoli.  Struffoli are an Italian specialty usually served around the holidays, but are good enough to make all year long.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with struffoli, they are akin to marble-sized fried dough, coated in orange-scented honey and decorated with colorful sprinkles.  Every family makes theirs a little differently—some make golf-ball sized struffoli and mound them into conical, Christmas tree towers.  Others make a similar version called “turdilli” which are rolled on a grooved board and resemble gnocchi, but are also fried and have the same honeyed coating.   

 My grandmother also used the struffoli dough to form pretzel-shaped cookies she called “oiliettes”.  These were fried alongside the struffoli and coated with the same hot honey and nonpariel sprinkles.  Over the years, I have tried many times to duplicate her oiliettes, to no avail.  They never turn out like grandma’s, which were perfectly shaped and uniform in size.  It was amazing to watch her form the little bows, which she did at warp speed, never sacrificing perfection. 

Had she lived, today my grandmother would have celebrated her 95th birthday. To honor her, my mother and I dutifully make the struffoli each and every Christmas.  They are part of our family tradition, one which will be passed along to my girls, and one day many years from now, hopefully theirs.    

Buon Natale!!!

Nana’s Struffoli

Makes about 4 dozen

2 ½ cups flour
½ cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt
1 egg
½ cup milk
2 Tablespoon butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon or orange extract (or lemon or orange oil)
Vegetable oil for frying
1 cup honey
1 Tablespoon multicolored nonpareil sprinkles
In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
In a small bowl, beat together the egg, milk, butter, vanilla and citrus extract.
Stir egg mixture into flour mixture and combine to make a soft, pliable dough.
In a large, deep skillet, heat 2 inches of oil.
Meanwhile, on a floured surface, roll dough into ropes and cut into small pieces (¼-½” pieces). Roll each piece into a marble-sized ball.
Fry in oil about a minute, until they rise to top and are golden.
Fry in batches so as not to overcrowd the pan. Allow oil to return to temperature between batches.
Drain on paper towels and allow to cool.
Above photo by BravaBravaMariarosa.
In a medium saucepan, heat honey to a boil.
Remove from heat and stir in the strufoli balls until completely coated.
Transfer to a platter.
When completely cooled, top with colored sprinkles.
STORAGE: Cover struffoli loosely with tin-foil and serve at room temperature for 2-3 days.
Photo above by BravaBravaMariarosa.

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10 Responses to “Nana’s Christmas Struffoli”

  1. BILL ROWLEY Says:


  2. paula Says:

    The struffoli article brought tears to my
    eyes remembering days gone by. Your recipe
    should get national attention so everyone
    can get a taste of this old traditional

  3. Susan Says:

    Thanks for the recipe.
    Every year I would help my grandmother make these as a little girl.
    After she passed on, I asked my mother for grandma’s recipe and my mother said
    that my grandmother never written anything down. Always used her memory and when the dough felt right she knew when too stop adding more flour.
    I’ve tried over the years different recipes and they never tasted the same.
    I will give this a try even though it is after Christmas.

  4. Cindy Says:

    The tradition at my nonna’s home was to have this treat on Fat Tuesday. It was a Mardi Gras staple from as early as I could remember. This time of year I have been thinking so much of my nonna and have been searching for the perfect struffoli recipe. Thanks so much for bringing it all home again!

  5. Tracy Says:

    I’m so glad to bring back memories for everyone! It is so nice to have food traditions to pass along through the generations! As I said, we only made these at Christmastime, but they are so good, maybe we’ll make them a Fat Tuesday tradition as well! I love this recipe—let me know how it turns out!

  6. James Says:

    this looks yum i cant wait to make my own struffoli

  7. Barbara Macri Says:

    They were so wonderful,just like my gram’s. She made these every Christmas how I miss her.Now I will carry on her Tradition

  8. Don Serafano Says:

    My mother made struffoli every Christmas. She would always sprinkle them with chocolate pieces. We called them pinulattas (?spelling). I assume this was a dialect from either Calabria or Sicilia.

  9. Tracy Says:

    Food brings back such powerful memories…
    I think every family does these a little differently, and even has different names for them depending on the area of Italy from where you hail. My family is from Porto Empedocle, Sicily, near Agrigento. But my suspicion is that families within even the same town might have different names for these holiday treats! Grazie for all your comments!

  10. Ho-Ho-HoRRAY for Candy Cane Truffles « Season To Taste Says:

    […] No-Bake Holiday Treats, where we made sweets like Peppermint Bark and my family’s recipe for Struffoli (Italian Honey Balls).  Well during class, one of the participants shared a no-bake recipe for […]

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