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The Struffoli Italian Honey Balls are very small fried dough balls soaked with honey and decorated with colored sprinkles: also known as the very happy ending to any Christmas meal. The dessert is often presented in a pyramidal composition, it is irresistible and satisfies everybody’s taste!

by Barbara Iovine

Struffoli are the most famous Christmas desserts in the Campania region and for this reason, they can not be missing from any tables.

Even if they are a source of pride of the local pastry, it is not uncommon to find them also in other Italian regions, although with different names. These small fried dough balls are very easy to bake and they are not only a sight for sore eyes, but also a delight for the palate: I warn you, they can create a real addiction! Whether you bake them in your kitchen or buy them bewitched by the fantastic pastry shop windows, the end of your meal will surely have an extra touch, adding some sweetness to your holidays.

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The Struffoli Italian Honey Balls

How were the Struffoli born?

Although the recipe for Struffoli is a Neapolitan pride, according to tradition it has truly ancient origins. Several factors suggest that this pastry dates back to Ancient Greece, such as the name that is thought to derive from the Greek word “stongoulos” which means “round”. Also, in Greek cuisine, there are very similar delicacies, the loukoumades, a dessert that follows the same preparation as our beloved struffoli. 

Other sources, instead, link the struffoli to another typical Spanish dessert, even if this one has a longer shape: the piñonate. It is said that this one was born in Andalusia and arrived in Naples during the years of Spanish domination, around 1500, but from the evidence found we know that struffoli appeared on the Neapolitan tables only starting from 1600. It is funny to know that this dish nowadays in Sicily is called “pignolata”, maintaining an association with the Andalusian name.
Another explanation is that the name derives from the Italian “strofinare”, “to rub”: the method by which the little balls are prepared, rubbing the dough, and then stretching it with the hands before cutting it into small spheres. The word “strofinare” then became “struffolo” in the Neapolitan dialect.

Whatever its origins are, this dessert conquered undoubtedly everyone’s taste with its sweetness and goodness!

The tasteful pyramid

As anticipated, Struffoli are small sweet dough balls, whose shape recalls that of the Italian gnocchetti pasta. They are fried in hot oil, then soaked with honey, and decorated with colored sprinkles (the Neapolitan diavulilli) and candied fruit. When ready, they are typically arranged in a serving tray with a pyramidal shape that gives an extra touch to the final effect. All the children know very well how delicious they are, indeed they can not resist the temptation to steal a few balls while the dessert is still in preparation, to start savoring its sweetness one bite after another. 

All the traditional recipes have their own secrets for a better result of the dessert. Among all the tips, in this case, it is recommended to let the dough rest and also to avoid using too much flour in the struffoli preparation, which otherwise will produce a lot of foam in frying. Furthermore, in the original recipe is used the anise liqueur, which has a very characteristic flavor, but it can also be replaced with rum, or not used at all. To conclude, if you want a slightly lighter version, you can also cook them in the oven rather than frying them.

Now let's go and see the preparation of this pastry delicacy.

Ingredients for 6 people

For the dough

  • 500 g of flour
  • 8 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • Pinch of salt
  • ½ zest of lemon and ½ zest of orange
  • 1 l olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar


  • 250 g of honey
  • 50 g of sugar
  • 100 g of candied orange
  • 100 g of candied citron
  • 50 g of candied pumpkin
  • 50 g colored sprinkles


Pour the flour onto a pastry board and add a pinch of salt, the orange, and lemon zest, a tablespoon of sugar, the eggs, and the yolks. Knead the dough well, then cover it and let it rest for an hour. After the resting time, divide the dough into many pieces and roll it into thin ropes, then cut it into small balls.
Fry the balls in boiling oil until they get a golden brown color, then remove them with a slotted spoon and dry them with absorbent paper.

To prepare the dressing, pour the honey and sugar into a saucepan with half a glass of water. Let it melt and move from the flame, put the struffoli and candied fruit in it, and stir until the honey is absorbed.

Finally, arrange them in a serving tray and give them a pyramidal shape. Decorate it with the remaining candied fruit and the colored sprinkles.
To be served cold.

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