Struffoli. Neapolitan Dessert

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Struffoli, sometimes also called “Strangola-preti” or “Strangolaprevete“, are a dessert that all Neapolitans love.

There are those who prefer them loaded with honey as tradition dictates or a little drier, but it doesn’t matter: everyone likes the fried balls that every Christmas invade the tables of all Neapolitans (and not only!).

Struffoli have ancient origins and today we want to tell you their story and the journey they have made to get to us


Struffoli are a dessert that came to Naples a long time ago, together with the Greeks who landed on its shores to build a new city.
The honey that covers them, the sweetness that distinguishes them and the fried dough they are made of would be further proof of their Hellenic origin: these elements are very reminiscent of the flavors of Greek desserts.
In particular, there is a dessert that really looks a lot like struffoli: these are sweet zeppoline called Loukomades, which just like struffoli are fried and covered with honey and which instead of sugared almonds and “diavulilli” are garnished with walnuts , almonds and with a sprinkling of cinnamon.
The etymology of the name of the Struffoli is uncertain, but one of the most accredited hypotheses is that it derives from the union of the Greek words “Strongulous”, which means “round”, and “Pristos” which means “cut”: small spheres, round and cut, that is exactly what the Struffoli are.
Another hypothesis is that the word “Struffolo” derives from “rubbing”, or “rubbing”, that is, the movement made to knead their dough.

The recipe was preserved in the Middle Ages thanks to some convents in which the nuns continued to cook them for centuries, giving them as a gift to the families of the Neapolitan nobility who had distinguished themselves for their works of charity.

Over time, many small variations of the Struffoli recipe were created, handed down in great secrecy from generation to generation, almost as if deciding how many diavulilli to sprinkle on it were a magic or an esoteric ritual.

Every Neapolitan and Campania knows a different version, and anyone will tell you that “his” is the authentic and original recipe, that of the real struffoli. The truth is that, beyond the small differences, there are few but fundamental characteristics for cooking authentic Neapolitan Struffoli: the fried balls must be as small as possible, in order to collect more honey, and the latter must be very abundant.
This is not only because the flavor of the dish will benefit, but also because honey is connected to the figure of Jesus and therefore to Christmas.

Between Religions and Traditions

Honey is actually often mentioned in Christian and Catholic sacred texts: in the Exodus honey is compared to manna and the word of God, and how this falls from heaven to nourish and satiate men; honey also comes from a “rock”: and this is how Jesus Christ is defined, as “the rock that gives honey” and who with his good words fills those who listen to him with sweetness and hope.

Love is often compared to honey in sacred texts, both that which exists between husband and wife and that of Jesus towards men.

It is also for this reason that the honey Struffoli have probably become one of the typical sweets of Christmas: one of their main ingredients was closely linked to a Catholic and Christian symbolism regarding love, God and above all Jesus.

Whether you do it following this religious spirit or preferring its pagan origins, it is certain that tasting this sweet Christmas is good and heartens both the body and the spirit.

Ingredients (for 4 people)

    • 300 gr of flour
    • 25 gr of sugar
    • 50 gr of butter
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
    • 20 ml of Brandy
    • 1 lemon zest (1 lemon)
    • 1 orange zest (1 orange)
    • 1 pinch of salt
    • 200 gr of honey peanut oil for frying to taste
    • 50 gr of candied fruit ( cherries, orange, cedar)
    • colored sprinkles (silver, gold, various colors) to taste


  1. Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl. Add the butter (previously melted and warmed), the grated lemon and orange zest, sugar, brandy and a pinch of salt. Mix with a spatula to form a crumb compound.
    At this point, open the eggs in the container and continue to mix. Once the dough has reached consistency, transfer it to a floured work surface.
  2. Knead well and vigorously until you obtain a homogeneous dough that you will have to leave to rest in a warm place for 30 minutes.
    After the time has passed, take the dough and place it on a floured surface. Roll it out quite thickly and, with the help of a knife, make cords of about 1 cm in diameter.
    Cut them to get many equal cubes. Pass them between your hands and round them up to form balls. Be careful to create the struffoli all of equal size.
  3. Heat plenty of peanut oil in a high-sided steel pan. Once at 180 ° C, fry the struffoli in it.
    It is important that you fry a few at a time, so that you can better control the cooking. When they have taken on a nice uniform golden color, drain them on absorbent paper and let them cool.
  4. In another pan, heat the honey together with a glass of water, making it go over the fire until it is liquefied. At that point remove it from the heat and add the colored sprinkles and candied fruit. However, keep aside some sugars and candied cherries.
    Take the fried struffoli and dip them all in the pan with the honey. Mix well so that each ball is well wrapped in honey.
    When the honey is still hot, remove them from the pan and give your struffoli the shape you prefer on a serving plate. The most classic shapes are pyramid, dome, donut or Christmas tree. You decide which one you prefer.
    Finish your composition by decorating again with candied cherries and some colored sugars.

GrandMa’s Secrets

The Neapolitan tradition requires that butter is not used, but lard is used both in the dough and for frying. If you want to replace the butter with lard in the dough, you must use 80 g of it, obviously removing the butter.

In the same way, you can also use the lard for frying, removing the peanut oil.

Always following the tradition and therefore the original Neapolitan recipe, yeast is not used in struffoli.

However, if you want to prepare soft ones, put them in the dough and if you want them even softer, try adding a pinch of baking soda.

The liqueur to be used in the preparation, always according to the Neapolitan tradition, is the aniseed liqueur.

This liqueur is highly distinctive and many do not like it, which is why over time it has been replaced with brandy or rum.


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