Struffoli, Steve’s sole holiday food tradition


It’s a sign of how denatured Steve’s Neapolitan heritage is that he believed a traditional family holiday dish was spelled “struvela.” It’s actually struffoli—something Steve didn’t figure out until recently. Steve has memories of picking at the honey-covered dough bits as they sat on an increasingly sugar-sticky paper doily for days, a concept Michelle finds bewildering as well as slightly disgusting. Nevertheless, acceding to Steve’s whim, she decided to help bring struffoli to Gourmandistan.

Steve’s mother was happy to give him her family struffoli recipe. But she couldn’t find the index card she’d written it on, and sheepishly admitted she actually hadn’t bothered to make it in years. Mom finally dug up a recipe she deemed familiar in Lillian Marshall’s 1971 Courier-Journal & Times Cookbook. This particular struffoli recipe is super-simple (as long as you’re comfortable with hot oil frying). Michelle mixed and kneaded the dough in about the time it took Steve to walk to the chicken yard and back, and we both rolled out the dough ropes quickly. A short time later we had a sticky pile of fried dough puffs, with a bland flavor contrasting their honey-sugar glaze—as Michelle called it, “croquembouche for poor Italians.”

Steve’s mother insisted we use multicolored sprinkles for our struffoli, to adhere to DeMarzo tradition. When dictating it to Steve, she did admit the C-J&T recipe actually called for pine nuts, leading Steve to do a bit of research and discover probably better struffoli recipes with pine nuts, citrus zest, hazelnuts and/or other goodness instead of crummy sprinkles. Next year, we may try a different kind of struffoli—but as Steve’s mother said, “at least someone will be keeping the tradition going.”


  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • Approx. 1-3/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • colored candy sprinkles

Beat eggs, then add butter, salt and vanilla. Stirring with a wooden spoon, add enough flour to make a soft, manageable dough. (We added the full 1-3/4 cups flour, then found the dough a bit too dry and had to add some sprinkles of water.)  Knead for 5 minutes, then cover with waxed paper to avoid a crust and let stand for 1/2 hour or so.

Using 1/2 of the dough at a time, roll on floured board to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into 1/4 inch strips, then roll dough strips between palms of hands into ropes. Cut ropes into 1/4 inch squares.

Fry dough squares in batches in a couple of inches of medium hot (375°) oil (we used canola, but any flavorless oil would do), then remove from oil and let drain on a rack.

Heat honey and sugar in a small saucepan to the consistency of heavy syrup, about five minutes. Toss fried dough bits in honey/syrup mixture in a deep bowl. Pile them on a plate in a cone or mound, and sprinkle with colored candies.


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