Fried Sweet Dough Balls with Honey

By Lidia Matticchio Bastianich

Fried dough balls rolled in honey, collected in a mound and topped with sprinkles, is a typical Christmas vision at Italian American bakeries across the United States. What I found fascinating is that even though the cookies and prepared food are very good, it is all about memories and traditions. Struffoli seem to be a big part of that Italian American memory.

serves 8 to 10


4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar

Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

Finely grated zest of 1 orange

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pinch kosher salt

4 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

2 cups honey

Vegetable oil, for frying

Sprinkles, for garnish


  1. Pulse together the flour, 1 tablespoon sugar, the lemon zest, orange zest, cinnamon, and salt in a food processor. Whisk together the eggs and vanilla in a separate bowl. Pour the egg mixture into the food processor with the motor running, and then drop in the butter pieces. Process until a smooth dough forms, about 30 seconds. Knead the dough on the counter a few times, then wrap in plastic and let rest at room temperature for 1 hour.

  2. Make the syrup: Combine the honey, the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, and 1/3 cup water in a medium skillet over medium heat. Bring to a boil, and cook until syrupy, about 6 to 7 minutes.

  3. In the meantime, heat 1 inch of vegetable oil in a pot or straight-sided skillet to about 365 degrees F, or until a piece of dough sizzles on contact. Pinch off a golf-ball-sized piece of dough, and roll into a rope about 1/2 inch wide. Cut the rope of dough into pieces the size of a hazelnut and roll into balls. Repeat until all the dough is used.

  4. Fry the struffoli in batches until puffed and deep golden, about 3 to 4 minutes per batch. Drain on a paper-towel-lined baking sheet, and repeat with the remaining struffoli.

  5. Toss the struffoli in the hot honey syrup, in batches, as many at a time as you can fit without crowding. Roll the struffoli in the syrup until well coated, then scoop them up with a slotted spoon or strainer, and drain off the excess syrup. Stack the struffoli in layers on a plate to form a cone, sprinkling each layer with the sprinkles as you stack. Repeat until all the struffoli are coated in the honey syrup and covered in sprinkles. Drizzle the completed stack of struffoli with any remaining syrup, if you wish.