Pignolata, also known nationally and internationally as Struffoli is a very popular dessert in Southern Italy at Christmas time. It is not hard to make but time-consuming, and the best advice I can give is collecting the family around the table in order to roll them into the small marbles.

The traditional dessert is arranged like a pine cone or pigna, from which its name, pignolata is  derived.

There is another recipe, with my mother-in-law’s doses, enough to feed an army, in the best southern tradition. On the other hand, sometimes a bit of innovation can be stimulating, since creativity is a fundamental ingredient of cooking.

I added some raspberry puree which you can make very easily with the fresh ingredients: just blend a cup of raspberries mixed with 2 tablespoons water and press through a sieve.

Prep Time: 50 minutes | Cooking Time: 40 minutes | Total Time: 90 minutes (+ 2 hours for cooling the ganache) | Yield: Makes 6  servings.


For the dough

  • 2 ¼cups  (300 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
  • 3 eggs
  • A pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) Anise or Sambuca liqueur
  • 2 tbsp white sugar
  • 1 organic lemon zest, finely grated

For finishing

  • Vegetable oil (sunflower) for frying
  •  14 oz (400 g) honey
  • ½ cup raspberry puree

For the dark chocolate ganache

  • 8 oz (250 g) semi-sweet baker’s chocolate, chopped
  • ½  cup (125 ml) whipping cream
  • 1 tbsp (15 g) unsalted butter


Mix all the ingredients (except the honey and vegetable oil) in a bowl, you can use a stand mixer with a dough hook. Work the dough until it is smooth. This doesn’t take very long: about 3 minutes or 5 minutes by hand.

Let it rest in the bowl, covered with plastic wrap, for 2 hours.

Flour your work surface and turn out your dough. Then divide the dough into 10 roughly equal pieces, each about the size of a golf ball. Take 1 ball and roll it out into a rope approx. 1/2 inch thick, then with floury hands, divide this into about 20 small pieces, and roll each piece between your hands (flouring them again if this helps) to make marble-sized balls.

Fry them (deep frying) in small batches until they are golden and lay the marbles on kitchen paper. When you have finished frying, discard the oil and clean the pan with kitchen paper.

Pour the honey in the pan and, when the honey is warm, tip all of the fried dough balls into it and, using a soft spatula, turn them gently to coat them.

Get out a large plate or cake stand with a slight lip or rim and place a wet glass or a pastry ring on it. Arrange the balls in the shape of a pyramid or a wreath with a serving spoon.

Add the raspberry purée to the honey and mix for 6 to 7 minutes, until the purée is caramelised.

The small balls can then be arranged in individual dessert plates in a random shape or again, into a pyramid or wreath.

Make the Ganache.

In a saucepan, pour the cream and butter and bring to an almost boil. When the cream is simmering and starts bubbling, add the chocolate and switch off the heat. Mix with a whisk and move to the fridge. Let it stand for at least a couple of hours, then move to a piping bag with a wide star tip.

Decorate the plate piping little amounts of ganache.  Add some green candied fruit.