HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


? name of Italian fried honey cookies

My grandmother used to make these and sometimes dipped them in powdered sugar. I cannot remember if they were fried but I think they were. They were really sticky and messy but good. Can anyone tell me the name of these cookies. I think she made them around the holidays, especially Christmas.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Are you thinking of struffoli (Sicilians call them pignolata)? They are balls of dough that are deep fried and then tossed in a honey mixture and usually piled up on a plate. You pick them off one by one to eat. However, powdered sugar doesn't ring a bell, since these are always in honey.

    26 Replies
    1. re: roxlet

      I did look at Struffoli online yesterday and they were close but I don't exactly remember them in ball-shape. They were piled up in an old roasting pan. I remember them being very sticky. Thank you for the suggestion. As I indicated below, may be Grandma had her own version of these cookie things.

      1. re: momiecat

        Good luck, but I'm putting my money on struffoli. There are many variations on the recipe, but mine is incredibly simple -- four, eggs and a pinch of salt. Essentially it is pasta dough that is fried, and they can be made any shape you like. My version has a mixture of honey, sugar and cinnamon that is boiled together until the sugar is dissolved. Then the cooked struffoli are put in the pot, and stirred until each is covered with the honey mixture, and then it is turned out onto a plate -- or a roasting pan, or however you want to serve them.

        1. re: roxlet

          You are right. I checked with my mom and she said it is called Struffoli (or Pignolata) alla Calabrese – Calabrian Style Honey Clusters. My mom said Grandma used to pile them all up in the roasting pans to look like a Christmas tree. I still don't think they were all ball-shaped but may be some of them were. I think Grandma made her own version. Mom said they were really sticky. Thanks all.

          1. re: momiecat

            They start out as ball shaped, but they sort of 'pop' as they are frying. They are super easy to make, and particularly fun to make with children who love rolling the dough into ropes before cutting into little pillows.

      2. re: roxlet

        Does struffoli have to be made in balls? Someone made what looked like crostoli but everyone called them struffoli. He was Sicilian (Brooklyn).

        1. re: chowser

          Strictly speaking, they're not really balls. When you make ropes and then cut the pieces, they look more like pillows than balls, and when you fry them, they kind of 'pop' in the hot oil, so they are more an odd shape than a ball per se. I've never seen them in other shapes, however. My feeling is that this shape cooks easily and throughly in the hot oil; I would be concerned if the shape were larger of significantly different. But maybe someone does it that way, and they're fine...

          1. re: roxlet

            I'm going to bring it up at the next Italian class gathering. The struffoli brought were more like the pictures of the crostoli, flattened ribbons of fried dough. They were definitely flat, not pillowy. I'm wondering if he made a Brooklyn version that amalgamated different recipes.

            1. re: chowser

              otherwise known as...depending on the region of Italy.

              bugie (Genova, Torino, Asti, Imperia)
              cenci o crogetti (Toscana)
              chiacchiere (Basilicata, Sicilia, Campania, Lazio, Umbria, Puglia, Calabria, a Milano, Sassari e Parma)
              cioffe (Sulmona, centro Abruzzo)
              cróstoli o cróstołi (Ferrara, Rovigo, Vicenza, Treviso, Trentino, Friuli, Venezia Giulia)
              crostoli o grustal (Ferrara)
              cunchiell' o qunchiell (Molise)
              fiocchetti (Montefeltro e Rimini)
              frappe (Roma e Ancona)
              gałàni o sosole (Venezia, Verona, Padova)
              gale o gali (Vercelli e Bassa Vercellese)
              guanti (Caserta)
              gròstołi o grostoli (Trento)
              intrigoni (Reggio Emilia)
              lattughe o latǖghe (Mantova)
              maraviglias (Sardegna)
              rosoni o sfrappole (Modena, Bologna, Romagna)
              sfrappe (Marche)
              sprelle (Piacenza)
              risòle (Cuneo e sud del Piemonte)

                1. re: roxlet

                  no, I didn't make the ones in the pic (gorgeous aren't they?).

                  It was just a random pic that showed up in an image search (haven't taken any pictures of mine), although I do make them yearly in the tradition of Carnevale (sabato grasso, "fat saturday")

                  I'll have to take some pics of mine next time I make them (not too far away!)

                2. re: Novelli

                  But is it ever called struffoli? I thought it was struffoli from what people in the class said but it seems like those are one thing, but struffoli is different.

                  1. re: chowser

                    No, chowser, those are definitely not struffoli! What class, btw? Was there a class that taught homey old-fashioned Italian desserts?

                    1. re: roxlet

                      No, just an Italian class that likes to eat. I'll have to bring it up and see what they say!

                  2. re: Novelli

                    If those are the light, crispy treats I'm thinking of, my Neapolitan aunts would call them Guandi indeed....or Wandi, the slang version. Never honey on them, though...they would've fallen apart. Great memory!

                    1. re: Novelli

                      Thanks for all of that. A couple of years ago I joined my dad and his cousins to make Petuas. Apparently it was a cookie that someone's mother-in-law taught her. No one can remember what region she was from but it was somewhere in the north of Italy. As the others, this recipe is simple: flour, white wine, oil and anisette (no eggs). Mix dough adding a little extra wine if it's too dry. Let it rest and then run through a pasta maker until it's thin (like a 5 on the dial). Cut into strips and pinch to make bow ties or rosettes. Fry in vegetable oil until light brown, drain on paper towels. When it's all done, heat up 2 parts honey 1 part water and dip cookies in then drain. Sprinkle with a little cinnamon.

                      1. re: stephfour

                        This picture looks exactly like the cookie I am looking for. My great aunts made them. I never knew the name, but my mom and grandmother have the recipe

                        1. re: mels7777

                          Mels7777 - please post the recipe if you have it.

                          1. re: momiecat

                            This might be the closest I have found to what my grandma made. They were really thin pinwheels. I may try this recipe and see if it is like I remember

                            1. re: ahecei

                              They look delicious and, again, to me are close to what Grandma made but my memory has faded so much, I cannot be sure if they are what she used to make. Thank you for posting.

                        2. re: stephfour

                          Very very close to what I remember although my Grandma's family was from Cosenza, Calabria in Southern Italia. Thanks for posting the photo!

                          1. re: stephfour

                            This looks exactly like what my great grandmother used to make with the exception of being sprinkled with colored candy balls. Thanks so much for the picture and recipe. I am so excited to try this!

                            1. re: rainbowskies

                              My sister and i were trying to remember what these were called and how to make them. I came here and this site helped but i didnt remember these names. I assumed zeppole must be the name but it didnt sound right.my sis looked through my mom's recipes last night and prayed to mom to help us...we couldnt find it before...and just then my sister found it and it was named zeppole! This morning i kept trying to recall how mom and gram pronounced it and it finally hit me...sounds like..uh-SAY-pluh...and i was happy to solve that many years old mystery! I was ready to use a recipe from here but none of them seemed the same and now i know why. My family used farina (cream of wheat) and flour. The farina gave it a grainy crunchy texture that i expect using just flour might not. Also, my family made them in the shape of a figure eight but the ends might not have been joined...like in the shape of a jesus fish symbol. I remember my mom telling me that was why they shaped them like that and i recall having them at easter and maybe new years eve and perhaps st. Josephs day. Here's the recipe....2 cups farina, 2 cups flour, 9cups water, 1 tsp. Of salt. Boil water and salt, add farina and cook until done i guess. Lower heat and slowly add flour stirring the whole time. Shape into ropes the size of a finger...or whatever shape you want i suppose...and fry in olive oil. Recipe also says to put a lttle oil on top of water before cooking farina. I suppose so it doesnt stick as much when trying to shape. After frying, drain on paper towels. Then mom's recipe just says sugar and honey. I think she boiled the honey with a little water then dipped the pieces and either added sugar before or after the honey. Not clear on it but seem to recall her heating it. Her and grams recipes always werent so clear. They just expected us to know the details because they showed us from one generation to the next.

                              1. re: debbieholmes

                                Thank you for sharing your wonderful story and recipe. This has turned out to be quite a discussion. I still wish my grandma was here so I could ask her (Calabrian) what she actually called these wonderful treats.

                                1. re: momiecat

                                  Did you ever find the cookies you were looking for last year? I just came across this string and it just so happens I made what might be the cookies today. Could they be Turdella? Not 100% sure about the spelling. My grandmother was from a village outside of Cosenza, Calaberia. The Calabraze that settled in this area would get together and make 100s of them around this time of year. They are deep fried and after cooled, coated in honey. Grandma would store them in a covered tin. Cookies were real sticky but delicious. The recipe, as best we can figure - they never wrote down recipes unfortunately - is as follows.
                                  2 c olive oil
                                  1 c sweet white wine (Moscata)
                                  1 c water
                                  1/4 c sugar
                                  2 eggs
                                  1 tsp salt
                                  1 tsp vanilla
                                  3+lbs flour

                                  heat first 4 ingredients until dissolved then cool until warm to touch.

                                  Add salt to flour. Dump flour onto board and make a well in the middle. Add beaten eggs with vanilla. Start to mix. Make a another well and add 1/2 of the headed mixture, continue to kneed. If you need more flower add. Add rest of liquid and kneed until completely mixed. Shouldn't be dry or too sticky to touch. Turn into round disk, cover with towel and let rest for 15 minutes. While hot oil heats - cook around 350. Slice off part of dough, roll into long rope then cut pieces about an 1 inch to 1 1/2 inch. Roll cut piece over the back of fork, basket or other item that will create ridges on dough. While rolling piece, make indention - similar to gnocchi. Deep fry until light brown, cool. The center may appear to be slightly dough but that is the way they are supposed to be. Tricky cuz you don't want them raw but also not overcook. The soft center is where the olive oil flavor is. Now the tricky part - putting honey on the cookies. Try 3/4 honey mixture to 1/4 grape jelly. Heat both in pan, submerge cookie until coated, place on rack to dry.

                                  I hope that is the recipe you were looking for. From what I'e been told, it is definitely a regional cookie.

                                2. re: debbieholmes

                                  Well, this is a new one on me!

                                  My struffoli is covered in a mixture of sugar and honey. Basically, you heat the honey with the sugar until the sugar melts. I think it makes the honey less runny, and a bit more apt to stay put. I don't think they would have dipped the pastry in sugar after covering it with honey...

                                  1. re: roxlet

                                    It all sounds delicious to me. Thanks for your interesting comments.

                  3. If they were flat and shaped, they might be crostoli. I think there are different names for them, too.

                    11 Replies
                    1. re: chowser

                      I looked at some images of Crostoli but they did not look exactly like that either. Very close but not exactly what I remember. May be Grandma made her own version of Struffoli or Crostoli. The region her family was from was Calabria. Thank you for trying to help.

                      1. re: momiecat

                        The shapes can vary. The ones I had were in a big pan, various thin shaped flat fried cookies that kind of melt together, for lack of a better description, and were covered in honey. Like this, only covered w/ honey:


                        Oh, the Calabrian version is called chiacchiere.

                        1. re: chowser

                          In other parts of Italy, those are also known as Cenci, or Lover's Knots. I've made them with both honey and powdered sugar.

                          1. re: roxlet

                            I love them. So impressed that you make them. Deep frying is my nemesis. That might not be a bad thing, given how much I love these!

                            1. re: chowser

                              I try to make them infrequently for just that reason.

                            2. re: roxlet

                              I asked my husband (whose mother was Calabrese) and he said theirs were called something like "scalia" (he has no idea how it's spelled, but guesses it's like the Supreme Court Justice's name). He said the dough was tied in little knots in their version.

                              1. re: MsMaryMc

                                We called those cenci, or lover's knots. You cut the dough into strips, and then tie them in a knot just before you fry them.

                            3. re: chowser

                              Thank you all for your replies. I emailed my mom (who is not Italian) who said she thinks she has the recipe in one of her cookbooks. I will let you all know if I find out what they were. You all sound so close. Like I said, Grandma may have had her own style in making these. Thanks again.

                              1. re: chowser

                                Very cool. Thank you for the link. I am sure my Grandma made her own style of these. I wish I had a picture or could remember exactly what they looked like in that roasting pan but all I can remember is that it sort of reminded me of a pile of twisted metal.

                                1. re: momiecat

                                  That's a good description of plates the guy in my Italian class brought--like a pile of twisted metal. And, I'm pretty sure he called them struffoli. It's interesting to see the variations out there, name and shapes. He's an older guy, late 70's I'd guess, Italian American (Sicilian Brooklynite) but lived in italy for years.

                              2. re: momiecat

                                I know exactly what you mean momiecat. My great grandmother was from Calabria and she made these too. They were twisted, flat pieces of fried dough, piled in a mound on wax paper, covered in honey and all gooey, and topped with multicolored candy ball sprinkles. They were wonderful! She used to make them at Easter time I believe. I don't know what they're called and have looked for the recipe for years. The chiacchiere seem to look the closest to what I remember except that they were not covered in powdered sugar. I may have to try making them and using the honey instead. My great grandmother died in 1977 and I haven't had them since then. :(

                            4. My Gram, Aunties, Mom and I would make "ribbon cookies". She would make a soft dough that had some orange zest in it, roll it out into thin strips using a pasta machine, then we would cut them into long 1" or so wide strips, pinch the sides together forming pockets, then pinch the pockets together forming a rosette. She would then fry them and we would drizzle with honey and top with powdered sugar.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: JEN10

                                Thanks for the idea Jen10. I think Grandma used to dredge her cookies in honey, not drizzle the honey on top. She did not use a machine. Good suggestion and sounds yummy too but I don't think that was it. As far as I remember, there was no orange taste.

                              2. Struffoli is the little fried balls, yeah? I can't spell it, or come up with the proper name, but I believe you're talking about "shill a nooze" (dialect)

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: BiscuitBoy

                                  Hum, that is a new one. I did see something about the turriddi but cannot remember them being that dense. My mom was busy this morning. Will call her to see if she can help. Thank you all again.

                                2. I believe they are called turriddi they are a dense cookie that is fried and then you pour warm honey on them and they all sort of stick together. Some recipes call for fig honey to be poured on them. They are yummy

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: baker7

                                    Do you have a recipe for the turriddi?

                                    1. re: roxlet

                                      I have seen a recipe on line for the turriddi.

                                  2. Mario Batali made struffoli on an episode of Molto Mario, back in the day, and after the honey syrup, he sprinkled on those little round multicolored candy balls that are used for topping ice cream. Cute.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: bushwickgirl

                                      Very interesting. Thank you for the information.

                                      1. re: bushwickgirl

                                        Yes, it's quite common to put those colored nonpareils on the stuff oil, however, I thought that Mario's recipe was needlessly complicated. Struffoli is extremely basic, the dough being made with just eggs, flour and a pinch of salt. Mario added all kinds of things, which was just gilding the lily, IMO.

                                        1. re: roxlet

                                          I actually don't remember his recipe at all, just the topping.

                                          Just checked Mario's recipe at FN; he adds orange zest and a little limoncello to the basic flour/eggs/salt, but he may have gone thirty steps beyond that on the show.

                                          1. re: roxlet

                                            I love the Giada recipe, but it is the only version I have ever tried.

                                          1. re: pinehurst

                                            They could be called zeppole but my mom checked her cookbook (Calabrian) and they called them struffoli. I guess they are made in balls and piled up like a Christmas tree. However, my Grandma used to make them a little different, pile them up in an old fashioned roasting pan and they looked like a tangled mass of metal as I recall (long time ago). I think she did that to save time or she was combining a couple of recipes. Any way you shape them, they are delish.

                                            1. re: momiecat

                                              Zeppole are more like large donut holes.

                                              1. re: chowser

                                                So true...NOT light n airy. Those were a fave of mine growing up...those, and these biscotti which would suck up 1/2 a cup of hot cocoa. :-)

                                                1. re: chowser

                                                  My grandmother would make zeppole two ways -- one, the regular way with sugar, and a savory version stuffed with an anchovy.

                                                  1. re: roxlet

                                                    When I started this post I never would have thought that it would turn out to have such interesting perspectives. Thank you one and all for the wonderful input. My Dad passed 3 years ago and, of course, my Grandma many years before that. The Italian traditions are not kept up as much as they used to be. I really miss that, especially out here on the West Coast. You have all helped to rekindle the old beloved memories.

                                                    1. re: momiecat

                                                      My aunt made long strips of dough and then rolled tightly in a circle, fried and honied...divine, and no one has her recipe. She called them Christmas Honey Crowns.

                                                      1. re: angelsmom

                                                        Not sure if u will get this. But I have been looking for yrs for this recipe. My grandma made these honey cookies and ur description sounds closest. I remember them being thin ribbons than she formed them into circles (almost like a spool of ribbon) and fried them. Then I remember they were covered in honey. Melt in ur mouth. Does this sound right? If so, do u have a recipe for this? Thanks!

                                                        1. re: ahecei

                                                          Could they be angel wings? There are many italian names, as I have been trying to find the name of the long, thin strips of dough, fried and either covered in honey or powdered sugar. My Italian great aunts always made them during the holidays and I have been asking relatives for the names. Everyone seems to have a different name for them. I am going to try this recipes to see how it compares: http://claudiagiulia.wordpress.com/20...
                                                          There are many other recipes out there, if you type in angel wing cookies

                                                          1. re: mels7777

                                                            Every village or town will have a different name for them, and maybe there will be subtle variations, but they will all be basically the same. They are known as cenci in Tuscany, for example:

                                                            1. re: roxlet

                                                              Mels7777 photo seems close but no powdered sugar. My grandmas was just honey. My mom thinks it was just her pasta dough recipe that she rolled into ribbon circles and fried them. Then coated in honey. Problem is she never had recipes. Just in her head.

                                                              1. re: ahecei

                                                                I think your mother is probably right since struffoli is exactly that.

                                                          2. re: ahecei

                                                            A lot of descriptions here sound very familiar but I just cannot seem to find one that exactly fits what I remember. Of course, that was probably 30-35 years ago, so my memory is vague. I never got a recipe from my Grandma and my Father (her son) has passed. I so wish I had gotten a recipe or paid closer attention to Grandma when she was "cooking" them. Christmastime always makes me think of her making these delicious "sweets".

                                                      2. re: roxlet

                                                        We call these "Crispelli" in my family, more like a fatter churro shape than round...but your grandma's sound awesome. I LOVE anchovy crispelli/zeppole.

                                                        1. re: pinehurst

                                                          See, I've always known crispelli to be somewhat the Italian version of crepes. Not fried, but folded and baked with a filling.
                                                          This is interesting.

                                                          1. re: Novelli

                                                            Yes, what many American Italians call manicotti, Marcella Hazan calls crespelle.

                                                  2. re: pinehurst

                                                    My family always called struffoli zeppole instead.

                                                  3. My dear friend and neighbor, Ann Leone, called them cenci. They were my husband's favorite and as we were trying to fatten him up, she would make them several times a year. They are both gone, now, but I appreciated the topic bringing memories of happy times.

                                                    They were stretched pastry dough that was deep fried, then dipped into honey and sprinkled with walnuts. I have her recipe for the dough.
                                                    2 pound bag white a.p. flour, about 1/3 cup vegetable shortening, 10 eggs. Combine and knead well. Roll out very thin with rolling pin (about 1/12 inch - almost as thin a phyllo) Cut into 1.5 in wide strips. Pinch the strip in half ( max length 15". press ends together to form a large or medium ring. Pastry ring can also be twisted to make a lover's knot. Fry in veg oil in small batches, draining on paper when done and golden brown. Slip the hot pastries into boiling honey, thinned with a little water and remove to platters. Sprinkle with walnuts. Your kitchen may never be the same but they are truly delicious.

                                                    1. My Calabrian Grandmother used to make the ones with the powdered sugar (like in Novelli's photo). She called them...Please excuse the spelling. I'm sure it's not right...Nagatali.If anyone knows the correct spelling (in dialect) I would love to see it. I'm guessing it has an apostrophe in it somewhere like N'gatali or maybe N'catali?

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: CathyGG

                                                        Couldn't say for sure. There's just too many ancient dialects.

                                                        But this is a nice reminder to all...Carnivale starts next week! Get that dough ready to fry!

                                                      2. My mother has been trying to respond to this but has been having trouble so I am responding for her.

                                                        This is something my grandmother would also make every Christmas and she would make a tower of them - one tray with honey and one with powdered sugar (we loved the honey ones most)!

                                                        If you google "cartellate" you can see some images of the ones my grandmother made, though she called them "Cartegate". All the ladies in my family will be getting together in a few weeks to make them and we were planning on videotaping so we have reference of the process. They are not an easy cookie to make! Let us know if this is the cookie you were referring to and if you would like to see the video!

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: memories

                                                          Hi "Memories", these do look VERY similar to what my grandmother made, however, hers were not that fancy. How are the shapes made? I would DEFINITELY like to see a video of the process. Most of my Italian relatives have passed on. You are so lucky to have family that still keeps up the traditions. Thank you!

                                                          1. re: momiecat

                                                            She is still having trouble responding! I don't think when I was younger I realized how intricate they were until my mom showed me how to make them a few years ago - I just remember the big mound of honey-sticky deliciousness all stuck together! The honey is not drizzled - it is melted and then each "face" is dipped in the honey and then turned over to settle - all of the little "holes" in the pinwheel hold the honey and soak into the cookie....this is making me hungry!

                                                          2. re: memories

                                                            We are Sicilian and we make Sfinge (it's something you make for St. Joseph's Day but we make them at Christmas and New Year's, too). They are fried and light inside, almost empty and you are supposed to stuff them like cream puffs, but we just roll them in warm honey and sprinkle them with cinnamon and powdered sugar and eat them warm.

                                                            They are similar to Zeppoli in terms of how they are made and how they look.

                                                          3. Can anyone link a great recipe for crostoli? Googling has been surprisingly light on results, and I want to make sure it's a good recipe.

                                                            I'd never had these until visiting Cristina's, a bakery/restaurant in Ketchum (aka Sun Valley) Idaho last winter. Cristina, who is from Tuscany, set out a bowl of freshly made crostoli by the cash register. I thought I was going to die, they were so good. But she only makes them on whim--you can't count on buying them there. She didn't use honey, like the OP--just powdered sugar.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: christy319

                                                              My go-tos for all things Italian are Lidia Bastianich and Nick Malgieri. Nick's recipe is in his book Cookies.

                                                              This is Lidias:


                                                            2. My grandmother used to make something we called schalede sounds like (skaleedy). It was a dough formed in a rope, cut into pieces, deep fried, then dipped in warm honey. The dough was flavored with anise and they would melt in our mouth, I am going to attempt to make them for the very first time. Unfortunately both of my grandmothers have passed away so I will not be able to get any words of wisdom from them, I only have a recipe that is somewhat of a mystery and the memory of how the dough feels when I used to help grandma roll and shape the pieces. If I can figure it out I will come back and post the recipe. Merry Christmas to all!!!

                                                              6 Replies
                                                              1. re: lisa1

                                                                I'm certain you are referring to Struffoli. The dough is very simple -- like a pasta dough, just eggs and flour -- and it's kneaded until "like silk," as my old aunt used to say. Once you let the dough rest, you make ropes, cut the ropes into pieces, and fry them. We didn't use anise, but some cinnamon was added to a 50-50 mix of honey and sugar that's heated until the sugar dissolves. Toss the pieces into the the honey/sugar/cinnamon mixture, and form them into a rough pyramid shape while tossing with multi-colored candy dots.

                                                                1. re: roxlet

                                                                  Roxlet, the way you describe Struffoli sounds very similar to what my Grandma used to make. I only wish I had pictures of them. I don't remember her using the cinnamon but honey and probably sugar and multi-colored sprinkles were used.

                                                                  1. re: momiecat

                                                                    I saw on the Chew, last year, Mario Batali made Struffoli, here is the link. http://abc.go.com/shows/the-chew/reci...
                                                                    I don't think I have ever had them, but they look very good.

                                                                      1. re: mels7777

                                                                        I don't put lemon in mine, and I put sugar and a little cinnamon in the honey. I'll be making them soon. I could eat them all day. I have zero resistance for these.

                                                                  2. My mom makes these right before easter. Little balls of dough that are fried and then covered in honey heated with cinnamon sticks. She is from Abruzzo and there they call them Cecechiati.

                                                                    1. My grandmother made them with us every Christmas. We called them something like Scawheelies (Not sure how to actually spell them, but I wish I did). After making the lump of dough my Grandmother cut the children strips so we could braid each one, they were then fried and dipped in Honey.