The aromatic, crunchy nuggets melt in the mouth. The sweet caramelized and orange-scented honey coating complements the cloves and Anisette in the dough perfectly. Nonna LaRuffa’s Pignolata is a delectable dessert, and subtly addictive. Once you start eating these honey covered morsels, you just can’t stop.

Nonna LaRuffa's Pignolata (Struffoli)
There's no formal decoration for Pignolata (Struffoli). You can use just sprinkles or add as many things as you like. We have even seen them with candy-coated licorice and candied fruits.
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 7 to 8 pounds
  • 5 pounds flour, all-purpose, sifted (plus more for the board)
  • 14 eggs, large
  • 2 1/2 Cups sugar, granulated
  • 2 Tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cloves
  • anisette (enough to wet the dough)
  • 1/2 pound Crisco shortening
  • 3 to 5 pounds shortening
  • 1/2 Cup honey
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 3 drops orange extract
  • non-pareil sprinkles (multi-colored)
  • Jordan almonds
  • silver dragees
  • glace cherries (red and green)
  • candied citron
  1. Mix dry ingredients thoroughly. Cut in the shortening. Make a deep well and add the eggs. Work the eggs into the flour mixture to form a dough which will be very dense and dry. Do not add water, only Anisette. Knead very well.
  2. Cover the dough with a clean dish towel and let rest for at least 30 minutes, but as much as 3 hours to allow the dough to relax and absorb all the flavors.
  3. Cut the dough into 12 even slices.
  4. Roll each piece into a long round piece about 1/2 to 3/4 inch in diameter. With a sharp knife (not serrated), cut small nuggets. If the long roll is 1/2 inch, each piece should be 1/2 inc long so pieces are even. Repeat until all the dough is cut into small nuggets.
  5. Place pieces on cookie trays or jelly roll pans and set aside under towels.
  6. Heat at least 3 pounds of shortening in a deep pot over medium to high heat. Keep a candy or other thermometer in the oil and maintain it at 375 degrees F.
  7. With a flat pierced spatula, place a scoop full of cut pieces gently in the oil. Don't drop them in as the oil will splash and can burn you.
  8. Using a strainer or pierced spoon, keep the pieces moving and cook only about 3 minutes until they are golden brown.
  9. Remove to a roasting pan lined with at least 3 layers of paper towels.
  10. Fry until all the pieces are cooked. Set aside to cool.
  11. When fully cooled and at room temperature, put the cooked nuggets into individual zip-lock plastic bags and freeze until ready to use.
  12. When ready, take as much as you will need from the freezer and set aside for at least 30 minutes.
  13. While the dough is coming to room temperature, in a medium pot, pour honey and sprinkle with sugar. Bring this to a simmer, but do not boil. Add drops of orange extract and stir before adding the nuggets.
  14. Using a slotted spoon, gently fold small amounts of nuggets at a time with the melted honey over medium heat. Make sure the nuggets are fully coated with the honey glaze before removing and adding another portion to the honey.
  15. On a plate or platter, spoon out the nuggets and spread multi-colored sprinkles.
  16. For formal presentation, make a ring and add sprinkles with each layer you build up.
  17. Once nearly completed, keep remaining honey warm and pour over the ring before garnishing with dragees, Jordan Almonds, citron and glaced cherries.
  18. Guests will eat the nuggets with their fingers or you can scoop out a section for individual portions.
Nonna LaRuffa was our Publisher's grandmother and a celebrated Italian chef who consulted for restaurants in the 1930s to 1950's. She was also a consulting chef for "The Bontempi's" the first Italian cooking show on television in the early 1950's.

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