In most parts of Calabria, they are called Pignolata or Scalilli, but you can also find them in other parts of Southern Italy under a different name, for example, they are known as Struffoli in Naples and Cicerchiata in Abruzzo.
This Christmas dessert goes way back, we’re talking back to the period of Magna Graecia. This delicious treat is made up of marble-sized deep-fried balls of dough dipped in honey and piled up into a pyramid-like shape and sprinkled with multi-colored candied sprinkles. It looks so pretty, you’ll almost not want to eat it – almost!
Here is a fairly simple recipe that you could do at home and get the whole family involved.
3 cups flour (give or take)
3 tablespoons of softened unsalted butter
3 tablespoons of sugar
grated orange and lemon peel to taste
1 tablespoon of limoncello (you could also use anice, grappa, or even orange juice)
pinch of salt
oil for frying (peanut or sunflower is best)
honey (as much as needed)
colored sprinkles for decoration
Making the Dough:
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, grated orange and lemon peels, and a pinch of salt with a fork. Create a large crater in the middle of the flour and add the eggs to it. Whisk them a bit within the formed crater, before adding the softened butter. Continue mixing together for a bit more before adding the limoncello.
Now begin incorporating the flour into the wet mixture. Mixing with a fork in the large bowl will help combine the ingredients more effortlessly. When it starts to take form you can move to a lightly floured flat surface to knead the dough with your hands until it is soft and smooth.
Now cut the large dough into smaller sections and begin rolling them out into long strips about 1-1.5 centimeters thick. Chop the strips into smaller pieces, approx. 1 cm in length, roll into balls, and leave them on a floured surface.
In a deep pot, heat up about 1 liter of oil. Add the small balls of dough to the oil (you may need to do this in one or more batches) and fry them until they have a light golden brown color. Remove them from the oil and place them on a tray or in a bowl with paper towels to absorb the excess oil. Leave them to cool down before moving on to the next step.
Coating and Decorating:
In another pot, heat up some honey. Once the honey is melted, add the fried dough balls to the pot and stir them around for a bit so they become well-coated in honey.
Once coated, it’s time to plate your pignolata. You can choose to create a donut shape, pyramid, or whatever you want. Once assembled, decorate with colored sprinkles.
And there you have it, this wonderful Christmas treat is colorful and delicious, a perfect combination for the holiday period!
Enjoy and Happy Holidays!