It is not Christmas in Campania if “Struffoli” are not prepared. If you happen to be in Campania during the Christmas period, it is good that you do not get caught unprepared when you hear this word. Indeed, do not leave without having tried this dessert: so simple, but so special! I’ll tell you about it in this short article.
First of all, the Neapolitan struffoli are typical sweets of the Christmas period. It is a dessert made up of balls of sweet dough, fried in oil or lard. After being fried, the balls are mixed with hot honey and decorated with candied fruit, pieces of cedar, and colored sprinkles (called “littele devils”).
In no house, restaurant or pastry shop, you will find the same typology of struffoli. There are those who prefer smaller balls because they absorb honey better, or those who prefer balls of about one centimeter in diameter. There are those who arrange them in the shape of a donut to be cut into slices, and those who prefer to put them on a plate and take them with a spoon. Each house has the its unique tradition, handed down by mothers and grandmothers.
Now we come to some curiosities. It is said that, originally, in Naples, struffoli were prepared in the convents by the nuns, to then be donated, during Christmas time, to noble families who had distinguished themselves for acts of charity. But, here, not even the struffoli were invented in Naples as it is for the “Babbà” (you can read it here). So, who invented struffoli?
It was probably the Greeks, who, in the period of Magna Graecia, brought the struffoli to Campania. The name “struffolo”, in fact, derives from the Greek, precisely from the word στρόγγυλος ( stróngylos , pron. “ strongoulos ” or “ stroggulos “) which means “round in shape“. In Greece, in fact, you can still eat desserts very similar to the struffoli, called Loukoumádes, and also present in Turkey in the salty version with the name “tuzlu Lokma” (salty Lokma).
Whatever their origin, the colorful struffoli are now part of the Christmas gastronomic tradition of Naples and all of Campania. You just have to come and try them!