Italian Pignolatta
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Recipe courtesy of Gale Gand


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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 1 hr 15 min
  • Prep: 1 hr
  • Cook: 15 min
  • Yield: 12 to16 servings



  1. In a large ceramic bowl with a wooden spoon or in a mixer with a dough hook mix together the flour, eggs and salt to make a stiff dough that pulls away from the walls of the bowl. You may end up using your hands to finish the job if mixing with a wooden spoon. If the dough is still sticky to the touch add more flour. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth and doesn't stick to your fingers. . Quarter the dough and roll the segments into ropes the thickness of 1/2-inch. Cut off knobs of dough 1/2-inch long (some people roll these into balls but I don't).
  2. In a 3 quart saucepan heat oil for deep-frying to 365 degrees F. Fry the dough pieces until golden brown in batches, a handful at a time and drain on a paper towel. The dough will sink in the oil then come floating to the top. They do expand in the oil so leave them some room. Allow them to cool while you make the caramel.
  3. In a large saucepan combine the honey and sugar and bring to a boil. Working quickly with a wooden spoon stir in the fried dough pieces to coat them with the honey caramel. Quickly spoon the sticky dough balls onto 2 plates and form into a tall mound resembling a pine cone, then quickly sprinkle pine nuts or confetti sprinkles over the surface so they stick to the honey caramel before it cools and is no longer sticky. If there's a second person around to help with this, get them. It's a bit of a group or family project. You can also place smaller amounts into foil cup cake cups for individual servings. Let cool and serve. Keeps up to 1 week. To eat just pick off dough pieces and enjoy.
  4. Notes about the recipe: Some spell it Pinolata with one T. It sometimes has pine nuts or "pignolla" stirred into the caramel or is formed into the shape like a pine cone so the name may have come from that. In Sicily they're called Pignolata, in Naples (Italy, not Florida) the same thing is called Struffoli.
  5. I first had this at the holidays at an Italian friends house and they make them every year. But because they're fried they fit for Hanukah too. They're something you serve after a meal and really need coffee to wash them down. It's a very tactile dessert that you pick apart tiny caramelized nugget by tiny caramelized nugget.