Recipe: Dr. Jo’s pignolata

This season, we’ve asked our FOX 13 staff to share some of their favorite holiday cookies – and the memories that go along with them.

Here's the recipe for the Sicilian treat pignolata, as written by Dr. Joette Giovinco:

It is best to watch someone who is proficient in making pignolata, rather than trying it on your own for the first time. This is clearly not a healthy recipe but it is one that has been passed down in my family. 


2 lbs. flour (Tampa tradition is to buy it from La Segunda bakery in Ybor City) 
10 eggs – beaten (may need more)
1 teaspoon baking powder
Shortening (we use solid Crisco)
Honey (we use Sue Bee; light clover)
Multi-colored nonpareil (optional)    


Mix to make the dough until all the flour is absorbed.   You may need more eggs to get the dough to the right consistency. 

Knead dough until smooth. 

Put handful on cutting board and continue to knead until all the lumps are gone.

Take small amounts of dough and create long, narrow strips.   The strips need to be smaller than the diameter of a pencil.

Let stand a few minutes and then begin cutting them into in to tiny kernels. 

If you have a deep fryer and basket with a thermostat, that works well.

Heat the oil and place the kernels in the basket.   Allow them to separate, then stir until light golden brown.  Do not overcook! 

Place them on a plate or large colander lined with paper towels to absorb excess oil.   Add another paper towel to separate each batch.    

Repeat the process until all the kernels are fried. 

The oil will have a tendency to foam up over time so you might have to start with fresh shortening.   

Some cooks will add a little bit of extra Crisco with each batch to cool the oil down and replace the oil absorbed by the kernels.  Others alternate pots, allowing one pot to cool off the burner, in between batches.

Once the kernels are ready, you will have to coat them in a sugar / honey mix. Use ¾ cup of sugar and 1-2 Tbs honey per batch.

Melt the sugar in a pan at very low heat until it is a golden brown liquid.   Then add the honey.  

You will have to make several batches of this until all the kernels are coated.  

Coat small batches of kernels by placing them into the pot and stirring until they are covered with the mixture. 

Place about 3 Tbs into each muffin cup and allow to cool a little (they will be very hot – so we keep a small bowl with ice water nearby to cool fingers).

Form them into small cones on nonstick surface, like a cookie sheet, and sprinkle with nonpareils. 

After they cool you can store them in an airtight container or plastic bags.