Move over #Timbiebs, this Frittelle di Natale Fried Pizza Dough Balls Holiday Tree is what Italian Christmas dolce dreams are made of! I’m not sure there was a delight for my childhood senses more enticing than a fresh plate of Nonna’s Frittelle (aka Pizza Fritta or Zeppole) freshly made on her kitchen counter! They were the bomb dot com and the smell alone felt like we were at a carnival in her Cucina! A traditional Italian treat served after dinner or at breakfast time usually on Christmas Eve (and popular at Italian festivals), but can be enjoyed any time of year, really! A twist on the usual classic wreath-shaped version, try these balls & shape into a tree for a simple + festive Italo treat this holiday season. The hardest part is not burning the roof of your mouth & trying to eat just one of these tasty fried bomblets! 😉
What are Frittelle/Pizza Fritta?
Italian fried dough is pizza dough, deep-fried, and sprinkled with either powdered sugar, granulated sugar, or cinnamon sugar.
The pizza fritta/frittelle essentially translates to “fried dough” (or pancake, but it’s not really that!) and, depending on the region of Italy one’s family is from, has many different names. My father’s family was from the Ciociaria area of Italy and I remember Nonna calling these “Pizzelle” at times, but not sure if that’s how to name them as this could be confused with the traditional Italian cookie of the same name. Other names you may hear these fried dough bomblets topped with sugar delights are: Zeppole (although these are usually made with a different dough), Italian Carnival fritters, bomboloni, castagnole and/or, simply just fried Italian doughnuts.
They always taste best served hot! Be careful not to burn your mouth!
Fried Dough + Sugar Treats Around the World
So many cultures around the world fry dough for carnivals & holidays. Similar treats to the Frittelle would be:
BeaverTails (Canadian) – now we have “Timbiebs”…ha!
Koeksisters (South African)
Ingredients for the Frittelle di Natale Italian Fried Pizza Dough Tree
One of the reasons this treat is so popular is because of its affordable ingredients & how simple it is to make. The three main ingredients are: 1) Pizza dough (homemade or store-bought); 2) Olive Oil; 3) Sugar. That’s it!
To keep this recipe super simple we used a store-bought dough from an Italian bakery. Getting the dough into a ball-shape required a bit of flour dusted on a surface for rolling/forming. I didn’t use more than a ¼ cup of all-purpose flour.
How to Assemble the Frittelle di Natale Italian Fried Pizza Dough Tree
I used a small tree-shaped decoration I already had on-hand, wrapped it in aluminum foil, then stuff the hollow inside with more foil. Note: this would be exceptionally easier if you used a styrofoam cone you can buy from most crafting stores, but I just used what I had. After you wrap the “tree” in foil, fry your pizza dough balls & dust with sugar, stick a toothpick in behind each ball. Starting from the bottom (base) of your “tree”, insert your fried balls into the cone in a circular fashion. For each layer/tier, try to cover as much of the exposed foil in behind by staggering the balls above in between the ones below. I added fresh Rosemary sprigs randomly to fill in some spaces because they have the look of Christmas Tree branches but decorate as you wish. Building the “tree” was the trickiest part of this process, but she’s a beauty to add to your festive dessert table & worth it!
Frittelle di Natale Italian Fried Pizza Dough Balls Tree | La Cucina di Kerrs
- 1 700g bag Pizza Dough *we used pre-made from a bakery*
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil *enough to fill a skillet about ½ to ¾ inch*
- Granulated Sugar, Powdered Sugar and/or Cinnamon Sugar *enough to dust your fried dough balls*
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour *or less, to dust surface to form dough balls*
- On a lightly flour-dusted surface, lay your room temperature pizza dough out in a slab form and cut into thirds length-wise. Cut approx. 1 - 1.5 inch pieces of dough out of each strip. Roll each small piece into a ball shape & lay on a plate. I used approx. 30 balls for this tree. Make more/less as needed, depending on the size of your tree structure.
- Heat olive oil on medium-high. Very carefully drop in your pizza dough balls and fry until lightly golden, rotating continuously as they cook. My skillet fit the number of balls rendered from one full slab of pizza dough and took approx. 7-10 mins to cook.
- Once fried golden, remove your pizza dough balls with a stainless steel skimmer strainer or slotted spoon utensil and place on a paper towel-lined plate/platter to absorb excess oil. While the pizza dough balls are still warm, roll in granulated sugar on a plate. You could also add your sugar to a large paper bag, add the balls & shake to coat them.
- Set up the platter/dish you want to build the Frittelle di Natale tree on. I used a 6" cake stand.Grab you tree-shaped decoration, wrap it in aluminum foil, then stuff the hollow inside with more foil. Note: this would be exceptionally easier if you used a styrofoam cone you can buy from most crafting stores, but I just used what I had. One at a time, stick a toothpick in behind each fried dough ball. Starting from the bottom (base) of your "tree", insert your fried balls into the cone/tree in a circular fashion. For each layer/tier, try to cover as much of the exposed foil in behind by staggering the balls above in between the ones below.
- Add fresh rosemary sprigs/leaves or other greens to dress up your Fritelle di Natale tree and fill in some open spaces between the dough balls. Maraschino Cherries would work nicely as "ornaments" too. *Optional: dust your tree with powdered sugar to give it a snowy, wintry look! This Frittelle di Natale tastes best served warm, so put out as soon as it's assembled. Enjoy! Tag us @House_of_Kerrs if you try!
More Italian Dessert/Dolce Ideas
Here are some of my most favourite Italian dessert/sweet things we’ve shared from holidays’ past:
Homemade Italian Cannoli– Simplified
Holiday food traditions are one of my most favourite things about this time of year. If your family has a holiday family recipe we need to try, please do share! If you try this Frittelle di Natale Fried Pizza Dough Holiday Tree, we’d love to see a pic or tell us how it goes in comments below! And if you don’t have time to make these fresh, Timbiebs work too 😉
Happiest Holiday Season to you and yours! May it be filled with all the things that light you up & bring comfort + joy!
Keep well, eat well,