People around the world are familiar with popular Italian desserts like cannoli and tiramisu. But did you know that Italy is also well-known for its array of delectable cookies?
Italian cookies are an underrated sweet that are sold in bakeries all around the country. In fact, it’s pretty easy to say that cookies are the crown jewels of Italian confections!
With every family possessing secret recipes stemming from the many generations before, Italian cookies can oftentimes be sacred bakes tied up in a whole lot of history.
That being said, here are some delicious age-old Italian cookie recipes that you just have to try — whether you’re a professional baker or a complete novice.
These cookies get their name from their pinched appearance. Pizzicati are crunchy and buttery on the outside which blends seamlessly with their soft interior. They are usually best paired with raspberry jam or Nutella for added flavor.
Pizzicati cookies are typically made in the winter but make for a great treat all year round! This particular recipe will make 30 cookies for you to enjoy.
These are buttery, rich, sweet, and delightfully nutty cookies. Traditionally flavored with vanilla, the Italian wedding cake (see also ‘28 Quirky Untraditional Wedding Cake Flavors‘) cookie recipe has since been altered to work effortlessly with lemon or anise flavorings.
Though this recipe involves a 45-minute prep time and a 15-minute cooking time, these cookies are more than worth it! You can even add the vanilla paste to achieve more of a textured appearance.
For a cookie with more non-traditional flavors and an unexpected appearance, why not give Struffoli a chance?
Struffoli Italian honey balls are small, decorated dough balls that are typically flavored with anise and cinnamon. These bite-sized cookies are lightly deep fried to get their iconic outer coating that ensures each mouthful contains a distinctive crunch.
However you choose to present them, these sweet and light cookies will be a welcome addition to any holiday party!
If you want a simpler cookie that pairs well with your favorite hot beverage, the Esse cookie is a popular choice. These “S” shaped cookies are traditional Easter bakes (see also ‘33 Delicious Easter Desserts‘) with a subtle flavor profile of lemon and vanilla.
You can also substitute the lemon for a zestier orange flavor. With a crisp outer edge and a chewy and soft inside, these cookies are absolutely delightful.
Italian pizzelle cookies are a traditional Italian dessert, typically made for holidays and special occasions. The batter-like dough of this recipe is pressed and baked on a special iron to form its iconic shape and is then topped with powdered sugar.
The best part? You don’t need baking experience to make and customize these thin, tender, Italian waffle-style cookies! If you want to make chocolate pizzelle cookies, you can add ¼ cup of cocoa powder into the baking powder mixture.
If you’re a fan of citrus flavors, look no further than the melt-in-your-mouth Italian lemon drop cookie! Providing a decadent blend of buttery, zesty, and sweet flavors, you can enjoy these cookies and their delightful lemon glaze without puckering your lips.
Easy to make and just as tasty, this recipe can easily provide up to 24 cookies.
The Pignoli cookie is a standard confection available at any Italian bakery. With a simple, fragrant, and elegant appearance and taste, this iconic cookie is a complete must-try!
These cookies are dense and soft thanks to a delightful blend of egg whites, almond paste, and sugar. The contrast of the toasted, golden savory pine nut exterior and a chewy almond-flavored center makes these cookies a great option for any occasion.
If you’re seeking a cookie with lots of visual appeal, look no further than these light and elegant rolled cinnamon twirl delights!
Not only does this family-friendly bake look great but it also tastes excellent. In fact, its scrumptiously sugary mixture of cinnamon and walnut makes every bite an experience that you’ll want to savor!
This particular recipe will make 64 cookies.
Think of a classic Italian wedding cookie but with a colorful and tasty twist, and you’ve got the Italian sprinkle cookie!
An age-old recipe, Italian sprinkle cookies are soft, sweet, and downright delicious. Dunked in a tasty glaze and topped with colorful sprinkles, they are a must-have addition for any holiday or special occasion!
From the Piedmont region of northern Italy, the Italian Torcetti cookie is a twisted, sugar-coated confection with a soft bread-like interior and a crunchy exterior.
They are traditional cookies but aren’t overly sweet, meaning they have a widespread appeal that has withstood the test of time. The diversity of these cookies makes them ideal as a snack, an accompaniment to your favorite hot beverage, or even as a breakfast treat!
These double chocolate chip delights are some of the most popular cookies in Italy. With an iconic taste that is revered by many and an iconic drop shape to spark intrigue, Gocciole cookies are a popular treat in both professional and home baking environments.
Adding cocoa to this bake is what gives these cookies their indulgent drool-worthy chocolate flavoring.
If it’s a flavor explosion you’re after, you’ve come to the right place! Filled with pistachios and real chocolate, and baked into a single crunchy biscuit, this easy-to-make cookie is the pinnacle of old Italian bakes.
The dry and crisp composition of the chocolate pistachio cookie makes it perfect for dipping into your coffee or as an accompaniment to a glass of milk.
This classic Italian treat comes together in a snap! Featuring a crunchy toasted sesame seed exterior and a soft center subtly laced with sharp lemon zest, this is a traditional delight that will truly delight the senses.
If this recipe is followed correctly, you will yield 24 cookies and create balanced flavors that are not too sweet but still pack a punch. The classic family favorite is also quite easy to make!
With a chewy, smooth, and decadent flavor that simply melts in your mouth, this delicious old family recipe is a traditional holiday treat that cannot be missed. This easy cookie recipe is also good for satisfying your cravings at any other time of year!
Perfect for people of all ages, these chewy cookies make for a tasty snack or a more than adequate dessert. To top these cookies off, roll them in powdered sugar. This will give them their iconic ‘frosted’ appearance.
Spritz cookies are just as easy to make as they are delicious to eat!
With a buttery and delicate flavor, these tender cookies are available to purchase all year round in traditional Italian bakeries. Yet there’s nothing better than making some homemade spritz cookies during the holidays.
Decorating these cookies can also be fun! Experiment with colored sugar or icing, chopped nuts, melted chocolate, or cake sprinkles.
These are moist, soft, and almost cake-like sugar cookies that are decorated with a simple but effective glaze and colorful sprinkles. Traditional ricotta cookies will taste ever so slightly of lemon. It’s not overpowering flavor but definitely adds some dimension!
But if you’re not a huge fan of lemon, you could also try substituting the zest and lemon juice with almond to create a sweeter, nuttier flavor throughout the cookie.
A traditional Amaretti cookie is made from a base of flour, egg whites, and sugar, and is renowned for its soft and chewy center. Yet if you’re looking for a cookie with more sweetness, you should add some cocoa powder for a chocolate sensation!
The perfect afternoon pick-me-up, this chocolate amaretti cookie recipe is easy to follow and can provide up to 17 servings.
18. Polenta Cookies
Originating from northern Italy, these family favorite cookies are typically served with a glass of dolcetto or creamy zabaione as a delightful post-dinner treat. Like most biscotti, they also pair well with an espresso.
With a sweetened corn taste and a porridge-like consistency, the profile flavor of these cookies is extremely satisfying. This recipe makes 32 cookies for you to enjoy.
Made with just a few simple ingredients, holiday baking has never been easier! These bakery-style Italian butter cookies will make you feel right at home.
Traditionally, these cookies are buttery and rich with vanilla extract. They are generally on the softer side yet they aren’t chewy. Instead, they melt in your mouth! The simple yet effective flavors pair well with dark chocolate and a tangy raspberry jam.
Baci di Dama cookies consist of two buttery hazelnut cookies that are then sandwiched with a dollop of indulgent dark chocolate. It’s not only an incredible snack but doubles as the perfect holiday cookie, too!
If you want to change things up you can swap the vanilla extract for maple syrup. It’ll provide a hint of sweetness that is a little thicker but without compromising the taste and texture of the cookie.
21. Cannoli Cookies
If you love the timeless flavors of traditional Italian cannoli, this is a treat you can’t miss out on! Made with chocolate chips, pistachios, and ricotta, cannoli cookies are an excellent treat for the holidays.
These cookies are typically soft inside with a crisp outer shell. With additional bursts of orange zest and ground cinnamon, these cookies have a balanced and highly addictive flavor that will have you coming back for more!
22. Fave Dei Morti
Fave Dei Morti, or beans of the dead, are typically prepared for Ognissanti (All Saints Day) and Tutti I Morti (All Souls Day) on the first two days of November.
There are many variations of the cookie. In this recipe, however, these macaron-like almond cookies are made with rum and cinnamon. This adds a powerful dose of personality to the dough, resulting in a punchier-tasting cookie to enjoy.
For a wonderful-tasting cookie with lots of history, the canestrelli is the perfect bake for you. Canestrelli has a super soft and tender buttery texture that is almost shortbread-like in its execution.
However, it’s the additional crunch of the biscuit, the touch of lemon, and the powdered sugar finish that truly makes this cookie stand out.
There’s nothing quite like a nutty almond cookie. Enter Ricciarelli di Siena!
Traditionally made with sugar, egg whites, and almonds, this is a relatively easy recipe to follow.
The only downside is it will take time to make as the cookie dough must rest before it can be shaped into its signature lozenges. You could also get experimental by adding flavorings like lemon and orange peel to your creation.
25. Befanini Cookies
Befinini cookies are the definition of a super easy bake! These traditional shortbread cookies are served on La Befana, or the day of Epiphany, and are as colorful as they are tasty.
Though every Befanini family recipe has a special twist, the general ingredients remain the same: butter, flour, eggs, sugar, and even a pinch of salt. With total baking time just exceeding an hour, these treats are more than worth the wait!
If you’re after an Instagram-worthy Christmas bake, look no further! These cute cookies are crunchy on the outside and moist on the inside, inviting a balanced taste that will tantalize your tastebuds.
This means you can dip them in prosecco at lunch or eat them at breakfast time!
Top with a glaze and dip in sprinkles for a holiday treat you’ll love.
Savoiardi cookies are easy to make and are perfect for dunking in your morning coffee! These oval-shaped Italian sponge fingers have a soft and fluffy texture that makes them ideal additions to desserts including trifles and soaking up the flavors of tiramisu.
This recipe is easy to follow and will create between 4 and 6 servings for you to enjoy.
If you’re looking to add something else to your baking roundup, these tiramisu sandwich cookies are a must-try!
Tiramisu first came about in the early 19th century, making it one of Italy’s most history-rich desserts (see also ‘35 Of The Most Incredible And Easiest Desserts You Can Make At Home‘). These bite-sized cookies pay homage to the timeless flavors of a tiramisu dessert (see also ‘27 Easy Mini-Desserts Recipes‘) all in a small, easily-digestible package.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Do Italian Cookies Taste like?
Italian cookies are traditionally flavored with anise. In many cases, anise can be substituted for either almond or vanilla. This depends on other ingredients in the recipe.
What Is The Most Popular Italian Cookie?
The amaretti is a popular cookie that is favored all around Italy. It is very sweet and is made of almond paste or ground almonds, egg whites, and sugar.
What Is An Italian Cookie Called?
Biscotti is the general term used when referring to Italian biscuits or cookies. Its literal translation is as follows: twice (bis) cooked (cotti).
These are some of the most delicious Italian cookie recipes you need to know. Feel free to try your hand at baking any of these delightful goodies. With easy-to-follow instructions and the right kind of tools, you could be a baking whizz in no time!