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The Ultimate Italian Cookie Guide

It wouldn’t be the holidays without a cookie or two... or more than a few!

It wouldn’t be the holidays without a cookie or two…or more than a few! If you’re searching for some Italian inspiration for an upcoming cookie swap or holiday party, you’ve come to the right place.

As is often the case with Italian sweets, many of these goodies are traditionally made to help celebrate religious holidays like Easter or saint’s days. But we’re here to say they’re delicious all year round—and every one of them would make a welcome addition to your winter baking repertoire.  

Here are some of our favorite Italian cookies:

 

Baci di Dama

Make them! / Buy them!

The name of these sandwich cookies means “lady’s kisses,” a sweet nod to the way the two halves kiss a layer of chocolate between them. Invented in Tortona in the 19th century to showcase Piedmont’s beloved nocciola Piemontese, they are traditionally made with hazelnuts but can be found in a variety of flavors today. (We still like the hazelnut best!)

brutti ma buoni cookies

Brutti ma Buoni

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Looks aren’t everything when it comes to these “ugly but good” gems. Studded with fragrant roasted hazelnuts, these gluten-free macaron-like cookies are chewy, crunchy, and melting all at the same time. And they couldn’t be easier to make!

 

cantucci

Cantucci

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This is the proper name for the biscuit we know as biscotti, which in Italian just means “cookies.” Twice-baked and sliced, these ultra-crunchy, not-too-sweet biscuits are usually studded with nuts and simply beg to be dipped in coffee, tea, or a glass of vin santo.

Lemon Ricotta Cookies

Make them!

Giada's Lemon Ricotta Cookies are famous for a reason! These melt-in-your-mouth bites are soft and cake-like, with a perfectly puckering glaze.

 

Amaretti

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The icon from Saronno, these crisp-chewy almond-scented cookies have been beloved since the Middle Ages. Two surprising amaretti facts: They’re made with apricot kernels, not almonds, and they’re gluten-free! Plus, they come wrapped in tissue paper twists that are like opening a little present every time you snack.

 

 

 

pizzelle cookies

Pizzelle

From Abruzzo, these anise-flavored beauties are a Christmas showstopper. They’re cooked one by one in a special, intricately detailed waffle iron and can be rolled or shaped into cups while still warm before they cool into a thin, crisp wafer.

 

cookies

Chewy Almond Cherry Thumbprint Cookies

Make them!

Almond flour cookies are common in Italy, and the result is always a cookie that's deliciously chewy and soft all at once. The addition of cherry jam makes these irresistible. 

 Loaded Chocolate Chip Hazelnut Cookies

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How to give a classic chocolate chip cookie the Northern Italian spin: hazelnuts. A match made in dessert heaven, hazelnuts and chocolate come together to make the classic cookie even better.

 

Ricci

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Nutty and soft, these cheerful swirls are a specialty of Sicily. The name means “curls,” and they are traditionally piped into a festive rosette to maximize the crunchy edges to contrast the soft, almond-paste interior.

 

apulian almond cookies

Apulian Almond Cookies

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Almond trees thrive in the hot southern region of Puglia, and these chewy-crisp cookies rolled in sparkling sugar put them to sublime use. Also known as dolcetti di mandorle, they’re gluten- and dairy-free—and a tasty accompaniment to an afternoon coffee break.
 

Pignoli

Make them!

A southern Italian favorite around Christmastime, these cookies are a standout in Italian-American bakeries, too. A moist, egg white-and-almond paste dough is rolled in buttery, slightly bitter pine nuts for an elegant balance of flavors that pairs perfectly with an after-dinner glass of vin santo.

 

Italian Wedding Cookies

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Nothing says party like the shower of snowy icing sugar that results from taking a bite of these buttery shortbreads. Similar cookies go by different names across the globe, from polvorones in Mexico to kourabiedes in Greece—there’s a universal appeal in their melt-in-your-mouth texture and sweet extravagance. 

 

rococo cookies

Roccoco

Make them!

Loaded with warm spices like cinnamon and clove, these crunchy little rings are a Neapolitan Christmas favorite that dates back to the 14th century. They’re traditionally quite hard and dipped in a glass of marsala to soften them up, though Giada’s recipe takes a more delicate approach.

 

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