If you're lucky enough to have an Italian nonna IRL, you're likely well acquainted with those iconic tins of classic Italian cookies. With all the greats, like pignoli cookies, Italian ricotta cookies, and oven-baked pizzelles inside, we knew we had to figure out how to replicate the experience at home. Turns out, it's never been easier to whip up a batch of cookies just like Nonna—or give your favorite Italian desserts an unexpected twist, like we did with our cannoli cookies. Fair warning, your cookie jar is about to reach max capacity. Prego!
Our litmus test for a perfect cookie is as simple as asking, "How well does it go with espresso?" So we'd be remiss not to mention one of our favorite Italian cookies of all time: crispy, crunchy biscotti. Biscotti alone make us excited to eat breakfast, hence our need to make them in any and all flavor combos. We've got a nutty chocolate peppermint biscotti for when you're feeling ultra-decadent, and our recipe for white chocolate cranberry orange biscotti is always a welcome hostess gift. Pro tip: Dunk our pumpkin spice chocolate chip biscotti in hot chocolate for the ultimate fall treat.
We already thank the Italians for creating many of our favorite pasta dishes, but they clearly know their way around a pastry kitchen too. And you don't need to board a flight to Sicily to sample the best of the best; our recipes for struffoli, cuccidati, and amaretti cookies taste just like the classics, no plane ticket required.
If Fig Newtons had a grown-up, glamorous sister, she would be cuccidati. Packed with a sticky-sweet, spiced fig filling and showered in rainbow sprinkles, these bite-sized Italian cookies are more than ready for a party. They’re traditionally made during the winter holidays, but to be honest, we think they’d be perfect for any celebration, any time of the year.
Get the Cuccidati recipe.
Most people who are familiar with pizzelles won’t associate them with the oven. But because not everyone is going to get their hands on a specialty pizzelle waffle iron—unless it was passed down from generations of grandparents—then how do you make them? Answer: cookie stamps!
Get the Oven Baked Pizzelles recipe.
Biscotti are Italian cookies that are initially baked in a large flat log, then cut and baked once more into toasted and crunchy treats. We love it simple with sliced almonds, but pistachios, pine nuts, raisins or dried cranberries, and chocolate chips are all great mix-ins. They're the perfect any day treat (particularly dipped in coffee or hot apple cider).
Get the Biscotti recipe.
If you love cannoli but making them from scratch seems daunting, let us introduce you to cannoli cookies. This cookie recipe has all of the flavors you love in a cannoli, like ricotta, orange zest, mini chocolate chips, and pistachios, but with a fraction of the effort. The result is a soft, cake-like cookie with flavors that are reminiscent of cannoli.
Get the Cannoli Cookies recipe.
Sesame’s nutty flavors can pack a bitter undertone, which is why these sesame cookies use licorice-like anise and bright citrus zest to neutralize the earthiness for a more balanced flavor. Have some for a simple breakfast with a cup of espresso for the full experience!
Get the Sesame Cookies recipe.
Struffoli are a traditional Neapolitan dessert served at Christmas. To make struffoli, little balls of dough are flavored with citrus zest and a splash of wine, deep-fried until crispy and light, and tossed in honey to sweeten the deal. As if this isn’t already enough of a delight, the balls then get shaped into a wreath (the honey comes into play again, helping everything stick together) and covered in rainbow nonpareil sprinkles.
Get the Struffoli recipe.
To think a fluffy, enriched bread can somehow translate into a buttery cookie might seem preposterous. But don’t stop reading! These cookie are the perfect base for the orange peel, currants, dried apricots, chocolate, and almonds you love about the original, with half the work.
Get the Panettone Cookies recipe.
The treat is studded with pignoli, Italian for pine nuts, and gets even more nutty flavor from a hefty amount of almond paste (one of our favorite secret weapons in baked goods for its rich, slightly sweet flavor). Egg whites help give the cookies a superbly chewy and airy texture, and also help make this cookie totally gluten-free—no flour required!
Get the Pignoli Cookies recipe.
What really sets this version apart from most other biscotti recipes is the use of whole wheat flour. Not only does it add a little nutritional bump, it also contributes a slight nutty-sweetness that pairs really well with the dark cocoa powder, subtle peppermint, and crunchy almonds.
Originally served at weddings (to symbolize tying the knot), these Italian cookies now commonly found at holiday gatherings too. A soft but sturdy dough is flavored with lemon juice and zest, then rolled into a knot. After baking, it gets dipped in a lemon-y glaze and finished with even more zest.
Get the Italian Lemon Cookies recipe.
Tahini cookies are kind of like a more grown-up version of your favorite peanut butter cookie and so much better. They're soft with a slight chew, and sesame seeds on the outside add a slight crunch. The flavor is spot on and will make you start using tahini in all of your baking projects (like in this easy halva).
Get the Tahini Cookies recipe.
A lot of treats consider themselves coffee/tea companions, but none hold a candle to the crispy, crunchy goodness that is the humble biscotti. These have the classic flavor combination of cranberry and orange, and we dipped in white chocolate and coated in chopped pistachios to add a little extra indulgence.
Think of your favorite chocolate chip cookie… Are they chewy? COVERED in giant chocolate chips? Vegan? Soft and fudgy? Whatever your favorite, we’re here to tell you, they can ALL be improved by the addition of one simple ingredient—ground pistachios. Pistachios add a slightly sweet, almost buttery nutty flavor that will make your cookies feel a little bit elevated, but still just as classic and comforting. These cookies are chewy in the center with crisp edges and get a beautiful crinkled top.
Okay, so technically these aren't 100% Italian, but Pepperidge Farm did base these on an Italian-style cookie, and the rest is delicious history. Crisp and sweet, and sometimes minty, Milano cookies enjoy their perch atop the list of sophisticated cookies from our childhood (and adulthood, to be fair).
Get the Copycat Milano Cookies recipe.
These little guys might look simple, but they're dangerously good. There's a healthy dose of salt in the dough, making it easy to down four or five without overdosing on sugar. Make sure to serve them up with a cup of coffee for dipping!
Get the Butter Cookies recipe.