Italian Christmas Cookies

This is a traditional recipe that was always made in Italian homes for special occasions when I was growing up.  I used to envy friends that had Italian grandmothers.  Before special holidays, their homes would smell of lemon or anise.  There would be trays of cookies drying on beds so they could be packed in cookie tins.  The cookies would be hand shaped in to S shapes or balls. The icing with sprinkles of nonpareils on top was to dry hard so the cookies could be enjoyed with a hot beverage. Making these cookies was a family event and everyone would help.  It didn’t matter how poor you were, the low cost ingredients could be found in the pantry.  

I am sharing this simple inexpensive cookie recipe because food is inflating rapidly right now.  This little humble cookie can be a nice addition to your holiday baking.  Out of curiosity, what are you seeing in your local area as far as availability and prices?  I am seeing prices climb fast and shelves thin out.  I had trouble finding barley and tapioca. It took weeks of searching until a store got some in.  

Italian Christmas Cookies

  • Servings: 30 servings
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • Cookies
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons flavoring extract ( lemon, anise or vanilla) 
  • Frosting
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup. warm milk
  • 1 teaspoon flavoring extract (lemon, anise or vanilla)
  • Nonpareils 


Preheat oven 350 degrees.  Prepare cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Sift together flour, sugar and baking powder in a bowl.  Set aside.  Cream sugar and shortening in a large mixing bowl on medium speed.  Add egg and flavoring.  On slow speed add half of milk and half of flour mixture and mix,  Repeat ending with flour.  Mix until blended. 

Roll dough into ball into 1 inch balls.  Place on cookie sheet 2 inches apart.  Bake at 350 degrees for to 10 to 12 minutes until lightly brown on bottom. 

Mix powdered sugar, warm milk and flavoring with a fork.  This is a thin frosting add milk if too thick.

Dip cookie tops when the cookies are still very warm one of time into frosting and sprinkle with nonpareils before dipping the next cookie.  The frosting sets up quickly from the hot cookies.  Let cookies dry for 8 hours before storing.


10 Comments Add yours

  1. Lovely cookies for the holidays. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. trkingmomoe says:

    Thank you. It is a very simple recipe and fun to make.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh yes I had these growing up in NY and they are so good!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. trkingmomoe says:

      It a recipe that has a history of nice memories. I enjoy sharing recipes like this. Thanks for stopping in.


  4. BERNADETTE says:

    My mother in law used to make these. They are good and economical.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I grew up in Austria and I remember the cookies. So yummy.


  6. Such special little treats! I can see a few of these on a plate for Santa!


  7. Charming post! I still envy friends who have Italian grandmothers.


  8. slfinnell says:

    Thanks for sharing this timeless recipe!


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