Chewy Amaretti Cookies on white serving platter with red napkin in background
Christmas Cookies Galore

The Best Italian Cookies for your Holiday Platter

Etched into my memories of Christmastime as a child is a vision of my grandmother, fresh off the plane from Pennsylvania, suitcases chock full of Maxwell house coffee tins. She’d pull off the lids to reveal carefully packed layers of wax paper and dozens and dozens of Christmas cookies, of all different shapes and sizes.

Christmas Eve was our family’s big holiday, when we would host over 30 people for a traditional Slovakian dinner. In my earliest memories, my grandmother was at the helm and set the direction for all that we ate. Why she chose to make scores of Italian cookies when all of her family was Eastern European, and the rest of the meal was firmly Slovakian, I’m not quite sure. Of course, there were Slovakian treats, as well, like her nut horns and poppy seed rolls, but at least half of the cookie tins were filled with Italian specialties.

Maybe it’s because Italians do cookies well… like really well. Though these are not my grandmother’s recipes, in the spirit of tradition I’ll be making a fully Italian cookie platter for Christmas Eve this year. Any one of these options would be an amazing addition to your own holiday cookie plate.

A Chewy Almond Cookie

These almond flour cookies are a traditional treat in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. And they are your go-to cookie if you need a gluten-free option on your cookie plate. Made only with almond flour, egg whites, sugar, lemon zest and vanilla, they are a simple cookie with a fantastic flavor.

Chewy Amaretti Cookies

These are called Amaretti in Modena, Italy, which is where I first tried them. In true Italian fashion, they are amazing for their simplicity and pure, unadulterated flavor. Just five ingredients and very little effort make a soft and chewy almond cookie that keeps well and tastes incredible.
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Crisp and Nutty Biscotti

Rosemary and pine nuts add a sophisticated touch to these sweet biscotti. I love the interplay of these amongst other holiday cookies. They are decidedly not savory, but because of the pine nuts and woodsy rosemary, offer a welcome contrast to the sweeter and more traditional flavors of Christmas cookies.

Rosemary Pine Nut Biscotti

These biscotti are a little more tender, due to the butter in the dough. Many biscotti I find the need to dunk in a steaming mug of tea or coffee, but these can be enjoyed without any softening. They are a perfect fall and wintertime cookie for any occasion, or no occasion at all.
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Soft and Moist Lemon Cookies

A classic Lemon ricotta cookie is an asset to any cookie platter. It’s bright, soft and sweet and can offer a textural contrast to other crispy Christmas cookies on the plate, as well as bring a sunny citrus flavor. Mine are a simple, one bowl recipe that doesn’t compromise on taste.

Lemon Ricotta Cookies

These cookies are best if you can refrigerate the dough overnight, so try to plan ahead. If you are short on time, the minimum is 2 hours of refrigeration. It is important that the dough is chilled when it goes into the oven. Pop them back in the fridge for 20 minutes after you've rolled them before baking. This will ensure a fluffy, not flat, cookie.
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Traditional Almond Cornmeal Cookie

I adore this rustic cookie on my holiday platter for the statement it makes, as well as its wonderfully crumbly and crunchy texture. It is baked in a cake pan and broken into jagged pieces to serve, which gives the sense of sharing something communal. It is also delicious, with big chunks of hazelnuts, thin and crispy almonds, and a subtle lemony flavor.

Sbrisolona Rustic Italian Cookie

While traveling through the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, Sbrisolona would be served to us at the end of the meal with a coffee or cup of tea. They are wonderful, crackly and sweet and studded with nuts, and are simple to make. The dough goes into a round cake pan and baked until crispy, then is broken into pieces for a rustic presentation.
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A Richly Spiced Sicilian Treat

Also known by the name Tetu in Sicily, which means for me and you, these cookies are made to be shared around the holidays. They are heady with spices, and dipped in a sweet glaze for a pretty finish.

Sicilian Spice Cookies

These richly spiced chocolate cookies are traditional in Sicily around the holidays. Made of flour, almond flour, cocoa, and lots of butter, they are spiked with cinnamon, cloves and orange zest for a dense, moist and flavorful cookie.
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