Guido Pedrelli, the mastermind behind Nonna Box, has honed his culinary expertise for decades, inspired by family feasts in Emilia-Romagna. Mentored by his restaurateur nonna, he mastered Italian classics and furthered his skills with professional culinary studies in desserts and gelato making from Mec3. Today, he shares this rich legacy and authentic recipes through Nonna Box.
Expertise: Italian cuisine, Pasta, Pizza, Pastry, Dessert
During my childhood in Italy, when Christmas was just around the corner, I would often be greeted with a big batch of colorful Italian Christmas cookies with sweet sugar glaze on the kitchen counter upon my return from school. My mom loved to bake these delicious cookies and share with neighbors and family members during the holidays.
So, if you love a delicious, one batch cookie recipe look no further. I have got you covered for your next Christmas cookie exchange with this super simple and delicious cookie recipe that you can whip up in no time.
medium bowl and small bowl to make both the cookie dough and the frosting.
whisk to mix the glaze ingredients.
wooden spoon or spatula for mixing cookie ingredients.
baking sheet lined with parchment paper to bake cookies.
stand mixer is optional for mixing dough.
wire rack to cool the cookies.
Vegetable oil (6 Tbsp) – although many Italian Christmas cookie recipes call for butter, this recipe calls for vegetable oil. Be sure to use a very mild oil so it doesn’t alter the flavor of the cookies.
Eggs (2) – let the eggs sit out for several minutes to come up to room temperature before using them.
Sugar (½ cup granulated sugar + 2 cups powdered sugar) – you will need regular white sugar to make the Italian Christmas cookies and then powdered sugar to make the sweet sugar glaze.
Flavoring (1 tsp for cookies + 1 tsp for glaze) – you can choose between anise, almond or vanilla extract.
All-purpose flour (2 cups) – in Italy, my mom uses “00” flour, but in the states I use all-purpose flour to make these Italian Christmas cookies.
Baking powder (2 tsp) – be sure to use fresh baking powder so your Christmas cookies get nice and puffy.
Salt (2 pinches) – the salt helps the cookie stay moist and also brings out the sugary flavor, but if you are sensitive to salt you can leave it out.
Milk (4 tbsp) – you can use whole milk or cream which should be warmed but not boiled.
Christmas sprinkles (as desired) – I love to use festive colors such as red and green sprinkles or even white sprinkles, and always put a generous amount of sprinkles on top for a beautiful look.
How to make Italian Christmas cookies recipe step-by-step
Make the cookie dough: Start by putting the oil, eggs, white sugar and extract of your choice into a large mixing bowl (photo 1) and stir together with a spoon by hand (in a mixer with paddle attachment) until combined (photo 2).
Now stir in the salt, baking powder and flour (photo 3), adding the last in slowly until all combined (photo 4). Do not over-mix.
Roll and freeze the dough balls: Use a cookie scoop to get just the right amount of dough, about 1 Tbsp (photo 5), and roll it into a ball in your hands and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Continue to roll dough balls until all the dough has been used (photo 6). Chill balls in the freezer for 20 minutes or in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
Get the oven ready and bake. Preheat the oven to 350°F. When up to temperature, put the cookies straight into the hot oven and bake for 8-10 minutes or until the cookies have puffed up but are still white on top and lightly browned underneath (photo 7). Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before moving the cookies to a rack until completely cooled (photo 8).
Make glaze, dip cookies and add sprinkles: Heat the milk or cream in a small saucepan until warm, do not boil. Combine all the other ingredients in a small bowl (photo 9) and whisk together, then slowly add the warm milk or cream to the bowl and whisk in until you get a smooth and creamy consistency (photo 10). It will be thin, but it shouldn’t be completely runny.
Dip the tops of the cookies in the glaze (photo 11) and then sprinkle them with a generous amount of Christmas-colored sprinkles right away and put them back on the wire rack for the glaze to harden (photo 12).
Add colorful sprinkles right away: Don’t wait too long to add the sprinkles, as the frosting glaze needs to still be warm and not hardened so that the sprinkles properly stick and don’t simply roll off.
Get perfectly round cookies: If you want your cookies to be perfectly round and uniform, use a cookie scoop to extract the exact same amount each time and then roll the ball gently between your hands until it is perfectly round.
Christmas cookie variations to try
Chocolate glaze: If you are a chocoholic, you can make the sweet glaze chocolate flavor by adding 2 Tbsps of cocoa powder to the dry ingredients. You can also substitute chocolate sprinkles or chocolate chips instead of colorful sprinkles.
Make a smaller or bigger version: This cookie recipe is great because you can play around with the size to get mini cookies or huge cookies. Just remember to adjust the baking time to compensate by taking off a few minutes for small cookies and adding a few for large cookies. Only bake cookies of the same size together to avoid issues like burning or being undercooked.
Other traditional Italian cookies recipes for you to try it out:
While you can freeze the cookies already baked, the very best way to freeze them is before you have baked them when they are still dough balls. Put them on a baking sheet in the freezer until they are hard. Then transfer them to a ziploc bag or freezer safe container and you can keep them frozen for up to 3 months. When you are in the mood for some warm delicious cookies, just pull the frozen cookies out of the freezer and place on a parchment lined baking sheet and follow the instructions for baking (adding a minute or two more).
How to best store the cookies
You can store the cookies in an airtight container, or wrapped tightly with plastic wrap, for up to one week. Unglazed cookies can be kept for longer, up to 10 days.
Traditional Italian Christmas Cookies
Nothing makes the holidays feel more special than home baked cookies to share with friends and family. Growing up in Italy, my mom would make these Italian Christmas cookies for us to enjoy and now I make them for my kids.
For the cookies, start by putting the oil, eggs, white sugar and extract of your choice into a large mixing bowl and stir together until combined with a spoon by hand or in a stand mixer with paddle attachment. Now stir in the salt, baking powder and flour, adding the last in slowly until all combined. Do not over mix.
Use a tablespoon-size scoop to remove roughly one tablespoon of dough and roll it into a ball in your hands and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Continue to roll dough balls until all the dough has been used.
Chill balls in the freezer for 20 minutes or in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Put the cookies straight into the hot oven and bake for 8-10 minutes or until the cookies have puffed up but are still white on top and slightly browned underneath.
Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before moving the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
For the glaze, heat the milk or cream in a small saucepan until warm, do not boil. Combine all the other ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together, then slowly add the warm milk or cream to the bowl and whisk in until you get a smooth and creamy consistency. It will be thin, but it shouldn’t be completely runny.
Dip the tops of the cookies into the glaze and then sprinkle them with a generous amount of Christmas-colored sprinkles right away and put back on the wire rack for the glaze to harden.