These traditional Italian cookies are served at many holidays and weddings in the old Italian neighborhood! They are very simple lightly sweetened cookies that are traditionally flavored with anise, almond, or lemon and then dipped in a sweet sugar glaze. Everyone will love them!
One of My Favorite Italian Cookies: Anginetti
Here’s a favorite, basic, Italian cookie – Anginetti (also referred to Ancinetti)! They go by a number of different names and in Italy they are made for weddings and holidays like Easter or Christmas. In the USA many people refer to them as Italian wedding cookies, Italian Christmas cookies, or Anise or anisette cookies (…but mine are almond flavored.) When they are formed into knots and flavored with lemon zest/extract, they are called lemon knot cookies.
These cookies are soooo good. They are soft, almost like a cross between a cake cookie and a traditional crispy cookie.
Growing up, it seemed that everyone’s mom or grandmother in the old neighborhood made a version of these cookies. Sometimes, when the baker would add too much flour, these cookies would taste quiet dry – but those were good for dunking in coffee!
Flavoring the Italian Cookies (Anginetti)
Traditionally, these cookies were flavored with lemon. But they are very commonly made with anise, almond, or even vanilla.
As a kid, I did not like anise-flavoring. My mom would make pizzelles the traditional way with anise as the flavoring and I’d always beg her to make them vanilla or lemon flavored instead. She eventually came around:)
But this is a very versatile recipe as far as flavorings go – feel free to substitute the almond or anise with vanilla, lemon, orange, or whatever flavoring appeals to you.
Decorating the Cookies
The traditional way to decorate these is to top them with a simple drizzle of sugar glaze and then add the rainbow non-pareils (or sprinkles), which are usually widely available at the grocery store.
Keeping Ball-Shape Cookies During Bake
When making this cookie, it’s important to refrigerate them for at least an hour in order for the cookie to bake in its characteristic tall shape. If you don’t refrigerate, they will come out flatter, more like a traditional drop cookie. Still good, but I love how they bake up if you refrigerate the dough.
I find it easiest to make the dough the day before and they bake it up the next day or so.
Notes on Dough Consistency
Please note that this dough is a little sticky. I know everyone’s definition of “a little” can vary but here is a photo of the mixed dough; hope this helps to visualize the finished dough.
Here you can see that I didn’t soften the butter too much for this particular batch:
Tips to Prevent the Sprinkles from Bleeding into the Icing:
To prevent bleeding of colors from sprinkles into the icing see the following suggestions:
- Omit the sprinkles
- Ensure cookies are cool before icing and sprinkling (since heat will cause icing and sprinkles to run)
- Don’t ice the cookies until the day you need them
- Make sure icing consistency is thick and not runny or thin
- Roll in confectionary (powdered) sugar instead of icing and sprinkles
- Make sure you use milk, not water to make the icing
- Use pastel colors, they don’t run/bleed as much
- Let the icing set a tiny bit before adding the sprinkles
- Avoid serving or frosting them on a humid day
Try Some Other Popular Cookies
Italian Wedding Cookies (anginetti)
For the cookie dough:
- 2 ¼ cups (281.25 g) flour (all purpose)
- 2 teaspoons (8 g) baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon (1.5 g) salt
- 3 (150 g) large eggs
- ½ cup (100 g) sugar
- ½ cup (113.5 g) unsalted butter , softened (DO NOT MELT THE BUTTER (8 tablespoons))
- 1.5 teaspoons (6 g) almond extract (or anise [licorice flavor])
To make the frosting:
- 2 cups (240 g) powdered sugar
- 2 to 3 tablespoons (30 g) milk
- 1 teaspoon (4 g) almond extract (or anise extract)
- 4 tbsp (40 g) non-pareils or sprinkles
To make the cookie dough
- Mix the baking powder, salt, and flour in a small bowl and set aside
- Using a electric mixer, combine sugar and butter on medium speed for about 2 minutes until light and fluffy
- Add the eggs, one at a time, until combined and then add the extract and mix until combined.
- Add the flour/baking powder and combine slowly just until mixed.
- Using a tablespoon, roll the dough into balls and place onto a parchment lined baking sheet, about 1 inch apart.
- Chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour
- When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350F, and then bake for 10 to 12 minutes.
- Mix the ingredients for the frosting, adding the milk one tablespoon at a time
- I prefer to use a teaspoon and pour a bit of frosting over the cooled cookies but some like to dunk their cookies in the frosting to frost
- Make sure that the cookies are completely cooled before frosting otherwise, the frosting will just drip off
- Add sprinkles/non-pareils while the frosting is still wet or they won’t stick. I usually frost a few at a time and then decorate so the frosting doesn’t dry before I have a chance to decorate
Awesome recipe! As someone commented already I did substitute lemon extract for the almond and they were sensational. Next time I may experiment with maple extract.
Recipe very close to my husbands grandmother from Sicily.
All our family waits for these to be baked.
Best result is to refrigerate
Patricia Palermo says
The absulute best!
These cookies were delicious!!…and very easy to make! I want to make them for Christmas, birthdays, weddings, or any occasion! It took my butter, eggs and sugar longer than 2 minutes to get fluffy because my eggs were cold and hardened my butter into chunks – so the only thing I’d do different is let my eggs get to room temp 🙂
Thanks for the tip Barb! Glad you liked them
Delicious cookies but a tip for everyone use crisco instead of butter!!!! SO MOIST AND PERFECT.
Made these tonight followed recipe and used abuse they came out perfect. I did refrigerate dough about 3 hours… try them they are easy and you can use imagination in combinations next time I will use lemon zest in batter and lemon juice in frosting with yellow non Parelis
Made these for the first time yesterday. Followed your recipe exactly (used anise flavoring), and instructions. Best tip was to refrigerate dough balls before baking off. They came out perfectly, and are delicious. My girls and I made these together, and the group effort was appreciated in the frosting and decorating step. It made it go quickly and smoothly. These cookies will now be in the yearly line-up of Christmas cookies. Thanks so much for sharing!
Fran Brennen says
I have been looking for years for a milk-free recipe that duplicates my grandma’s anise cookies…and I believe I have finally found it! These cookies were simple to make, I followed your instructions exactly, and they are perfect. I used water instead of milk in the frosting, but they are still delicious. I wonder if you have any experience with shipping these cookies…I made the mistake of telling my niece what I was doing and now she wants me to ship her a batch!
I’m sorry I wish I could give you some advice…ive never shipped cookies
Patricia Palermo says
I shipped from Ohio to Denver. Packaged in cookie tin and bubble wrap. They arrived in perfect condition.
Followed the recipe to the letter with no issues.
Made them for Christmas gifts. (I don’t buy, I bake.)
Thanks for the recipe.
I made these and the were so easy and delicious! Just one question….how can I store them for 3 days?
Just leave them in an airtight container 🙂
Jacqueline Soares says
I was excited to make these,then I realized I got interrupted and forgot to put in the sugar. Can you add sugar after it’s all mixed and chilled?
I’ve never tried that but it can’t hurt to try? Let us know what happens
Todd Muli says
I made these at Christmas as holiday gifts for neighbors and family. It was a major hit. They are delicious.
Barbara Scardina says
I have made these cookies for several years at Christmas. Everyone loves this recipe, especially my Italian family!
sheri Monge says
Mine went semi flat??
oh no! Some common reasons could be oven temp not accurate, baking powder out of date, or perhaps you butter was too warm or dough not chilled enough? I hope they were still tasty:)
I’ve been looking to replicate an almond cookie.
I’m looking to get a slightly dense and somewhat sweet cookie, but I’m not able to achieve it. I’ve tried a recipe with butter and a recipe with oil. And they both kind of turned out a little dry and fluffy slightly cake like on the inside. Which isn’t bad, but I’m trying to replicate another Italian cookie.
I’ve also added a little milk to my recipe. And when I was done I added some flour to help me mold it.
How does this cookie turn out? And any advice what I could do to achieve that cookie?
I will have to try to chill it like u suggested next time.
I know the cookie you mean – I would probably add a bit of flour to this recipe to achieve that denser cookie (maybe 1/4 cup, so 2.5 cups total flour). Also, I like the flavor much better when they are refrigerated, even overnight, before baking. Using 2 1/4 cups flour, this cookie can come out super light, almost cake like but not quite. But I think adding a bit of flour will get you to the cookie you are thinking of! I’d like to give that a try myself soon…if you get to it before me, let me know 🙂
I made these but the dough was very sticky. Should the dough have been refrigerated it first.
Hi Donna, the dough is slightly sticky, yes – I would say like chocolate chip cookie dough can be (the homemade kind, right after mixing)- you can use a bit of water on your hands when you roll the dough into balls if it helps or even refrigerate for a bit then roll them into balls. Then the formed cookies are supposed to sit in fridge for at least an hour after you form them. If you’ve ever made and rolled homemade meatballs, the dough reminds me of that kind of stickiness. If you are baking with a lower protein flour or maybe it is raining/humid outside, mayyyybe you need to add a bit more (1 or 2 tablespoons) flour, but I would try to form them without the extra flour if possible – I hope this helps?
I added a pic of what my mixed dough looks like in the post above…
Hi, when you roll the dough into balls, do you tray them and put the whole tray in the fridge? Or do you roll them all at one time and stack them in a big bowl?
Hi! I place them on trays
We made these for years. We always refrigerated the dough before we rolled them. Never work the dough too much. The cookies will be hard.
That’s what I did and they came out perfect
How far in advance can
I bake these cookies & they will still be fresh?
Mine are usually gone within a week so it’s hard to say. If you want to keep them for longer than 3 or 4 days, I’d say a safe bet is to freeze them (without the frosting) and then frost when ready to eat. The cookies should keep in an airtight container for at least a few days and maybe longer but I haven’t personally tested this so it’s hard to say.
Why is it best not to melt the butter?
It will change the texture and appearance of the cookie. This might be fine for certain cookies. Read more here
I made these with vanilla extract and they were perfect! Thank you for sharing the recipe. My grandmother had been making Italian Christmas cookie trays for Beyoncé she knew with these every year. I didn’t have the recipe tonight but thought I would give them a try. They’re perfect! Just like I remember!
Wow that’s pretty cool- she bakes for Beyoncé!
Why unsalted butter ? If salted is all I have handy can it still be used ?
If you use salted butter, you can just eliminate the salt in the recipe. (rule of thumb: substitute 1/2 cup salted butter for every 1/2 cup unsalted butter but reduce salt by 1/4 teaspoon)