The Ultimate Italian Cookie Guide

Can't tell your pizzelles from your anginetti? With this comprehensive cookie guide, you'll be churning out treats like your favorite Italian bakery in no time.

By: Allison Robicelli
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Photo By: Kate Mathis ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Kate Mathis ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Kate Mathis ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Kate Mathis ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Kate Mathis ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Kate Mathis ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Kate Mathis ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Kate Mathis ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Kate Mathis ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Kate Mathis ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Kate Mathis ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Kate Mathis ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Kate Mathis ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Kate Mathis ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Kate Mathis ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Abbondanza!

Sure, there are fancier desserts out there, but few make your eyes open as wide with delight as a gigantic platter of Italian cookies. We rounded up our 14 favorites, from 20th century Italian-American classics to ancient Roman recipes that are hundreds of years older than Christmas itself. Everyone will find a favorite on this list, though, honestly, it's hard to pick just one — we tried.

Chocolate-Pistachio Biscotti

These twice-baked cookies from Tuscany are made for dipping in a robust cup of espresso, though milk or hot chocolate wouldn't be a bad choice either. If you can't find shelled pistachios, or you balk at their hefty price tag, feel free to replace them with the nut of your choice (walnuts are a particularly lovely option).

Get the Recipe: Chocolate-Pistachio Biscotti

Biscotti Regina

These toasty sesame cookies from Sicily are the perfect example of the "not too sweet" sweet. Perfect for breakfast or a light snack, they taste like they are, as their name says, fit for a queen.

Get the Recipe: Biscotti Regina

Anginetti

These glazed lemon knots hail from southern Italy, but they are beloved all over the world. Light and pillowy, they exist on the fine line between cake and cookie.

Get the Recipe: Anginetti

Baci di Dama

The history of these cookies is vague, but it's easy to see where they got their name, which is Italian for "lady's kisses." Who wouldn't want to kiss the person who gave them two splendid hazelnut butter cookies, held together with a rich dollop of Nutella?

Get the Recipe: Baci di Dama

Orange-Ricotta Cookies

Be forewarned: It is nearly impossible to stop eating these cookies once you've tasted your first. Fortunately, this dough freezes extremely well, so you can make sure you always have some stocked away for emergencies.

Get the Recipe: Orange Ricotta Cookies

Italian Sandwich Cookies

This bakery staple is not authentically from Italy but rather a variation on the classic spritz cookie invented by immigrants. You'd be hard-pressed to find an Italian cookie tray in America that doesn't include these after-dinner favorites.

Get the Recipe: Italian Sandwich Cookies

Espresso Florentines

These lacy almond cookies with a rich toffee flavor can be molded into cups, rolled into cigars or bent into dessert taco shells after coming out of the oven. They're also highly customizable: Try glazing them with chocolate, substituting the espresso with a liqueur of your choice, or making delicate cookie sandwiches filled with a bit of Nutella.

Get the Recipe: Espresso Florentines

Mostaccioli

There's a chance that this was the original Christmas cookie, as the recipe is said to have originated in 300 B.C. A first-century text lists the ingredients as rye flour, cumin, cheese, anise and eggs. In the 2,000-plus years since, it has evolved into a chocolate nut cookie, rich with warm winter spices.

Get the Recipe: Mostaccioli

Pignoli Cookies

These chewy Sicilian cookies are naturally gluten-free, and they couldn't be simpler to make. Be sure you purchase canned almond paste and not marzipan, which contains more sugar.

Get the Recipe: Pignoli Cookies

Pizzelle

Hailing from Abruzzo in Central Italy, pizzelles are crisp, flat waffle-esque cookies made in a special hot iron. Like mostaccioli, these cookies predate Christmas — in fact, it is said that this is the oldest known cookie recipe on Earth, dating back to the 8th century B.C. In olden times, presses were made from cast iron and would be heated over a fire or directly on the stovetop. You can still find those irons if you're up to the challenge, but electric irons are much easier to use, and they're very easy to find both online and at major retailers.

Get the Recipe: Pizzelle

Polenta Cookies

The word "polenta" does not actually refer to a specific grain but rather a porridge dish made from a coarse grind of cornmeal. These cookies have a wonderful buttery crunch that is terribly addictive, so you may want to double this recipe and keep a log or two in the freezer for whenever the mood strikes.

Get the Recipe: Polenta Cookies

Seven-Layer Cookies

The colors may have been meant to represent the Italian flag, but their palette is just right for Christmastime. To make sure they're vibrant, purchase gel food colorings from a kitchen or craft store — the liquid drops from the supermarket won't be able to produce the deep red and green this cookie requires. 

Get the Recipe: Seven Layer Cookies

Taralli Dolci di Pasqua

These large round cookies are traditionally made for Easter in southern Italy, but there's no reason not to enjoy them at Christmas too. A touch of sanding sugar gives them a festive sparkle. Their subtle sweetness makes them a perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea or a demitasse of espresso.

Get the Recipe: Taralli Dolci di Pasqua

Ricciarelli

A cousin to the ubiquitous amaretti cookie, ricciarelli were invented in Tuscany in the 14th century, and they are served to this day at Christmastime. Chewy and crunchy, these flourless almond cookies keep for weeks in a sealed container, making them ideal for baking ahead.

Get the Recipe: Ricciarelli