What would a Christmas holiday season be without colorful sprinkles and delicious cookies? These Italian Christmas cookies (also called anginetti) are drop cookies filled to the brim with almond flavor. They’re some of my favorite cookies and every bite reminds me of the traditional Italian Christmas cookies I ate from the bakeries as a kid growing up in the New York City suburbs.
Despite being 50% Italian, with a first generation Italian-American parent, I can’t say that I’ve made many Italian cookies around the holidays.
With a whole slew of Italian bakeries near where I grew up, it was just so much easier to pick up a box of cookies and pastries to bring wherever we were going.
Believe me, nobody ever complained about company showing up at their house with a white box wrapped in red and white twine.
However, over the past few years, I’ve become a bit more interested in my Italian holiday food heritage. Since my dad died in 2016 and then my Aunt Marie (my dad’s last living sibling) in 2022, I feel like I lost a part of my family’s food history.
Aunt Marie shared a couple of her favorite Italian Christmas cookie recipes with me by email years ago that I’d like to revisit someday. Maybe they’ll make it here eventually, when I’m ready to dive back into those memories from my childhood.
For now, I’m sharing these plain-sounding Italian Chrstimas cookies. Despite their very vanilla name, these cookies burst open with flavor from the inclusion of almond and vanilla extracts in the cookie dough and more almond extract in the sweet glaze icing.
Plus? They’re covered in colorful sprinkles on the tops of the cookies! How could you go wrong here?
And you know what? They’re a totally authentic Italian-American cookie too! While the Bakery Style Butter Cookies I made years ago aren’t technically “Italian,” you’ll find them right alongside these Italian Christmas Cookies in most of the local Italian bakeries in the downstate New York area.
Ingredients for Italian Holiday Cookies
Here’s the basic grocery shopping list of ingredients for this recipe. Be sure to scroll down to the recipe card for the full list of ingredients!
- All-purpose flour
- Baking powder
- Kosher salt
- Granulated sugar
- Unsalted butter (room temperature)
- Egg (room temperature)
- Flavoring: Almond extract and pure vanilla extract
- Whole milk
- Confectioners’ sugar
- Food coloring (optional)
- Non-pareil sprinkles (optional)
How to Make Italian Drop Cookies
Just like my favorite Peanut Butter Cup Cookies, these cookies require a little “hands on” time before baking. Believe me, I’m all for rolling out a batch of cookie dough into dough balls when the time is right, but it definitely isn’t my favorite way to make cookies.
Here are the simple Instructions for how to make these Italian drop cookies. Be sure to keep scrolling down to the recipe card for the full set of Instructions and the full printable recipe!
STEP 1: Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Sift the dry ingredients together in a medium bowl. Don’t skip the sifting part!
STEP 2: In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the sugar and butter together until pale and creamy. Mix in the egg and flavor extracts.
STEP 3: Stir in the milk and the flour mixture in alternating additions, ending with the dry. The batter will be very sticky.
STEP 4: Using a small cookie scoop, portion out 12 even scoops of dough onto one of the parchment-lined baking sheets. Then, using slightly damp hands, roll all of the pieces to form smooth dough balls. Repeat with the remaining dough.
STEP 5: Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, just until the cookies are set and the edges lift off the pan without breaking the cookie wide open.
STEP 6: Meanwhile, make the sweet glaze for icing the cookies by mixing the confectioners’ sugar and extracts together in a medium bowl.
If you want to color any of the icing, divide the icing up into smaller bowls and stir in a couple drops of food coloring to each bowl.
STEP 7: When the cookies have cooled completely, dip the top and sides of each one into one of the icing bowls. Set them on a wire rack over a parchment-lined baking sheet and allow the excess glaze to drip off. Immediately sprinkle the tops of the wet icing with a good pinch of non-pareils.
Don’t forget to wait until the icing has completely dried before moving the cookies to an airtight container for storage or a cookie tray for serving or transporting. The glaze will definitely smudge all over if you try to move the cookies around too soon!
Swaps and Substitutions
Being a plain-jane sort of drop cookie, let’s chat about the lots of different ways you can change them up for your own preferences and needs.
Nut Free: If you bake without tree nuts, you can swap in imitation almond extract for the pure almond extract. Or, just leave the almond extract out altogether.
Almond Citrus Cookies: Almond flavoring is exceptional when paired with citrus flavors. Feel free to add some orange zest from a small orange or lemon zest into the cookie dough.
Anise Cookies: For an elevated punch of flavor – especially if you love the flavor of fresh fennel or liquorice – add ½ teaspoon anise extract in place of the almond extract. Orange zest would be absolutely amazing with the anise extract as well!
How and When to Serve these Italian Cookies
These are traditional Italian Christmas cookies so of course the holiday season in December is the time of year to make this recipe.
With a cake-like texture, you’re going to want to pair these cookies with cookies that have different textures.
When I designed my Holiday Dessert Charcuterie Board years ago, texture was one of the most important concepts I kept in mind. No one wants a dessert platter filled with same-textured sweet treats. That’s just boring!
So here’s a list of other types of cookies and Christmas treats that will elevate some of the best Italian cookies you’ve ever eaten:
- Crunchy Cappuccino Biscotti
- Gingerbread Latte
- Crispy, Sandy Rosemary Butter Cookies
- Peppermint Pretzel Thins
- Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies
- Caramel Brûlée Latte
- Sweet and Crispy Coconut Jam Thumbprints
- Eggnog Latte
- Classic Linzer Cookies
- Peppermint Marshmallows
- Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffles
For the cookies:
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 rounded tbsp baking powder
- ⅛ tsp Kosher salt
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 6 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp almond extract
- ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
- ¾ cup whole milk
- 1 cup confectioners' sugar
- 1 tsp almond extract
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- Red and green liquid food coloring (optional)
- Non-pareil sprinkles (optional)
- To make the cookies: Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line two baking sheet pans with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a large bowl if using a handheld mixer), combine the granulated sugar and butter. Beat on medium speed until a fluffy, pale-yellow mixture forms, about 2 minutes. Add the egg, almond extract, and vanilla extract. Beat on low until combined, about 30 seconds.
- Add ¼ cup of the milk and mix on low until just combined, about 10 seconds. Add a third of the dry ingredients and mix again until just combined, about 10 seconds. Continue alternating between the remaining milk and dry ingredients until everything is combined, ending with dry ingredients. The batter will be very sticky.
- Using small (2-tablespoon size) cookie scoop, scoop out 12 balls of dough, rolling each into a ball, and place them on one of the prepared sheet pans, spacing them 2 inches apart. Repeat with the remaining dough.
- Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the cookies are lightly golden on the bottom and slightly cracked on top. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
- To make the icing: While the cookies bake, combine the powdered sugar, almond extract, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Slowly add the water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and whisk to combine into a slightly runny frosting. If you want to add color, separate the icing into small bowls and whisk one drop of food coloring into each bowl.
- To decorate: Place the wire rack with cookies on one of the sheet pans with the parchment paper remaining. Dip each cookie into the icing to coat the top and sides and set them back on the wire rack. Sprinkle immediately with sprinkles (if using).
- Let the icing dry completely before eating, sharing, shipping, or storing.
STORAGE: Transfer any leftovers to an airtight container and add a piece of apple peel or slice of sandwich bread to the container to keep the cookies soft. Store at room temperature for up to 2 weeks, swapping out the peel every few days or bread as it goes stale.
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