Welcome to The Storied Recipe!
My podcast guest, Tina Zaccardi, Winner of Season 4 of the Great American Bakeoff shared her authentic Anginetti Cookie recipe with us! As you make her Italian Sprinkle Cookies, I invite you to listen to her memories of baking with her Italian grandmother, and of course – and her experience in that famous Bakeoff Tent!!
We are so lucky to have this authentic recipe for Anginetti Cookies from Tina Zaccardi, an Italian American winner of The Great American Bakeoff! Her grandmother made these classic Italian cookies the traditional way. First, she created a well of flour and butter. Then, she dropped in the eggs and hand kneaded the dough. Tina has updated the recipe with an easier process for a more consistent result.
In this post, I'll dive deep into ALL the names (at least a dozen), flavorings, shapes, and finishes you can try with these traditional Italian cookies. But don't be overwhelmed or intimidated....
Because whatever name you choose, this is a quick, simple, easy, FUN recipe using the most basic pantry ingredients. As Tina says, these are the perfect way to make memories with a special kid. In fact, all the glazing and sprinkling for this batch were done by my 6-year-old!
Table of Contents (Jump To Section)
What To Expect (Flavor, Texture, and Look)
One opening note about this recipe:
It makes a HUGE batch of 72 cookies. Feel free to halve it. However, the dough refrigerates beautifully. (Freezes beautifully as well.) So you can always make the whole amount and just bake them as you want them.
- These classic Italian cookies are known for their super soft interior with a lovely set white glaze on top.
- Some of the names for this cookie (Italian Sprinkle Cookies - or, in Tina's family - Nana's Sprinkle Cookies) refer to the colorful sprinkles that are on almost every variety. These add a crunchy texture to every soft bite.
- The butter in Tina's recipe shines! Some Anginetti recipes, usually those from southern regions of Italy, call for shortening. But you can't beat the flavor of butter for a yummy cookie!
- Besides the butter, there is great leeway in terms of the flavoring you use - lemon, anise, almond, and vanilla are all common. Full instructions on how to adjust for your preferred flavor are below.
- A few of the names (Love Knots, Lemon Knot Cookies) refer to versions of this recipe like Tina's, which call for shaping the dough into a knot. (Instructions below.)
- Other versions simply call for rolling the cookie dough into balls. These cook with a flat bottom and lovely little rounded hump on top.
General Instructions on Flavoring
For Almond or Anise Flavored Cookies
- Simply replace the 1 tablespoon of vanilla in the dough with any extract you prefer – lemon, anise, and almond are most common.
- Be judicious in replacing the vanilla in the glaze as lemon, almond, and anise extracts are all a bit stronger than vanilla. Start with ONE teaspoon of your preferred extract and move up to 2 according to your tastes.
For Citrus (Lemon, Orange, Lime) Flavored Cookies:
- For a citrus flavored cookie, zest 1 (or 2) fruits into the butter/sugar mixture.
- Also, replace one teaspoon of vanilla with a teaspoon of lemon/orange extract.
- Finally, juice the fruit you zested and add that to the powdered sugar (instead of the vanilla extract). Add milk to desired consistency.
Names & Variations: Most Common
Italian Wedding Cookies
- The most common alternate name for Anginetti Cookies is Italian Wedding Cookies. This is, of course, because these simple soft cookies were a staple on the famous cookie displays at Italian weddings.
- Italian wedding cookies can include ANY of the flavor variations listed below.
- Anginetti/Italian Wedding Cookies can be made either in a round or knot shape.
- HOWEVER, somewhat confusingly, there is a totally separate type of cookies (looks the same but tastes very different) that goes by the same name. (That’s why I definitely did not use that name for this post.) These alternative Italian Wedding Cookies are like Greek Kourabiedes or Russian Tea Cakes. Here’s a link to this very different Italian Wedding Cookie from Marcelina in Cucina.
Italian Easter Cookies OR Italian Christmas Cookies
- Every Italian recounts memories of their famous cookies tables containing hundreds of cookies of all shapes, sizes, and flavors on holiday cookie trays for special occasions
- It seems undisputed that Anginetti are THE classic Italian holiday cookie and were the one staple present at every occasion.
Italian Lemon Drop Cookies
- Some families always make their Anginetti with lemon flavoring. If the cookies include lemon flavor and are shaped into round balls before baking, they’re called Lemon Drop Cookies.
- To adjust Tina’s recipe to make Lemon Drop Cookies, simply zest one lemon into the dry ingredients. Then, juice the lemon and set this aside as the liquid for the glaze.
- Or, if you prefer to include lemon extract in the glaze, begin with 1 teaspoon and add more as you go, until you get the flavor you like.
- Refer to Cooking with Grace for another Lemon Drop Recipe (hers makes about half as many cookies as Tina’s).
- I know you figured this one out already. Lemon Knots are Lemon Drop Cookies in a knot shape 😉
- Check out the steps below for how to shape the dough into knots.
- Any Anginetti/Italian Wedding Cookie of any flavor made in a knot shape!
Anisette or Anise Drop Cookie
- Anise seeds have a black licorice/jelly bean flavor. Anise is prolific in Sicily, so it made its way into the Sicilian versions of Anginetti.
- If you choose this route, go easy at first (maybe even just 1 teaspoon) and adjust up (to no more than a tablespoon, which is 3 teaspoons). Anise is a strong flavor. (I happen to love it, but many do not.)
- You can try this Italian Anisette Cookies Recipe from All Recipes.
Names & Variations: Less Common or Questionable
Orange Juice Cookies
- I came across this name/variation quite a few time in my research. And it’s easy to make a Lemon Drop cookie an "Orange Drop" cookie - simply using orange zest, orange juice, and orange extract in place of their lemon counterparts.
- However, in this case, it does seem that there is another cookie named Italian Orange Juice Cookie that is fairly different to an Anginetti or Lemon Drop Cookie.
- So I’m not sure, but I suspect Orange Juice Cookies is less an alternative name and more an actual misnomer.
- To make a true (as far as I can tell) Italian Orange Juice Cookie, try this recipe from Mangia Bedda.
- Same cookie AND same name. While Americans take “biscotti” to mean twice baked cookies, in reality, Italians use “biscotti” as a general term for cookies.
- So Anginetti Biscotti = Anginetti Cookies.
Italian Ricotta Cookies
- Italian Ricotta Cookies look the same.
- The ricotta substitutes for (some of) the eggs in this recipe
- If you want to make Italian Ricotta cookies, I would not adjust Tina’s recipe. Instead, I suggest using this recipe from Cooking Classy.
- If you really want to just use this recipe, substitute a 15oz container of ricotta for 4 of the eggs. Do everything else the same.
- Same cookie, same "knot" shape. In fact, Unicetti means “crotchet hook”.
- Truthfully, I think this is a better name for the cookie than any of the knot names 😉 It’s hard to really get the dough knotted. So, more often it’s a spiral, hook, or snail shape.
- I took this name off and put it back on again a few times. Truthfully, there is another cookie named “Taralli” that differs significantly – it is described more like a breadstick or pretzel and is often savory, made with wine or olive oil. Here’s an example from An Italian in My Kitchen.
- However, several sites did name their Anginetti “Taralli Dolci”, which translates to “small sweet cookie”, so I went with it.
- Whether the recipe was savory or sweet, these cookies always seemed to be made in the shape of a ring.
How to Make the Knot Shape
First, do not fear! If you do a survey of the Love Knot, Lemon Knot, or Italian Knot Cookies on the internet (including on this very post) you won’t find many that really look like the gorgeous knots you may be envisioning! Most are more like snails, spirals, or even hooks.
With that said, here’s how to make a true knot shape – which is better than what I did in most of these images 😉
- From Tina’s directions, make a ball out of 20g of dough. Then roll into a log about 4 inches long.
- Cross the ends over each other, leaving a hole in the middle and one end longer than the other.
- Tuck one end underneath and up the middle. Bring the other end down to meet the middle. It's going to look a little messy.
- Turn upside down to reveal the seamless knot.
The Anginetti Glaze - Proper Consistency and Best Way to Apply
Look vs. taste –
- A thicker glaze is prettier, in my opinion.
- However, a thicker glaze (especially one with a zesty flavoring) can possibly overpower the flavor of the cookie itself.
- Most of the images on this post used a super thin glaze - probably too thin.
To apply the glaze, you have two options:
- Dip the cookies upside down in the glaze. I think this is the neatest and easiest way.
- OR Pour/spoon the glaze over the cookies. This is definitely the quickest approach!
- Either way, before you apply the glaze, set a wire rack over parchment paper so the glaze drips onto parchment paper rather than your counter.
Recipe Contributor: Tina Zaccardi
Tina Zaccardi is an Italian American who won The Great American Bakeoff Season 4. She now teaches baking through her blog and community appearances.
Tina's Memories of "Nana's Sprinkle Cookies"
My love of baking was sparked by a simple cookie. The cookie I’m speaking of is a traditional Italian cookie that can be found on thousands of cookie trays for weddings, birthdays and holidays.
They are traditionally known as “Biscotti Anginetti “ and are also referred to as lemon drops, but in my house they are known as Nana’s Sprinkle Cookies.
My grandmother made these for every holiday and occasion. They are a soft butter cookie, flavored with either vanilla or lemon and covered with a simple confectioner’s icing and nonpareils. These were the first cookies I learned to bake. My earliest memory is baking these cookies with my mom when I was home sick from school.
I use the exact same recipe that my mother and grandmother used and whenever I bake them it brings me right back to when I was a child.