Italian Holiday Cookies

Makes 6 dozen

You know this girl. She shows up to every party, invited or not. She’s always wearing a different festive outfit and has an elusive and unique flavor profile that’s sometimes hard to nail down. You hate her yet want to be her, all at once. Truth be told, no holiday party would be the same without her there. She is the classic Italian cookie.

Your family may call her the “anginette cookie” or the “drop cookie” or, you know, the ITALIAN COOKIE cookie. You may flavor her with any combo of anise extract, lemon extract, almond extract, or vanilla extract, and then fight endlessly with every other Italian you know about the correct way it should be done.

But there is no fighting in the Grossy world. We are all FAMIGLIA here, and you can have it all! My Italian Holiday Cookie recipe works with any combo of extracts you like, though the Pelosi clan favors the almond and vanilla combo slightly above the rest. No matter what you do, once you invite her to your holiday party, you won’t be able to have another without her!

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Italian Holiday Cookies

Italian Holiday Cookies

  • Author: Dan Pelosi

What You’ll Need

Units Scale


  • 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 rounded tablespoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter or 3/4 cup shortening, at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk


  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Food coloring (optional)
  • Sprinkles (optional)

What You’ll Do

  1. MAKE THE COOKIES: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  3. 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, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the eggs, almond extract, and vanilla. Beat on low until combined, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add 1/2 cup of the milk and beat on low until just combined, about 30 seconds. Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients and mix again until just combined, about 30 seconds. Continue adding dry ingredients between adding the milk until everything is combined. The batter will be very sticky.
  5. Using a floured tablespoon or cookie scoop, scoop out 12 balls of dough, rolling each into a perfect ish ball, and placing them on one of the prepared sheet pans, spacing them 2 inches apart. Bake for about 10 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. Repeat with the remaining batter. While each batch of cookies is in the oven, scoop the next batch onto the other prepared sheet pan, making sure the sheet pans have cooled down a bit before adding more dough.
  6. MEANWHILE, MAKE THE ICING: In a medium bowl, combine the powdered sugar, almond extract, and vanilla. Slowly add 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.
  7. Place the wire rack with cookies on a sheet pan or piece of parchment paper. Dunk each cookie into the icing and set back on the wire rack. Sprinkle immediately with sprinkles (if using). Let the icing dry completely before eating, sharing, shipping, or storing. Transfer any leftovers to an airtight container and add a slice of sandwich bread to the container to keep the cookies soft. Store at room temperature for up to 2 weeks, swapping out the bread as it goes stale.

Make It Step By Step With Me:

1. Sift together 6 cups flour, 6 heaping teaspoons baking powder and ¼ teaspoon salt. Set aside.

Also, pre-heat your oven to 350º.

2. Cream together 2 cups sugar and ¾ cup shortening in a stand mixer. You can also use a bowl and a wooden spoon.

3. There she is!

4. Add 2 eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 2 teaspoons almond extract, and 1½ cups whole milk and mix to combine.

5. Add dry ingredients into wet ingredients.

6. Continue using your stand mixer to combine.

7. The batter will be very sticky.

8. Using a floured tablespoon, scoop balls of dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Roll dough into 1” balls and bake for 10 minutes.

9. Let cookies cool completely on a rack.

10. While cookies cool, let’s make the frosting.

11. Combine 2 cups confectioner’s sugar, ¼ cup water, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, and 2 teaspoons almond extract in a bowl with a whisk.

12. Add food coloring or colorings to frosting as you wish.

Place your cooling rack on a baking tray or piece of parchment. This will catch the excess frosting as it drips off your cookies while frosting them.

13. Dunk your cookies in frosting and sprinkle immediately with sprinkles, if you are using them.

14. Let frosting dry completely before eating, sharing, shipping or storing!

15. Enjoy!